Thursday, May 6, 2010
Two Coves Community Garden Benefits from Bike Tour Leftovers
By Georgina Young-Ellis
The booming voice of Master Composter Stephanos Koullias resounded throughout the parking lot of Astoria Park on Sunday, May 2nd, the morning of the TD Bank Five Boro Bike New York Tour: “Orange Peels, Banana Peels!” This odd cry was an attempt to encourage the bike riders to conscientiously contribute their fruit rinds to the composting efforts of the Two Coves Community Garden (TCCG), rather than allow them to go into the landfill. The mountains of peels piled up in the TCCG bins, but so did the mounds in the overflowing trash cans as the unaware deposited their fruit peels in the trash receptacles, along with food wrappers, napkins and other garbage. Mr. Koullias pointed out, however, that the Queen Botanical Garden was also hosting a composting station near the Con Ed plant on Vernon Blvd., and that last year, at the end of the 2009 Bike Tour, Bike New York volunteers, under the direction of Emily Crotty, sifted through the garbage there to reclaim six times as many fruit peels as they did at the TCCG station at Astoria Park. He hoped that similar efforts would be made this year.
The Two Coves booth was also bagging up as many water and juice bottles as they could get a hold of for recycling, but it was evident that a strong recycling effort was also being made by the Bike New York volunteers. Geoff Cohen, a Bike New York Transportation Captain, was confident that the huge pile of gallon-sized water jugs would be flattened and recycled, as would the stacks of cardboard boxes that the supplies were delivered in. He stressed that this year the emphasis was on having the riders use refillable bottles, rather than supplying them with individual water bottles or plastic cups.
As the riders began to filter out of the Astoria Park rest station, Bike New York volunteers scurried about, gathering up the fruit rinds that had been scattered on the ground, and delivering them to the TCCG bins. The community garden folks were careful to specify that no plastic bags or other non-organic waste be put into the bins, as compost, the breaking down of vegetable matter into fertilizer-rich soil, must not contain any meat, dairy, oils or household trash other than bio-degradable things like tea bags, coffee grounds and egg shells. It is generally accepted that all components of fruits and vegetables make good “green” compost, as long as they’re not cooked in oil or with meat, but in order to break down efficiently, must be layered with “brown” matter, generally dried leaves, dried lawn clippings or shredded newspaper.
Leaves for the brown layers were collected to the tune of around two thousand pounds by TCCG last fall, according to Master Composter Shirley Chai, who pointed out an enclosed area near the parking lot where the leaves are stored. With the assistance of Greenshores/Astoria Park Alliance, a total of four thousand pounds were ultimately collected from Astoria households and NYCHA's Astoria Houses in 2009.
The Western Queens Compost Initiative helps manage the composting effort at TCCG and is working on collecting green compost material from local Greenmarkets, CSAs (Community Supported Agriculture) and the other annual bike events. They are also accepting donations towards purchasing a work trike, a human-powered vehicle capable of transporting one thousand pounds of compostable waste from these various sites to the compost bins at TCCG, and also to help collect fall leaves in the years to come. (See: http://cli.gs/wqnscompost-kickstarter)
Mr. Koullias was eager to point out that composting not only creates beautiful, organic gardens and delicious vegetables for individual gardeners, but keeps vegetable waste from entering the landfills – waste that contributes to greenhouse gases and polluting run-off that flows into water sources. As the Bike Tour riders continued on their route, fed and sustained by an army of Bike New York volunteers,
Mr. Koullias expressed his satisfaction that almost triple the amount of fruit peels had been collected that day than the previous year’s TD Five Boro Bike Tour, with the help of TCCG volunteers Eric Mathews, Kristen Magnini, Shirley Chai, Matt de la Houssaye, Leanne Spaulding, Brian Monteverd, Mark Messer and Jules Corkery. He hopes that as a result of all their efforts, future events, the Two Coves community and the earth will benefit.