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Sustainable Living in Cochabamba

For the New Year, I made a sustainability resolution: to implement one sustainability-related initiative each month and write about the outcome. Some of my monthly projects will be individual – changes that I make for myself in my daily routine. Other changes will be focused towards Sustainable Bolivia, in the way that we use resources and in the example that we might be to others. The question that started this project was thus: can living a little “lighter” on Mamapacha be flexible enough for a wide range of volunteers and friends with many habits and preferences? I’m hoping to find out that even in a fairly simple place like Cochabamba, we can significantly improve the environmental sustainability of our day-to-day operations as a small organization.

Project 1: Composting!

Increasing our composting at the SB volunteer houses is one step in reducing our waste as an organization. Keeping our food scraps out of the Cala Cala landfill also means that I can add potted plants to the volunteer houses without buying topsoil. Less waste, and happy house plants. The main house has had a compost heap for some time: uncooked kitchen scraps go into the green bucket outside (no meat, no dairy). The full bucket gets incorporated into the outdoor pile and turned several times a week. The turning adds oxygen, helps to speed the process, and avoids smells. Dra. Piña (SB’s new puppy) generally oversees the operation.

The next step is to set up composting systems appropriate for each of the other volunteer houses. And the easier the better, no ve? Luckily SB volunteers are not averse to change, and composting is easier than rocket science. I’m currently procuring several 5-gallon plastic buckets to drill holes around the sides and bottom to allow for air circulation. The food scraps go in the first bucket until it is filled, and the bucket is kept outside in the courtyard. Volunteers then move on to a second empty bucket, leaving food in the first bucket to start breaking down, and so on. The full buckets can serve as back-yard compost bins, and can be rolled around for aeration or taken to the compost at the main house.

Stay tuned for the results of Project 1 in my next post. Have any suggestions for next month’s SB sustainability project? Leave us a comment!  — Erin

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