Membership to a unique new neighbourhood club is paid in rotting tomatoes, carrot skins and apple cores. The Elizabeth Street Compost Club in Moruya Heads on the New South Wales south coast started out as a bucket with a sign on the front lawn of 28-year-old Alex King’s house. “I’m just a very passionate composter,” Ms King says. Compost queen Alex King has connected with her neighbours and started conversations about food waste. “I wanted to get my neighbours involved, so I invited them to be part of the compost club, started an Instagram page, and dropped off notes in their mailboxes.” That one bucket quickly grew to two, then three, and Ms King has now diverted 300 kilograms of food waste in less than two months from landfill.
Growing carrots and community: People who walk by or see Ms King’s page on social media are encouraged to drop off food waste at the top of her driveway, which she then turns into rich soil. She’s got to know more of her neighbours than ever before despite the fact many of the houses in her street are holiday rentals. “It’s great to have something in the street to bring people together,” she says. “I work from home, so if I see someone stop and look I run outside and introduce myself and encourage them to drop off their scraps. And when I’m out the front digging around, people come up for a conversation.” The compost club has grown from just one bucket of food scraps. While composting is the main game, the bigger goal of the compost club is to get people to think about food waste differently. If people drop off whole vegetables or fruit, they’ll often leave with recipes for stock or orange cake. “I hate seeing people throwing away food that might have a little mould on it, or might be a little bruised, but the interior is still good as new or could be used as something else,” Ms King says.
Gardening grows as grocery bills spikeWith the cost of staples such as iceberg lettuce reaching as high as $12, the pinch is being felt in households across the country. “We need to, as a society, learn about different ways to be more frugal because food is getting more expensive,” Ms King says. “Everyone keeps talking about the iceberg lettuce problem … but we can start growing greens in our front gardens, and they’re free.” The dream is to have an Elizabeth Street community garden one day, powered by the super soil cooking away in the compost bins in Ms King’s front yard. “I would love to do workshops where I can invite everyone to have a cuppa, or give the compost back, or start a street garden. The opportunities are endless,” she says. “Gosh, that’s the dream — a little community garden on the verge. It makes me really excited.” With the state of the world at the moment, it just gives me something I can do from my own backyard that is fighting climate change. “It makes me feel a little less hopeless.”