Rooftop Composting: Reducing Waste, Growing Healthy Food, Enhancing Well-being
The project “Rooftop Composting: Reducing Waste, Growing Healthy Food, Enhancing Well-Being” was sponsored by the Embassy of Denmark as a solution for “Raising Awareness on Green City in Vietnam”. The project was implemented by the center for Environment and Community Assets Development (CECAD) from January, 2018 to September, 2018. Its aims are to address three critical problems for Hanoi: food waste, access to healthy food, and connecting the outdoors; in which composting food waste would help to alleviate the city’s enormous waste disposal problem while generating myriad benefits – gaining the valuable knowledge of how to make compost, using the compost to help grow organic food and other plants, having direct access to healthy, fresh food, and the emotional well-being that comes from creating green spaces and feeling part of a communal effort that addresses sustainability. The model of composting and growing vegetables and flowers was implemented at the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD) building, 16 Thuy Khue Street, Tay Ho District, Hanoi.
2.1. First meeting with MARD
We started with contact with MARD people for a formal agreement on conducting the project at MARD building, and arranging a meeting about the project. The meeting took place on 21 March, 2018 with the attendance of representatives of the Building Management Board, Management Board for Forestry Projects, Enterprises Management Department, canteen staff, and the hygiene group. In the meeting, CECAD introduced the project objectives and activities to MARD participants. The committee within the ministry who would be responsible for taking care of the model was also established with the participation of representatives of 5 departments. As discussion between us and the committee, we all agreed that the staff of canteen would be responsible for caring and watering the model for convenience. Other members would help monitor the model.
2.2. Individual interviews
In the survey that we used to ask for staff opinions on the project and what plants they wanted to start growing, 17 out of 27 participants said that they had already known composting and 9 in those group were having a small garden at home. 3 out of 10 people who didn’t know composting before were having vegetable gardens but not using composting as fertilizers. The data analysis showed that more than 70% of the interviewees had knowledge of composting and gardening. In addition, all participants expressed their interest and support for the project as they wanted that the view on the rooftop would be nicer, so they could enjoy the relaxing time when they go for a drink and lunch in the canteen. When asking about what plants and tree should be planted in the model, they recommended us some seasonal vegetables and flowers to brighten up the space. They also preferred long flowering perennials.
2.3. Composting activities
We started to conduct the composting activities after purchasing some necessary products and delivering them to MARD in early April. First, we delivered 15 trash bins to MARD departments to collect food waste so that the waste could be used for composting afterward. Second, we had designed an instruction document on how to do the composting with organic waste and composting activators, and provided the participants training in MARD building to help them understand all steps of composting. In the training, together with the participants, we composted 2 large bins.
2.4. Model establishment
After two months of composting, we started planting with 4 large planting bins in June with the help of the committee. We chose seasonal vegetables and flowers as recommended to start the sowing and planting process. Since the space on the rooftop was still large, we continued to plant two more bins in the early July. To total, we had 6 planting bins on the rooftop. Later on, Ms. Lan Anh and other staff of the canteen, who volunteered to take care of the model, watered the plants and seeds every day, which helped the model develop well. It is refreshing to know that canteen staff could not only harvest some vegetables and herbs from the model such as morning glory, chili, perilla, basil, etc, but they also planted some new vegetables themselves.
2.5. Education and communication activities
In order to disseminate the model to a larger groups of MARD staff, we designed a small brochure and handed them to different MARD departments with the help of the committee members. As such, we really hope that the model would be widespread and also helps the canteen attract more customers.
Based on advice of the Denmark Embassy representatives, we also made another brochure with detailed instructions for starters who wish to design a small model of composting and growing vegetables. The brochure spells out as how to do composting using food waste and how to grow vegetables in a proper way. As such, people can make use of what they have at home so that the investment in the model is not costly. We also printed the brochure and handed them to different departments of MARD on 16 Thuy Khue. It will serve as a small starter kit for everyone who wants to begin a garden.
2.6. Monthly monitoring
Around the 20th of the month for 6 months, CECAD staff came to MARD building on 16 Thuy Khue to monitor the model. If any problems/issues were identified, solutions were collectively worked out right away to resolve the problems.
2.7. Model assessment interview
We conducted the final individual interviews to gauge how the project affect each staff in MARD. We interviewed 27 MARD staff and asked them a range of questions. When asking about the benefits of planting vegetables and flowers using composting, all interviewees said that the model has brought 4 main benefits: protecting environment, reducing organic waste, providing organic food and making green space as well as connecting people. Out of 24 people, 14 people believed that the model brought all four benefits. Regarding reducing-waste benefit, almost all people believed that growing vegetables using compost helped cut down the amount of food waste. Some other opinions showed that using compost in growing vegetables also benefited household economics because they could utilize waste and at the same time providing organic vegetables for domestic purposes.
When were asked whether their awareness was raised or changed after the project came to an end and whether they wanted to apply this model at home, many answered said that they were aware of the importance of protecting the environment by applying the composting and growing vegetable model; and that with this model, they could produce organic vegetables for use. 4 people said now they knew how to do composting using vegetable waste to apply at home. 11 people wanted to have a kind of model at their houses, 4 said they would immediately apply this model at home. We also asked them if the model should be scaled up. All interviewees agreed that the model should be expanded to other office building, schools, and houses because of its benefits for environment, household economics and for green space as well as for connecting people. Some also thought that the model could help to educate people, especially the youth and children about the importance of reducing waste and protecting environment.
2.8. Group discussion
To assess the impact of the model, we organized a meeting with MARD staff to discuss the impact of the project, including what has been achieved and what needed to be improved. In general, all participants agreed that the project was successfully implemented and the project objectives were reached. The organic wastes from canteen was reduced 30% according to the manager of the canteen; the organic vegetables were initially provided to the staff of canteen for use. All vegetables and flowers have created an ecosystem, which helps create green space and raise the awareness of people on composting and minimizing organic waste.
3. Advantages and disadvantages
- The committee with the participants of MARD staff strongly supported the project activities, so the project was well implemented.
- There was plenty of sunlight on the MARD building rooftop, so it was very suitable for growing flowers and vegetables. It should be noted that during the summer time when the temperature was very high, and sometimes storms and heavy rain took place, the vegetables and flowers were still able to develop very well. All of this proved that the model is suitable for open-sunny areas.
- During the composting process, due to the humid weather and wet waste, smelly liquid was leaking from the bin. The problem was resolved by using rice husk for drying and at the same time designing a small drainage system at the drainage valve.
CECAD has received enthusiastic support and assistance from the MARD staff in general and the committee in particular in carrying out the project. In general, the project activities were well implemented and in accordance with the work plan. As a result, the project has achieved its objectives: Part of food waste of the canteen at the MARD building is reduced; organic vegetables are initially provided to the staff of the canteen; a small green space has been created for connecting people; and a number of MARD staff’s knowledge on composting and using compost to grow vegetables and flowers has been improved.
Hopefully, the model will be invested and replicated to other office buildings of MARD, schools, family houses so that green space will be brought to everywhere in Hanoi. As a result, Hanoi will become a destination where people can come spend time, enjoy and relax in a green, clean and healthy environment.