Rooftop Composting

Rooftop Composting

Rooftop Composting: Reducing Waste, Growing Healthy Food, Enhancing Well-being

1. Introduction

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. Activities

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

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

3.1. Advantages:

  • 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.

3.2. Disadvantages:

  • 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.

4. Conclusion

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.