My composting story: Jane McKeel, Goodwin House

Jane McKeel is a resident and member of the Green Team at Goodwin House Bailey’s Crossroads (GHBC).  The Green Team helps to promote sustainable living at GHBC.  She shared her perspective with Compost Crew.

How did you get involved with the Green Team at Goodwin House?
Soon after moving to Goodwin House Baileys Crossroads (GHBC), I observed that in-house recycling seemed to be somewhat haphazard and received little attention. Then I became aware of a few other residents with similar views; we were all very concerned about global warming and wondered if we could encourage more sustainable living and working at GHBC. In 2005, we gave ourselves the name Green Team. We’ve grown from five to two dozen members and have developed a variety of programs and projects over the years.

Why did the Green Team want to bring composting to Goodwin House?
Green Team (GT) leaders learned around 2010 about commercial composting and how it could substantially reduce waste and help the environment by providing rich soil. We were impressed to learn that the US Capitol was composting and that compostable dishes, flatware, and napkins – made entirely from plant-based material – were available. Always aiming to curtail as much waste as possible, we began to imagine bringing this super sustainable practice to our retirement community.

The earth’s natural systems produce no waste.  Humans can follow earth’s teachings rather than generate thousands of tons of waste every year. We experienced a kind of epiphany: composting made all the sense in the world!

Jane McKeel photo

What were the most effective ways to educate the community about composting?
Before the pandemic, we held monthly community meetings at GHBC. Our Dining Services Director Peter Moutsos and I spoke about composting at more than one of these meetings. The GT also created a flyer and distributed it to residents.  Since the pandemic, we’ve printed notices about composting in the weekly house newsletter. With 500 residents here and newcomers arriving throughout the year, people have questions. To serve as a consistent reminder, the GT set up a display table in the common area illustrating which items are recyclable and which are compostable.

What makes you the most proud about this program?
It’s been wonderful observing how many residents are sincerely glad for the opportunity to dispose of their food waste in a sustainable way. I personally am proud to be associated with such a solid, environmentally-supportive system and to live in a community which values earth-friendly ways of operating.

When I spend time and energy supporting the critical effort to increase nature’s ageless way of handling waste, thereby decreasing incineration and endless landfills, I feel I may be making a difference in the world. I’ve always aspired to make my life – to the extent possible – a force for good; at age 82, I don’t know how much longer I will have to try to do so. Time is running out!

Do you have any good composting tips for our readers?
Philosophical: Watch the video for an understanding of why composting is so important. Once you recognize that composting is simply returning to the natural, ancient ways of zero-waste, you’ll want to join such an effort. There is no Planet B; as good stewards of Earth, it is critical we decrease the massive waste with which modern society has burdened the planet. Composting food scraps, yard trimmings, and other organics is an easy way to create an earth-friendly lifestyle.

Practically speaking: use compostable napkins. That way, when you clean up after meals, you can wipe plates and pans with the napkins and then dump the napkins into your compost bin. That also gives you less soiled dishes to wash.  Keep a compostable bag in the fridge or freezer to dump your compostable items.  They can stay there until they are taken outside to be picked up by Compost Crew.