As a thrifty, eco-friendly gardener, it’s hard to throw away anything that might have some value as compost. Composting, after all, is a great way to create our own natural soil additives at home, eliminating the need for chemical fertilizers that could cause problems for the environment.
Certainly most green food waste and plant waste makes its way into our compost pile, along with eggshells, wood chips, hair, dryer lint and many other items that would otherwise get thrown out around a home.
The question of composting pet poop, however, has always been a messy one. Even websites such as the EPA page on composting lists Animal Manure on the IN list for items to compost while at the same time listing Pet Waste on the OUT list, for items to avoid.
My friend Susan McCullough recently tackled this question on the Metro DC Dog Blog.
Apparently the folks in the Fairbanks, Alaska Soil & Water Conservation District “performed a study aimed at developing ‘easy yet effective dog waste composting practices that reliably destroy pathogens found in some dog feces.’ The study found that good composting not only removes dog waste but also saves energy (from transporting the waste to a landfill) and also enriches the soil.”
By the way, I mentioned animal poop a couple of weeks ago when I was going out to Jackson Hole, Wyoming for a short trip. I wondered what they do with all of the elk poop on the huge National Elk Refuge that feeds about 10,000 elk during the winter. Well, I just wanted to pass along this tongue-in-cheek conversation I had with one of the rangers out there.
Me: “Excuse me. Can you tell me what you do with all of the elk poop on the refuge?”
Ranger: “Why? Do you want some?”
Me: “Well, not now, because I am getting ready to get on a plane to head home, but it just seems like all of those nice, compact pellets would make great fertilizer.”
Ranger: “Hmmm. I have to say, we have never had that question before. How would you suggest we collect the poop?”
Me: “I know you let boy scouts pick up elk antlers and sell them to raise money. Why don’t you let them pick up elk poop and sell it for fertilizer.”
Ranger: “Right. We could have a new kind of merit badge for collecting poop.”
Me: “Or maybe just the bad boy scouts would get elk doody duty.”
Ranger: “Haha. Actually we just leave all of the poop right where it lands. And it does act as great fertilizer for the grass that grows there that helps to feed the elk. So none of it really goes to waste.”
Which just goes to show you, sometimes the simplest answer is really the best one.
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