Denver recently started a composting program. My family and I were oddly excited as we have been composting on our own for the past year or so. We got our city compost bucket this week and all we have to do is dump it in the big bin and roll it to the curb. According to the EPA, recycling and composting kept 87.2 million tons of material out of landfills in 2013, up from 15 million tons in 1980. It's, unfortunately, not that simple for all communities.
Many folks have gone all urban farmer. Think backyard chicken coops, ducks, and personal compost piles. Who wouldn't want to just grab a fresh egg from your own flock. But there are risks. One Oregon community is struggling with a rat infestation (EEEK!) brought on, allegedly, by an abundance of chicken coops and open-air compost piles. And the Centers for Disease Control reports that more than 1,000 people in 48 states have contracted Salmonella poisoning from chickens and ducks.
So if your 'hood doesn't have a compost program but folks are taking it upon themselves to compost or they're raising hens, you may want to establish some guidelines. As always, communication and education is key!
Share resources with your residents. Check with your local home improvement store or a community college to see if they have composting resources that you can share with residents. Post information on your website and any scoop (get it?!) on how to get started and maintain a compost pile. Post photos of do's and don'ts, too so newbie agrarians get a better feel for what a productive compost should look like. And either make it a rule or strongly encourage residents to utilize a compost bin rather than an open pile. (see above for the RAT article).
Backyard Chickens and gardens! Check your city ordinance first, and see if animals are restricted in any way. Check the nuisance laws, as well. You need to make sure your rules jive with the city. Encourage neat and clean coops, tidy gardens and you'll field fewer complaints. Establish regulations for where beds and coops can be placed. For example, one common rule is "no garden boxes in the front yard." You can arrange for folks to share eggs and produce with each other (Yay, community!)
Get ready! Be ready to field some nay-sayers when it comes to greening your community. Be upfront and respectful of differing opinions. And be detailed when it comes to the rules and regulations. Be sure and host them on your site and communicate to your residents. As always, seek legal counsel.
When you power an informed community, you build something intangible among your neighbors and you'll see more harmony and happiness. An informed community is a happy community!