Environmental Education

Our mission is the conservation of natural resources through education and management of all aspects of solid and hazardous waste, recycling, and overuse of resources.

Environmental Education

Composting

Starting a Compost Pile

Compost is formed in nature all the time as plants and animals die and decompose. This natural compost is generally called humus. Decomposition involves the breakdown of plant and animal remains into simpler components. As a result nutrients, which are essential for plant growth, are released into the soil. Decomposition is brought about by the action of decomposers which include bacteria, fungi, and earthworms.

By making compost in our gardens, we imitate nature and ensure that our gardens are healthy and productive. Compost returns nutrients to the soil, increases the soil's ability to hold water and air, and prevents erosion by binding the soil.

About half of the organic refuse we throw away each day can be turned into compost, thus reducing waste, recycling valuable resources and enriching the soil. Composting is a cheap and hygienic way of converting waste into a clean-smelling substance that will improve the soil and make any garden flourish.

Need a Compost Bin?

Environmental Co-op has Sheppard Compost Bins you can purchase for $57.00 each. These are very easy to use bins and very durable. Call 972-524-0007 to purchase bins.

What to Use in Making Compost
  • Most organic (of plant or animal origin) materials that will rot or decay easily are suitable for composting.
  • Garden wastes: grass cuttings, non-woody garden prunings, leaves, flowers, and vegetable remains.
  • Kitchen wastes: vegetable peelings and leaves, fruit peelings and cores, cooked table scraps, coffee and filters, tea leaves and bags, egg shells.
  • General: paper and cardboard, sawdust and wood shavings, animal manure, wood fire ash.
  • Materials which you should not add to a compost heap: garden wastes sprayed with pesticides, meat, milk products, diseased plants, anything that does not decompose, e.g. metals, glass, plastics.
Building a Compost Heap

Remember that compost can be made in many different ways, and these are only general guidelines. In fact, nature does it without any help from people!

A good size for the compost pile is 4 ft. X 4 ft., depending on the amount of compost you want to make.

  • Mix the organic material well and chop up any big pieces—do not add large amounts of only one material, such as grass cuttings or leaves to the compost heap.
  • Start by putting down about a foot of brown (carbon) organic material such as leaves or straw. Then a foot of green (nitrogen) material such as grass clippings, animal manure, garden clippings, etc. Water each layer thoroughly.
  • If you would like to speed up the process of decomposition, add a "starter." This might be a bucketful of mature compost, animal manure, or bone meal. Commercial starters are available at nurseries and garden shops.
  • You can also add small amounts of soil to the growing heap as the many organisms that it contains will multiply and help the rotting process.
  • Continue building the heap in layers of about 1 foot. The last layer should be soil, dry grass, leaves, or sawdust, as this will keep smells in and not attract flies.
Turning the Heap

After one week the compost will feel warm from the heat generated by the decomposition process. You can turn (mix) the compost and apply water as needed. After a few weeks the heap will have cooled down and this means that it should be turned and allowed to heat up again. The heat kills the weed seeds and insect larvae.

Turning encourages decomposition and speeds up the formation of compost. The time between `turnings' of the heap depends on the speed at which decomposition takes place, and this in turn depends on the ingredients in the heap, and the weather.

Watering the Heap

Keep the heap moist, but not water-logged as this inhibits decomposition and will make the compost smell. If it does get too wet, add absorbent material such as sawdust, straw, or manure, and turn the heap.

Controlling Pests

If your compost heap is cared for correctly, flies and rodents will not create a problem in the garden. Flies can be controlled in a compost heap by immediately covering new material with dry soil, sawdust, grass or leaves. If flies breed in compost, the heap should be turned frequently so that enough heat is generated to destroy fly eggs and pupae.

Do not add meat scraps to the compost as this will attract rodents. Do not use any poisons such as insecticides to control pests as these will stop the decomposition process by killing the organisms responsible for decomposition, e.g. fungi, earthworms, bacteria.

Using Compost in Your Garden

Compost is mature and ready to use when it looks crumbly and has an earthy smell. It can then be dug into the top-soil of garden beds or spread as a mulch under trees and bushes. Compost also makes a very good potting mix for houseplants or seedling trays.

Composting—The 3 Rs in Action

Composting is a natural way to recycle organic materials such as grass, leaves, manure and vegetable scraps. Composting reduces the volume of solid waste going to the landfills, with the added benefit of reusing the material as a free soil amendment for gardens, yards, flower beds, and other landscaping, thereby recycling nutrients back into the soil.

Composting is the natural breakdown (or decomposition) of organic materials. Decomposition and recycling of organic materials are an essential part of soil building and healthy plant growth. Finished compost is a dark, crumbly and earth-smelling material that can improve soil texture, increase the ability of the soil to absorb air and water, suppress weed growth, decrease erosion, loosen tight, heavy clay soil, and reduce the need to apply commercial soil additives.

Websites to Check Out on Composting

www.epa.state.oh.us/pic/facts/compost.html

www.eurekarecycling.org/inf_composting.cfm

For a more technical look at composting and its usefulness for bioremediation and pollution prevention, erosion control, wetlands restoration and more, visit the EPA website at www.epa.gov/epaoswer/non-hw/composting.

Master Composter Training

Environmental Co-op sponsors master composter classes twice a year. These classes, sanctioned by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ), are open to anyone who is interested in learning about composting. The class consists of 16 hours of classroom time that includes lecture, video, and personal ‘hands-on’ experience to learn how to build a compost pile.

Becoming a certified Master Composter requires taking the class plus performing 20 hours of volunteer service on behalf of the Co-op. Service opportunities in Kaufman County include working at public events with the Co-op, working with school children on environmental issues such as composting or vermicomposting, maintenance of compost demonstration sites, giving neighborhood demonstrations, or working in the Co-op office. Click on the Current Events button, watch your local newspapers, or call the Co-op office at 972-524-0007 to find class schedules. And log on towww.dirtdoctor.com for information about Howard Garrett’s Basic Organic Program.

Vermicomposting—Composting with Worms

Worm composting involves using brown-nose or red wiggler worms to turn food scraps, shredded newspapers and cardboard into a rich compost, which can be added to potted plants, lawns or gardens. It is convenient and can be done indoors or outdoors.

The vermicomposting process is simple and has many advantages, including recycling organic waste, newspaper and cardboard. Vermicompost contains worm castings (manure) but also contains partially decomposed bedding and organic waste with recognizable fragments of plants, food and bedding. Worm composting means decomposing materials in a controlled environment where earthworms, rather than bacteria, do most of the work.

Building a satisfactory worm bin is easy and inexpensive, and worm compost can be harvested in two or three months. The volume of material decreases as the earthworms eat the decaying food, bacteria and bedding material, churning it through their digestive tracts to deposit it as vermicompost.

Learn more about vermicomposting through one of the classes offered by Enviromental Co-op. We will show you how to build a worm box, feed worms and harvest the compost for use indoors or out.

Click on the Current Events button for scheduled Vermicomposting classes or call the Co-op office at 972-524-0007.

Household Hazardous Waste

Household Hazardous Waste (HHW) is the discarded, unused or leftover portion of household products containing toxic chemicals. Any product labeled WARNING, CAUTION, POISONOUS, TOXIC, FLAMMABLE, CORROSIVE, REACTIVE orEXPLOSIVE is considered hazardous and needs special care to be used and disposed of safely.

Many products used in the home contain hazardous chemicals. Some of the most common HHW includes paint and paint products, pesticides and fertilizers, motor oil, antifreeze, gasoline, automotive batteries and household batteries, drain cleaner, oven cleaner, aerosol sprays, pool chemicals and many others.

Improper use, storage or disposal of these products can contaminate natural resources including the water supply. Our very life depends upon an uncontaminated water supply. Careless disposal of hazardous waste can endanger the integrity of the landfill liners, resulting in groundwater pollution.

The proper way to dispose of household hazardous wastes is to participate in a community collection event or take the products to a HHW Collection Center. Personnel trained in handling household chemicals will take those products and properly dispose of them or recycle them. 

Each resident of Kaufman County can help control household hazardous materials by:

  • Reading the label to determine how to use the product safely.
  • Purchasing only the amount of product needed and using up the contents.
  • Sharing leftovers with neighbors, businesses or organizations who will use them properly for their intended purpose.
  • Recycling used motor oil, oil filters and auto batteries at Kaufman County HHW Center, or at dealers where those products are purchased.
  • Keeping all household chemical products out of the reach of children and pets.
  • Disposing of chemical solids in original containers whenever possible.
  • Using less toxic, chemical-free alternatives.

Also remember:

  • Do not dump into septic system or storm drainage system.
  • Do not dispose of liquid chemicals, banned pesticides, batteries or motor oil in the trash.
  • Do not burn chemicals and do not dump or bury containers of leftover chemical products in the yard or garden.
  • Do not use pesticide or chemical containers for other purposes. Residues remain in the container and will contaminate other materials placed in the containers.
  • Do not mix chemicals together. (Combining chemicals can result in a chemical reaction that can be very dangerous to your health.)
HHW/Disposing of Old Paint

Oil base paint and cleaners:  Dispose at the Kaufman County Household Hazardous Waste Center at the Kaufman County Pct. 4 ECO-Station at Kemp. For information call the HHW Center, 903-498-4135or call Environmental Co-op at 972-524-0007.

NOTE: Latex (water base) paints:  Latex paint is not a hazardous chemical and can be disposed of in your trash pickup if it is dry. Remove the lid from the paint can and let it sit a few days to solidify. To rush this process, pour onto large sheets of plastic and dry it in the open-air. Mixing kitty litter into the paint can will help speed up the drying process also.

HHW/Pesticide tips

Whenever it is time for the popular pastime of gardening, it is also time to take care of pesky insects. Do you realize the impact your activities have on our water? Small changes can add up to big improvements. Consider the following tips before pouring on the pesticide.

Use physical and biological controls to eliminate pests in the garden and around the house. For example, proper use of sand barrier around the base of the house can keep out termites. Boric acid is a good remedy for cockroaches. Additionally, using “good bugs” in your garden to keep “bad bugs” out is a safe, biological method of controlling unwanted insects without insecticides. 

If natural remedies are not successful, use pesticides sparingly. Read and follow the instructions every time you use household chemicals. Be sure to secure the material when finished so that there are no leaks. 
Environmental responsibility is up to each of us. Using these tips regularly will make them into earth-friendly habits.

Alternatives to common household chemicals
  • Laundry bleach - 1/2 cup either white vinegar, baking soda or borax
  • Floor or furniture polish - Substitute 1 part lemon juice and 2 parts olive oil or vegetable oil.
  • Glass cleaner - Mix vinegar with equal parts water, or use undiluted alcohol as a substitute.
  • Rug deodorizer and cleaner - Lightly sprinkle baking soda on dry rugs and carpet, then vacuum.
  • Toilet bowl cleaner - A toilet brush with baking soda on it is a great substitute.
  • Roach killer - Use equal parts of boric acid and powdered sugar.
  • Ant killer - Try chili powder or Drione (silica gel), or Max Force bait to hinder entry of ants.
  • Oven cleaner - Mix baking soda with water to form a paste and use to clean.
  • Fertilizers - Organic fertilizers, like compost or fish emulsion, bone or blood meal, earthworm castings or liquid seaweed work great.

ALWAYS LABEL ALL HOMEMADE MIXTURES WITH CONTENTS  AND RECOMMENDED USE.

HHW Disposal Site for Citizens of Kaufman County
No Commercial Dumping
Located on US 175 and Plainview Drive
(6520 Plainview Drive, Kemp, TX 75143)
Hours of operation: Open 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday - Friday and the 2nd Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

ECO-Station - 903-498-4135

Acceptable HHW:

  • Pool & yard chemicals
  • Craft / hobby supplies
  • Batteries, all sizes and types
  • Automotive fluids (oil, antifreeze, transmission fluid, etc.)
  • Home repair chemical products
  • Oil based paints and thinners
  • Household cleaners & chemicals
  • Fluorescent light tubes

These items will NOT BE ACCEPTED:

  • Latex Paint (not HHW)
  • Business or medical waste
  • Containers larger than 5 gallons
  • Explosive or shock sensitive materials
  • Smoke detectors or other radioactive material
  • Compressed gas or explosives including ammunition
  • NO trash collection services available, No containers for rent, No Household Hazardous Waste accepted without labels stating what is in the containers, NO Commercial Waste is accepted

Water Conservation

Water is vital to the survival of everything on the planet. With the Earth’s surface covered in ¾ water, it may seem the resource is virtually unlimited, when in fact less than 1 percent is available for human use. While population and demand on freshwater resources continue to increase, supply will always remain constant and severely limited.

“Although it's true that the water cycle continuously returns water to Earth, it is not always returned to the same place, or in the same quantity and quality.

The average American family of four uses roughly 400 gallons of water per day at home. Roughly 70 percent of this use occurs indoors. The average household spends over $700 per year on its water and sewer bill. By making just a few simple changes to use water more efficiently, you could save about $200 per year. Also, when we use water more efficiently, we reduce the need for costly investments in water treatment and delivery systems.”

http://water.epa.gov/

Water – How to use it wisely!  100 Water Saving Tips: http://wateruseitwisely.com/100-ways-to-conserve/index.php

Tip #45: Water your plants deeply but less frequently to encourage deep root growth and drought tolerance.

Click on the logo for information on Smart Irrigation Month.

-- Keeping Your Lawn Alive During Drought

-- Drought Proofing Your Landscape

 


Recycling

Business, Residential, and Electronics.

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Litter Control / Solid Waste (Trash) Disposal

Cleanups, Illegal Dumping, Adopt a County Road.

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Environmental Education

Air pollution, Composting, Odyssey, HHW, Recycling, Water, Our Programs, and more.

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Future Plans

20 Year Solid Waste Management Plan for Kaufman County.

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