Hello!

Guess what: Dordan has started construction on its organic garden!

For those of you unfamiliar, Dordan started several internal sustainability initiatives last year to, as this article states, “get its own environmental house in order.” Some initiatives implemented/currently being executed are: achieving zero-waste at the Dordan facility (check out July 15th’s “How-to OR How-to-NOT Conduct a Waste Audit” post); composting Dordan yard and food waste (check out August 25th’s “How to Build a Composter” post); starting an organic garden (check out August 17th’s “Day 1 of How to Start an Organic Garden” post); and, community education on recycling (check out October 4th’s “Environmental Task Force” post).

Soooo we began construction on the to-be organic garden plot last fall, as discussed in the July 15th post; this included mapping off the plot with stakes/rope so our landscapers would hold off treatment, checking for any electrical situation under the intended plot, beginning to till the ground to observe the quality of soil, etc. Then the winter came and we retired our efforts until the sun was shining and the weather was sweet.

In the meantime, our local Woodstockian farmer Emily began growing some of the seedlings in her house, intended for transportation to the Dordan plot when the weather allowed. For those of you who live in the Midwest, however, you will recall that this winter to spring transition has been less than favorable insofar as we have gotten A TON of rain. This, consequently, pushed back the date Emily was able to bring the young seedlings to the Dordan plot because the ground was too soup-like; luckily, the sun this past weekend dried the plot enough for Emily to begin transporting the seedlings and doing other ground prep work.

First, Emily created a way to manage the amount of water that had access to the plot. In previous posts describing this project, I discussed how we were looking into getting rain barrels to capture the rain water that collected from Dordan’s roof. After doing some research, however, we thought there may be a more economically inventive way to go about this, and there is! Check out the picture below: this shows how we took plastic tubes and connected them to the rain downspouts at the parameter of the plot, which allows us to control the amount of water entering the plot by drilling holes throughout, as a form of rudimentary irrigation, per se. Neat!

After doing a bit of tilling, we discovered that there was a lot of sand and clay in the soil. While I know very little about what the perfect soil composition for organic produce farming is, Emily thought we needed further nutrients. Luckily, in conjuncture with the construction of our composter, Dordan collected all of its yard waste last fall to be composted over the winter; this included leaves, grass clippings, etc. So, Emily took the very-broken down yard bits and sprinkled them all over the plot, tilling them in with the existing soil, to create super soil! We also took some of the organic food waste compost from last fall’s activities and sprinkled it about, making for some fun in the sun! In the end, we had a very rich, nutrient-rich soil, perfect for nurturing young seedlings! See:

Next, we had to create long, what’s the word…trenches? that ran horizontally across the plot, which would serve as the organization for the different types of produce grown. While creating these trenches, however, we discovered that Dordan was sitting on a Glacier gold mine, insofar as we found TONS of perfectly circular rocks, 5-6 inches below ground. Emily’s dad, Phil, explained that due to their smooth, circular shape, it was safe to conclude that these came with the glaciers. Cool!

Emily decided to plant the two sets of seedlings brought—leeks and lettuce—in the portion of the plot that had more sand in the soil because I guess these types of vegetables are more “hard core.” Dordan had a sand volley ball court on part of the plot intended for the organic garden, which obviously means there was a bit of sand under the soil. Upon tilling I almost had a heart attack because I couldn’t believe just how much sand was there; after all, it had been like, over ten years since we had planted grass over the court, so I assumed the sand would, I don’t know, go away? Luckily, Emily didn’t seem too concerned, saying she would just add in some of Dordan’s compost and it was no big deal for the types of vegetables she would be planting there. I wish all people were as laid back as organic farmers, ha!

So yeah, here are the adorable little seedlings before being planted in the plot:

Tootles!

Compost baby ya!

August 24, 2010

Helllooooooo everyone and happy day!

A quick mention before I get into the meat of today’s post, which discusses how to construct a home composter!

I am beginning a new research project on all things “oxo-degradable.” One of our customers expressed interest in these “magical little additives,” which supposedly render a resin biodegradable in a landfill? I am totally confused after my conference call with a rep from a company marketing this “innovative new technology” but I will keep you all posted with what I find. I didn’t even know things broke down in a landfill, really, let alone can receive certification for such a process, which according to this company rep, they have? Go figure!

If any of you, my diligent blog followers, know of the validity of these additives from a holistic, sustainability-based approach, please advise!!!

OK….drum roll please….

Dordan Manufacturing Company Incorporated is proud to announce completion of its composter construction! Dordan is now open for composting! Yehawww!

So this is what I learned: building a composter is just as easy, if not easier, then buying one. When I first received word from upper management that Dordan was considering getting a composter, I began researching what kinds and was quick to learn that there are a million different kinds, brands, styles, requirements, capacities, etc. For those of you who follow my blog, you will remember that this inspired me to conduct Dordan’s first waste audit, insofar as I was trying to quantify how much “compostables” Dordan generates via our employees and yard in order to determine what kind of composter to purchase. While I was never able to get a good reading of our compostables because I was too much of a sally and couldn’t separate our “wet waste” i.e. week old food, from our “dry waste” i.e. industrial scrap, I did intend on training our employees to separate the food waste from the other waste. In separating out the food waste, I assumed that we could get a much more accurate reading of how much compostables we generate per week, month, etc., therefore indicating what kind of composter to buy. Makes sense, right?

And enter Emily and Phil.

As some of you know, several weeks ago we had offered the use of Dordan’s land to a local farmer, Emily, for growing organics next summer as the land she is currently using is no longer available. Ironically, Emily also knows how to construct composters! When she and her father came out to access the land before committing to using it next summer, I indicated that I was researching composters and having a difficult time finding “the right one.” She explained how she and her father had just finished building a composter for one of the restaurants they provide organics to, and emphasized that it was super easy.

Awesome, I thought to myself; it certainly makes my job easier; and, it’s cheap!

After Emily and Phil agreed to help us construct a composter, it took literally 3 days for its completion!

What follows is a description of what I learned from observing Phil and Emily as they built our composter. Please note that the materials used for the construction of our composter are post-industrial, often times available at manufacturing facilities. Perhaps you can apply these insights to the construction of your own composter; after all, as Phil’s shirt said on day 1 of building our composter, “a rind is a terrible thing to waste!”

First, you need to find a material that will become the composter; Phil suggested wood or a combination of wood and chicken wire. The composter, in concept, should be open to the ground and the sky but have a retractable “roof” to keep rainwater and critters out. It should have at least one 4-walled compartment for the compost and preferably another for the compost that is farther along in the “process.” In other words, in having two compartments for compost, one can move a batch of compost to the compartment reserved for the more “mature” compost mix, while keeping the other compartment for the freshies. Make sense? It will!

As per Phil’s and Emily’s ingenious suggestion, we decided to use post-industrial wood pallets for our composter. We have a ton of wood pallets in-house, as that is what our material comes on when we receive it. While normally we recycle these pallets by selling them to wood re-processors, Dordan just so happened to have a bunch in-house waiting for shipment. Coincidence? I think not!

After inspecting our wood pallet selection (Dordan uses many different shapes and sizes of wood pallets and therefore we had several “types” to choose from), Phil determined that those of a more “narrow” disposition would be the best for conversion into a composter. These more narrow pallets measure roughly 4 ½ feet by 2 feet, are made of solid pine wood, and have no iky additives added. Here is a picture of the skids selected, for your viewing pleasure:

We collected about a half a dozen of these wood pallets and Phil went on to “piratize” them into a very sophisticated composter, consisting of two compartments with a retractable “side.” This retractable side will allow us to mix the concoction, add more materials without having to lift it the 4 ½ feet required to access the compartments, and check in on the status of the compost.

But I am getting ahead of myself.

After we decided on what type of material to use in the construction of the skid, we selected a location. Dordan CEO Daniel Slavin suggested it be behind the future farm plot but close to a Dordan entrance/exit to make for easy maintenance. This is what we decided on:

The types of tools and amenities needed for a construction project of this character are:

Air gun

Extension cord

Electrical outlet 

Reciprocating saw

Circular saw and ear muffs

Hammer

Nails, screws

Measuring tape

Pry bar

And some handy-man know how!

After we gathered our composter materials and the needed tools and amenities, we started talking through the concept.

Tune in tomorrow to learn what Phil and Emily come up with!!!

Good afternoon world!

I am SoOoOoOoOoOoOoOooooooOoOO EXCITED!

Why, you ask?

Because…I have a new Sustainability Initiative to oversea at Dordan. And you, my diligent blog followers, are the first to know!

Dordan Manufacturing Company Incorporated is proud to announce its goal of becoming a zero waste facility!

We will begin to approach this goal by purchasing a composter for the food and yard waste generated by Dordan’s employees and facility…

We will then use this compost to nourish our “Victory Garden,” which will produce organics for local charities, community events, and ME (maybe I will share with other employees if I’m feeling generous…)! Just joshing; I’m happy to spread the joy!

Because Dordan sits on a nice piece of earth and because everyone likes gardens and fresh veggies, we thought that this would be a great place to do well by our community and our environment. I don’t know why but I am positively tickled pink that I got the green light to pursue this initiative.

And how funny…picture us, at Dordan’s booth at Pack Expo, giving out fresh produce to passer buyers (no pun intended)….

A Dordan rep says, “You want a green package? How about some organics grown from our garden fertilized by our own organic waste! BOO YA greenwashers!”

A little spicy, yes, but still, it tells a nice story. And I think the value in all of this is being able to develop a brand and tell a story that will resonate with consumers looking to do well by themselves and the environment. Cool beans!

Granted a goal of zero-waste is an almost impossible goal to attain, it does give us something to work towards… AND, I have spent most of my time at Dordan creating a pro-plastics argument in the context of sustainability and packaging, which is all fine and good and someone needs to do it, but it doesn’t really set us apart from our competition, that is, other Midwestern thin-gauge custom thermoformers.

SO that is when we thought the idea of zero waste was a good one. I don’t know why I get so surprised when sometimes, good works=good business; I guess they aren’t mutually exclusive…who da thunk?

I’ll be honest—I was feeling a little without direction as my work with the Canadian retailer is moving along slowly…very slowly. I think I was just so super excited to be managing a Committee that wanted to recycle thermoforms like me that I kind of lost site of the reality of the situation, which is, that this is business. Granted people do care about the environment and recycling, but often times, said sympathy is catalyzed by business interest. In the case of recycling thermoforms, everyone wants to do it, but no one is ready to step up and take responsibility or the risk. I do know that a lot of people want the post-consumer material and that the demand will continue to rise, especially if retailers start “suggesting” a percentage of post consumer content in packaging sold; what I don’t know, however, is if the economics will support the recycling of thermoforms in the States…ever.

I’ll keep you posted on my work with my clamshell recycling initiatives. Right now, as directed by my co-lead for the Committee, I am shelving my work until the communication of the Committee is better managed for easy correspondence.

BUT, what that does mean, is now I will be blogging about my work on recycling clamshells and our day-by-day attempts to become a zero-waste facility. Oh boy!

Have a splendid afternoon!