In addition to several years spent building and maintaining a small scale version of the project described here, Anahata has been involved in a wide range of creative and socially impactful endeavors. She actively supports Tibetan refugees in exile and has co-founded an NGO in Nepal that rescues girls who are at risk of being trafficked in the sex trade. She was also the artistic director of taradhatu.org for twelve years, and is a profilific artist. Her portfolio is available at: traveling-light.net
“I have participated in peace work in the Middle East and to a large extent before settling in Georgia I was a global citizen. I lead peace pilgrimages to Brasil, India and Nepal and still teach in Australia, New Zealand and many places in the United States. So, my perspective is both broad and deep. I am a practicing Buddhist but have a deep respect for the many faith traditions of the earth and teach an activity called Dances of Universal Peace internationally. Having mentioned all this, I am committed to the project of Zero Food Waste and will give it the necessary dedication to bring it into fruition.”
Why we love this:
Q&A with Anahata:
Please describe your project in detail:
I am originally from England, but I have resided in the United States since 1980. I have lived in cities that are very progressive like Seattle, Washington and Los Angeles, California, but now I find myself in Southern Georgia, where there is a lot of land, it’s very green, but environmental practices lag behind more progressive States. I want to make a significant contribution towards addressing a fundamental problem in our society, that of food waste.
The environmental protection agency estimates that more food reaches landfills and incinerators than any other single material in our everyday trash, about 21% of the waste stream. Reducing food waste will help the United States address climate change, as 20% of the total US methane emissions come from landfills. My proposal aims to re-direct that food waste by implementing a project that is inspired by the Vermont Compost Company (www.vermontcompost.com). In Montpelier, Vermont food scraps are collected from institutions such as hospitals, prisons, schools and restaurants and delivered to the Compost Company where an army of chickens eat the food and transform it into their acclaimed compost. Other forms of manure and trace elements are also part of the mix, but essentially the chickens are the catalyst for turning that which was waste, into something that is life giving and sustaining for the health and vitality of the communities……namely the soil in which to grow food to assure the continuity of life. The chickens are utilized to industriously plow through mountains of food waste, turning it as they go, into the finest organic compost available.
I live in a small countryside town. Once upon a time here, almost everyone would have had a backyard flock of chickens. That is according to the elders of the community. Now, the children believe that eggs come from a carton and tomatoes from the supermarket. There is a BIG disconnect from their true food sources. Experts call chicken manure “liquid gold” and it is truly amazing how potently chickens can help us develop top soil that is rich in nutrients and ready to grow anything we want. Chickens = Sustainability. Even the “roosters” who do not lay eggs can help us create the best soil in the world. In my sustainable food waste project, the hens, roosters and chicks will make valuable contributions to producing organic compost. It is even possible to integrate “rescue” chickens into the plan. In my project there will accommodation for the chickens to adhere to their own natural cycles. Their eggs will help to generate income and eventually the sale of the compost as well, once the formula has been perfected.
I am already implementing the principles of my project. I am collecting food scraps from my local coffee shop “The Station” and from a wonderful local bed and breakfast “Hogan House” where the family who runs it used to own an organic chicken farm in Australia that had three and half thousand chickens!!! They are thrilled to have their scraps go to my chickens. In the cycle of a year I use leaves, wheat straw, chicken manure, hay, compost and other organic materials to generate top soil.
I adhere to the adage “Think globally but act locally”. I want my local contribution to be diverting food waste in our county away from the land fill. I want to engage restaurants, hospitals, prisons and schools as well as individuals to offer their food scraps that will be fed to the chickens who will in turn work for their living and turn the unwanted food into compost for our gardens to flourish. The cycle of life is a win, win, win when we apply our intelligence for the benefit of all.
What inspired you to start this?
A few years ago I took an on-line chicken course with the esteemed teacher Patricia Foreman (author of City Chicks). She was an all encompassing and inspiring teacher. In addition to learning everything about chickens and their upkeep we also studied soil science and sustainability. It was in this course that I was introduced to the incredible work of the Vermont Compost Company. I couldn’t get it out of my mind and for these past three years I have been dreaming of how to do a sustainable project like theirs in my own area. I recently met with Lynne Miller (our city planner of Hogansville) and she felt sure that our local organization called “Keep Troup Beautiful” (Troup is the name of our county) would be very interested in the project. Land is not expensive in our area and I am connected to many people who will assist me with getting in-kind donations (such as the land) to help launch the project. It is truly a non-partisan project and a cause that everyone can rally around and participate in on so many levels.
Tell us about your team:
At this moment I have a team of supporters that includes our mayor, our city planner and citizens that are behind the project. Nothing formal has been set up, but everyone sees the need and some dedicated environmentalists are ready to support me. Members of the local chapter of the Sierra Club are inspired by the project. As for myself, I have been a musician/composer/teacher my whole life and it wasn’t until I started to live in the countryside where there are large tracts of land that I saw the potential to make a difference in a completely new area. Every year the forests fires get worse, the climate gets ever warmer and projects of sustainability become more and more necessary. So, in a sense, I am turning my skills which include a considerable attention to detail, to a new area. I have always supported projects such as the one I am proposing, but now I am initiating one and I am willing to stand behind it and give whatever it takes to manifest it in our world. I am used to manifesting artistic projects and in one sense this is not so different. Instead of instruments and music, I am orchestrating food and chickens and bringing them together to create a harmonious score composed of zero waste, compost, food and community.
Is this project already underway?
In a small way (as described above) I have dedicated 100% of my energy to initiating my project in a limited but sustainable way. For example every year our city has a huge festival called “The Hummingbird Festival”. At the closure of each event the city donates to me all the wheat straw bales that have been used as seats around the town. I bring them to my yard and during the course of the year they begin to decompose. I used the straw on my garden beds, but the ones that are not immediately used become small ecosystems for my chickens to explore and devour. In the fall I collect leaves from all my neighbors instead of sending them away in the city trucks. In other words I have been incredibly diligent in utilizing everything that natures provides me. I watchful to salvage compostable material that others throw away. I am self sufficient in eggs and can share them with neighbors and friends. I re-cycle food scraps from our local bed and breakfast and coffee shop. I am now ready to take this to a larger scale of implementation, that is city/county/state wide.
Do you know anyone else with a similar project?
Yes, the Vermont Compost Company. I understand from talking to my chicken instructor Patricia Foreman, that there have been other projects also inspired by the Vermont Compost Company in other parts of the US but I am not in touch with them yet. My alignment and inspiration comes directly from the source of this idea, that is the Vermont Compost Company itself. My teacher Patricia Foreman went into quite a lot of depth about the project in our on-line chicken classes.
How much money are you looking for?
Initially $25,000.00 although I realize the complete project will take a lot more money to fully manifest the infrastructure and equipment needed to go into full scale operation.
What other sources of financing, if any, do you have?
When I went to meet with Lynne Miller (Hogansville’s Community Development Director) she immediately went on-line to see the land that our city and our county own. She indicated, that if the various agencies (like Keep Troup Beautiful) and departments got behind the project that land would be available. Perhaps equipment might be available too and maybe the city will participate in the collection of food waste. I am in the process of researching other grant money (through the Foundation Center in Atlanta) that might be available for projects like this.
Why do you need the money?
I need funding to launch the project. I am still young and vital enough to pull this off with diligence and caring. I do not have the personal resources to put into the project, and now is the time to do this. There are so many good things that can come from this and I feel that I am the right person to initiate it. With the $25,000 funding, I will be able to:
- go to Vermont with a team to thoroughly study their operation and if necessary pay for one of their experienced people as a consultant.
- After acquiring the land I immediately want to be able to construct appropriate chicken coups so that I can begin to bring in the chickens and compost.
- I need to purchase an appropriate vehicle for food pick-ups. These three things (along with donated land) will enable me to start on a small scale.
How will you measure the results of this project?
I will measure the success in a few different ways.
- As each restaurant/school/hospital/prison/family/rest home subscribes to donating their left over food to Zero Food Waste we can measure how much food did not go to the land fill and cause green house gases.
- When I see the free ranging chickens eating the food waste and at the same time making compost, I will jump for joy!
- When we start to collect our free range eggs and make them available for the public to buy, I will consider this a success too.
- When our first compost is ready for purchase I will know that the cycle is complete because the food scraps will once again come back to life as the community plants flowers and veggies to sustain life.
- When the food donors call me to thank me for being able to participate in the program, I will consider this a success too…….because generosity generates happiness.
- Last but not least, if I am able to rescue chickens that would otherwise have been killed (for no other reason than being unwanted), then I will know that chicken can live out its life in peace. Our disrespect of nature and creatures is so all pervasive, we need to model relationships built on kindness.