Susan's Super Citizen Showcase

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Al's pleasantly scented compost solution

“It’s changing the world – one bucket of compost at a time.”

That’s why Al Pasternak likes selling Biosa Bokashi Bucket systems to folks like me – a person who really loves the idea of things that are “hassle-free,” as Al describes his product. This alternative composting system is powered by beneficial micro-organisms that ferment kitchen waste (including meat and dairy products) into a soil conditioner that is buried directly into the garden.

Al, who promoted his product outside the East Vancouver Farmers Market last season, says he has always been interested in sustainable living and a low impact life style. He’s been educating people about using Bokashi – which means “fermented organic matter” in Japanese – and offering it as a "simple and easy” alternative for recycling kitchen waste.

“My main message is that composting can be done in a small space and it can be done with a minimum of fuss – which means that it can be done indoors and it won’t attract flies and have odours,” he says. “I wanted to find something that involved dealing with waste – stuff we have here anyways – and making it available to people when it otherwise wouldn’t be available… As a job, I love it – if you have to call it a job. It’s not work; it’s fun.”

A week ago, I bought a system from Al, who surprised me by arriving at my house with the whole set-up bungeed to the back of his bicycle – two 15-litre buckets and a one-kilo bag of Bokashi. It was with great delight that my six-year-old son inaugurated the bucket with its first handful of Bokashi, followed by the first piece of compost fodder: a half-eaten banana. Since then, we’ve been carefully following Al’s instructions to throw in our kitchen waste, compress it with a plastic bag, and sprinkle a handful of Bokashi onto every three centimetres of food.

So far, no stink, which pleases me immensely. In fact, it smells great – unlike some of my past, well-intentioned composting experiences. I still have a deep-seated olfactory memory of reluctantly opening the lid of a traditional kitchen compost, psyching myself for the wall of warm, steamy stench that seems to announce “party time!” to all flies lucky enough to be in the vicinity. It’s like the opposite of aroma therapy… aroma trauma! (Actually I’ve often wondered if there could be a market hole for aroma trauma…)

While a traditional compost decomposes food using heat and exposure to air (hence the stinkiness we tolerate in the name of recycling and being good to the Earth), the Bokashi system is anaerobic, doing its magic in an air-tight container. The Bokashi, which smells like sweet vinegar, is fermented by Biosa – a mixture of photosynthetic bacteria, lactic acid bacteria, and yeast.

According to Al’s literature, these micro-organisms occur naturally worldwide but in recent years, there are less of them in many soils due to over-farming and the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides. Hence here’s another advantage to the Bokashi system: it gets these helpful microbes back into the soil where they can assist plant growth and disease-resistance.

Putting this beneficial concoction of friendly micro-organism infested waste into the garden sounds like a great idea indeed – but what if you don’t have a garden?

“Of course the question comes up: Where are you going to put the stuff?” says Al, who suggests community gardens as a good destination for the Bokashi bucket’s finished product. Right now he’s exploring the possibility of starting a pick-up service for people who don’t have anywhere to put it – so check out his website and ask him about it.

I’m very thankful that Al has taken on this project and I will update on it further down the road. For more information on Biosa Bokashi, visit Al’s website:


At Fri Nov 03, 10:04:00 AM PST , Anonymous Anonymous said...

very nice story! well written too!
keep up the good work! i can't remember my password so this is anonymous.... but really it's your brother.

At Fri Nov 03, 12:16:00 PM PST , Anonymous Pinatonian Princess said...

inspirational! I feel like digging my hands in dirt right now!...
are you sure you don't have a column???... something to think about! :)

At Sat Nov 04, 06:16:00 AM PST , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Is the product available in Toronto?
It sounds like a great product Some of my friends (all seniors) still have gardens and I know they would be very interested. Good luck!

At Sun Nov 05, 09:23:00 AM PST , Blogger Al said...

Al here....


It is not available in Toronto at this time, but I can send it via Canada Post.

For the beginning of a beautiful relationship with the earth, check out my website and/or contact me at biosa AT greatday DOT ca .



At Sat Nov 18, 03:29:00 AM PST , Blogger 42 words/min said...

Just a cautionary note: anyone throwing proteins into an oxygen-poor atmosphere (which the lower layers of compost are likely to be) should be aware of possible pathogenic bacterial enrichment (some of the most evil beasties such as those which cause gangrene, tetanus and botulism thrive in such places). The idea is still a good one, just wash your hands after handling your "pleasantly scented" compost and keep your kids out of it!

At Mon Nov 20, 06:25:00 AM PST , Anonymous Fiona said...

Hi Susan this is your remote cuz Fiona here, great articles. I have a wormery that I'm very happy with, but it wouldn't be poss without a garden or at least a balcony. I got it from who are an eco friendly English bunch, their website is worth a look. Take care, would love to hear from you anytime.

At Tue Nov 21, 10:42:00 PM PST , Blogger Heather Gorringe said...

Thanks Fiona and great to read you are using Bokashi Susan. Wiggly Wigglers has made several podcasts about Bokashi particularly Number 3 and this weeks - number 58. Its a great method for the home and I use one here in conjunction with a Can-O-Worms and 2 chickens (!) which means every bit of waste isn't waste anymore - its raw material. I think there is a major opportunity to use Bokashi Buckets in offices - in our office we use two buckets for about 8 people but I think the system would sustain 12 or so. Its used within the office for sandwich and fruit scraps and it works brillianty. No smell. No mess.

At Tue Dec 05, 09:00:00 AM PST , Blogger Al said...

To 42words/min - Re: wash hands. Good advice which I will add to my printed material. Thanks!


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