Vail Seasonal: Composting completes the cycle of life
VAIL, Colorado -We’ve seen our first frost and a couple of light snowstorms in Colorado’s Vail Valley. Sadly, the garden withers, and it seems like the next growing season is light years away. If you haven’t started composting, now is a great time to get started – you can work toward a healthier garden next year. What is compost? Composting is the constructive process of recycling. All living things decompose. The trimmings from fresh fruits and vegetables can be saved and recycled, and over time become ‘compost,’ a rich, soil-like mixture that is packed with nutrients. Composting is compelling; there are tons of benefits, but lots of work. No immediate gratification, no results for many months. It means working with worms and food waste.”Ugh,” I thought, “Where’s the sizzle to this story?” Enter Shawn Bruckman.Shawn is adorable, with a friendly smile and an engaging laugh: the quintessential girl next door. What you don’t see in the packaging is a degree in environmental policy from Michigan State 2007. The degree was followed by a year of service with the U.S. Americorps doing conservation work in Seattle, Washington and Mount Rainier. At the same time, she was a volunteer on community-level environmental projects.Her next adventure brought her to the Vail Valley “for some fun,” she said. A friend of some of the chefs at Avondale, Shawn landed a job at the Westin Riverfront Resort & Spa, a perfect match for her background. Westin Riverfront was awarded LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification by the U.S. Green Building Council on Sept. 24, 2009. The property is the first resort in Colorado to receive this award and the first Westin within the brand. It’s no surprise that Shawn found her way to the Westin Riverfront’s Green Team as soon as she began her job, and quickly determined that in cooperation with Avondale, a composting program would be her baby.Which is the perfect analogy. Shawn’s friend, Amber O’Quinn, also a Westin associate, describes the composting process – “it’s like a family, you have to love it and work hard at it, always asking yourself if you have the patience to endure the process. But like raising a child, the results are the true reward.”Shawn agrees and feels the cycle of life is ever-present in composting. “I love teaching kids about the concept,” she said. “The Westin Kids Club asked me to come in and talk to the kids about composting, and I was amazed at how much they already knew. And they’re fascinated with worms!”Shawn’s enthusiasm is the sizzle. You’d be excited about worms, too, if you listened to her. “I could talk about composting all day long,” she said. “There’s so much to learn and it’s so beneficial to the environment. And it’s so easy – absolutely anyone can do it and make an impact.” Holly Irwin, kitchen manager at Larkspur Restaurant, drew on Shawn’s enthusiasm to start a composting system at the sister establishment. “Shawn taught me so much – what can and can’t be composted, and why it’s our responsibility to commit to the program.” Larkspur now supplies some Vail Daily associates who farm land in Glenwood Springs with materials to compost. As the winter approaches, and volume of vegetable trimmings increases at Larkspur, the restaurant will also supply the Vail Resorts composting program.Beyond the benefits to personal gardens, Shawn explains the big picture. “It has been discovered that compost neutralizes the methane gas that is emitted from landfills. That’s a huge step forward in the recycling process. Instead of throwing away food trimmings, by recycling them you are helping the landfill, instead of simply adding to it.” This is such an important breakthrough that cities and counties throughout the country are developing composting plans for their citizens, whereby the material is collected, composted and spread on the local landfill as well as other public lands like parks and gardens. So even if you don’t have a garden, you will be able to contribute to this process. Local citizens’ action groups including Eagle Valley Alliance for Sustainability and town of Vail are working diligently to get these programs underway. In the meantime, if you would like to set up an easy, cost effective home compost for your own garden use, Shawn has offered her help. All you’ll need is some Tupperware-like containers, food trimmings, paper, and … worms. For more information, contact Shawn at firstname.lastname@example.org. Sue Barham is the marketing director for Larkspur Restaurant and Restaurant Avondale. Larkspur, at the base of Vail Mountain, has been serving American Classics with a fresh interpretation since 1999. Avondale opened in September 2008 in the Westin Riverfront Resort and Spa and features a West Coast inspired, market driven menu.