BalconyContainerGardening.com's recently interviewed Tyler Weaver from CrazyAboutCompost.com and TylerTalksTrash.com. Learn all about Tyler and why he wants you to help him save the environment by composting in your balcony container garden.
BalconyContainerGardening.com: Tell us a little bit about yourself, Tyler.
I climbed into my first dumpster when I was a little kid, and the experience changed my life. I found so much stuff being thrown away and I didn't understand why. I developed a nasty habit of dumpster diving, trespassing and not paying for stuff because I could just find it out back somewhere. I hated school (although I did really well), and not surprisingly, the only classes I liked were related to Environmental Science and Environmental Health. I was fortunate enough to study Environmental Health in more detail in college, but I ended up focusing more on trash picking. I sold my car and moved to Philadelphia and was getting by on next to no money quite easily…and I got bored. Life was over in my early 20s. I started volunteering at a hospital close-by, while honing my bike repair skills at a volunteer bike repair co-op (note: to those that are trying to figure out what to do with your life: volunteer. You'll know right away what you really care about). Why a hospital? It was the only waste stream I'd never seen as it's under lock and key…kind of. I had a passion for worker safety as the only job I had growing up was working in a factory, and I became really sensitive to environmental hazards.
I started doing air quality testing and some ergonomics stuff but not for very long. I went right for the waste storage rooms and found tons of violations and opportunities for improvement. I found my calling. I pitched this idea to my boss, and before I knew it, I was a "Municipal Waste Auditor." My job was simply to dig in the trash, teach people how to dispose of waste properly, and report all erratic disposals, mainly in the infectious waste realm. I became well-known quickly among staff, as I was watching their waste habits, and in under a year I had major success in cleaning up the hospital's act.
I wanted to then focus on recycling, but they weren't interested because they subscribed to the myth that it costs money to recycle. In short order, I ended up being picked up by another hospital to develop their recycling program, and develop I did. It's been five years now that I've been there, and we have one of the highest recycling rates in the nation (last horn toot, I promise). It's crazy - I essentially trash picked my way into my "career" and I had no idea the whole time. Now that I look back on it, I can't imagine doing anything else.
A few years ago, other hospitals starting calling me for help with their waste programs, and then my friends started asking me questions about waste disposal and recycling at home. I realized I needed to have a web presence in order to reach out and teach as many people as possible, so CrazyAboutCompost.com and TylerTalksTrash.com were born. I feel like I already have my life mission in order, and I'm very fortunate. I love talking about waste and its reduction more than just about anything, and watching other people start composting or recycling more or choosing more sustainable products is extremely satisfying to me. Occasionally I get public speaking gigs, and those are more opportunities for me to speak the green gospel, and I love it. Waste is me. :)
BCG: You garden on your balcony. Tell us about your garden.
Does it count as a garden? I always say I'm going to have a garden next year, and it never goes off the way I anticipate. I have some basil and chives, both of which grow pretty quick and taste great. I tried growing carrot plants this year, and I left town for a few days during a heat wave, and when came back and they were all dead! I can't believe what I was missing - eating the fruits and vegetables you grow on a balcony container garden is a really amazing feeling, and I'm looking to keep chasing it.
BCG: I know you're an advocate of curbside compost pickup. Who should people contact to push this in their own cities?
That's a tricky question. I'd say it would help to contact whatever department handles waste hauling, and of course if there's a sustainability officer of some sort. An immediate action is to promote composting at home, as it's fun, easy and rewarding. That is the exact purpose of my website. I'd rather chip away at culture change instead of getting deep into politics trying to convince officials what they already know but won't act on due to factors I don't want to know about. You don't have to be a hippie environmentalist (like me) to have composting at home; you can just do it because it makes sense.
BCG: How did you first get into composting?
I don't remember the first time, but I do remember eating apples because the best part was seeing how far you could throw the core into the woods. I learned early that it would break down eventually into healthy soil, and that was really cool. I didn't compost growing up, and I didn't get obsessive with it until I was about 23. Even then, I'd take food scraps and just throw them at the patch of dirt in the backyard, which were most likely intercepted by squirrels. To me, that was a victory - no landfill. Then when I got my own place, I had a hole in the backyard, and every night I would bury stuff in it. Then over time it just got more and more extreme and fun at the same time: compost bin, compost tumbler, worm bin, Worm Inn. I created the website to get people started with composting, as that waste makes up close to one-third of our landfills… it's crazy. I just want to connect with people and talk about waste to whoever is willing to engage.
BCG: You sell worms on your site. Can you tell us a bit about that?
I got into vermicomposting by reading Bentley Christie's website RedWormComposting.com on a regular basis. I've been composting for a long time, but only recently got into the worm side of things. I started writing him to tell him I liked what he did, and I asked him what selling worms was all about. I guess I didn't understand how that worked. He told me what I needed to do, and then I did it. I owe him a lot for that. In this never-ending mission to get by teaching people about environmental issues, he helped me out and he didn't have to. He rules.