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Traverse City’s Household Kitchen Scrap Composting Rate

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Thanks to everyone (N = 648!…how awesome is that?!?) for taking my survey and helping me with my 4th grade science fair project. I got an A+!

Here’s the information that I had up on my Project Board:

PROBLEM QUESTION
What is Traverse City’s household kitchen scrap composting rate?

HYPOTHESIS
Due to my experience as a Compost Boy, I predict that Traverse City’s household kitchen scrap composting rate will be 30%.

RESEARCH
30-40% of household waste in the U.S. is compostable. Food waste makes up 21% of what goes into landfills for a total of 36,000,000 tons every year. The total recovery of food waste is only 1.6% but there are cities that are very compost friendly like Madison, WI. Their household composting rate is 35%.

EXPERIMENT
I designed a scientific online survey on surveymonkey.com. It had 22 questions about composting, gardening and demographics. I researched other municipal composting surveys including one from Madison, WI. I shared my survey via email, social media, my Carter’s Compost website, and through Grand Traverse County’s Recycle Smart newsletter. I sent a test survey to several organizations including GT County’s Resource Recovery department who gave me feedback on my survey questions. The survey was open for one month. Even though I only measured Traverse City’s rate, I allowed all Grand Traverse residents to take part so I could establish data for future studies.

RESULTS
N = 305 (TC residents only)
“YES, I’ve composted my kitchen scraps in the past year” 72%
“NO, I haven’t composted my kitchen scraps in the past year” 28%
5.55% Margin of Error at 95% Confidence Interval

HOW TRAVERSE CITY RESIDENTS COMPOST
Backyard Pile 53%
Plastic Commercially Made Bin 28%
Pick-up Service 25%
Drop-off at Community Pile/Share with Neighbor 18%
Worm Bin/Vermicomposting 9%

WHY TRAVERSE CITY RESIDENTS COMPOST (“CHOOSE YOUR TOP 3”)
“Reduce my waste” 84%
“Nourish my plants naturally” 65%
“Contribute to my ecosystem at home by being responsible for the entire cycle of my food” 61%
“Save landfill space” 60%
“Cut down on greenhouse gas emissions (compostable items in landfills emit methane)” 32%
“Teach your kids that their waste is a resource” 29%
“Reduce groundwater pollution (toxins leaching from landfills into the environment)” 22%
“Save money on fertilizer for your garden” 19%

WHY TRAVERSE CITY RESIDENTS DO NOT COMPOST
“I don’t know how” 43%
“I don’t have enough space” 39%
“I’m afraid of attracting pests/critters” 30%
“I’m too busy. I don’t have enough time” 28%
“It’s too icky and it smells” 17%

WHAT % OF ORGANIC WASTE IS RECOVERED BY TRAVERSE CITY COMPOSTERS
Veggie Scrap 81%
Meat and Dairy scraps 17%

COMPLETING THE CYCLE
64% of TC composters have a garden
87% of these gardeners have a garden less than 500 sq feet
77% buy compost
94% make their own compost

WHO IS MOST LIKELY TO COMPOST IN TRAVERSE CITY
40 to 59 years old
Lives in a single family home
Has an advanced college degree
Earns 50,000 to 75,000 per year
Prepares more than 14 meals at home/week

REFLECTION
Although the data set is large with 305 respondents from Traverse City allowing me to have a low margin of error and high confidence interval, my sample was not random. The survey was shared online with my Carter’s Compost members, friends, supporters and sponsors . I was unable to get outside of my circle of friends. Apparently, with a 72% rate, all of my Traverse City friends are composters. This is a serious weakness of my survey because the data is skewed. Maybe if I randomly chose names from the phone book or stood outside the library, that would have provided more accurate results.

CONCLUSION
I guessed that we would have a higher than average household composting rate because Traverse City is a very environmentally friendly city and there is a lot of demand for my kitchen scrap pick-up service. I predicted 30% but my survey found the rate to be 72%. Due to that fact my sample was not random, I think 72% is too high. Based on these results, I also now think that 30% is probably too low. Traverse City is very compost friendly!

Bar Graphs for all questions can be found here:

https://www.surveymonkey.com/results/SM-PWDNC88/

Full Results from all Grand Traverse Respondents here:

https://www.surveymonkey.com/results/SM-62PH288/

What do you think TC’s actually household kitchen scrap composting rate is?

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My 4th grade Science Fair Project: A compost survey

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I am researching Traverse City’s household kitchen scrap composting rate for my science fair project. I don’t think there is any current data on this. Your answers to this survey are not only important to my science project but could be useful to our local government as well.

The survey will take about 5 minutes. There are a few gardening questions as this is important to the Carter’s Compost mission of “completing the cycle” by growing neighborhood food with neighborhood compost. Expect some demographic questions too.

All answers are anonymous and you must live in Grand Traverse County to participate. Please, only one survey per household. Duplicates will be disqualified. Ends January 31.

Go to the survey here:

https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/carterscompost

I want to get a lot of respondents so that my sample is large. Please share the above link with your neighbors/friends/co-workers via email/social media/website/newsletter.

Thank you for taking part in my survey.