4. Compost with Your Community

The emphasis of this task is on community. By swapping skills and resources, we can create sustainable systems much more easily. Let's say I don't know how to build a compost bin out of pallets. Can you help me? Maybe you need more kitchen scraps to fill your compost heap. Let me bring you mine, and we can have a cup of tea and a chat too.

When the pandemic hit Ireland, pasta and toilet paper had to be rationed, due to widespread Hamsterkauf, which is now one of my favourite German words. Our fear of scarcity, maybe the intergenerational trauma of famine, had collided with our sudden awareness of how precarious our food supply chains are, to cause initial panic.

Slowly, a more positive effect emerged. There was an increase in the “grow-it-yourself” movement. Garden centres and seed supply stores were sold out of vegetable seeds in weeks as people working from home now had the time to try producing their own food.


We gave it a shot at my house too. It’s only when you experience first-hand the challenge of coaxing the land into producing a bounteous crop that you understand the vast time, energy and resources that go into stocking the shelves of our food stores.

What we were most lacking was compost. We send our vegetable peels, chicken bones, eggshells, leftover rice and grass cuttings away via bin collection. How can we cycle it back into the soil so that it's fertile enough to feed us into the future? Home made compost is a great alternative to shop bought compost which usually contains peat from our precious bogs.

I escaped the city to live at Coole Eco-Community for nine months. Coole is a project dedicated to land regeneration and community living in Ferbane, Co. Offaly.

Coole taught me the workings of a compost heap and the extraordinary value of cow poop. The scraps from cooking for a community of five, a constant supply of biomass weeded out from the garden, and the dung from eleven cows could barely provide enough nutrients to feed the vegetables all year round.

The members of Coole Eco-Community share their communal approach to composting here.

The Irish Peatland Conservation Council demonstrate DIY peat-free composting, see here.

Justin Ivory, of Dun Laoghaire Rathdown County Council’s Gardening for Biodiversity scheme joined us for our second webinar, Community Action in the Biosphere, see here.