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Coconuts and Composting

Posted by: Kim Steutermann Rogers
Destination: Kauai
May 18, 2011

At 10:50, sitting in traffic in Kapaa, I knew I'd gotten the timing all wrong. I had ten minutes to go from the north end of Kapaa on Kauai to the Kauai Resource Center on Ahukini Road, near the airport. On a typical day, this would be tight. Today, with the by-pass road that skirts downtown Kapaa and relieves the area of traffic closed for repairs, I would be late. No doubt about it.

I do not like being late.

After talking myself down from road rage to a more acceptable Zen state of driving mind, I used the quiet time in the car to reflect on palm trees

Palm trees are a sign of the tropics. Palm trees evoke images of the beach. They make people yearn for vacation. They embody the easy-going and relaxed way of living that is Hawaii. Sure, palm trees represent all that. And more.

Like work.

Oh, the trees themselves are alright. But, then, there's the palm fronds. I'll bet you're picturing a beach boy fanning a palm frond, aren't you? The image has fueled many a tropical vacation fantasies. But a more real image would be of my husband wielding a machete and whacking dying palm fronds off the tree.

Palm fronds grow like any leaf. They sprout. They unfurl. They absorb carbon dioxide, capture sunlight and make oxygen for us to breathe. Then, they turn brown and die.

But that's not the end. The question of what to do with the dead palm fronds arises. They may be easier to gather than raking thousands of oak and maple leaves each fall, but they're not quite as easy to dispose of. They don't fit in a plastic bag. They're too tough to go through any reasonably affordable shredder. And, due to subdivision rules, they cannot be burned.

And don't get me started on coconuts. You may be able to pay $2 for a single-serving of America's latest health drink, coconut water, but you can enjoy coconut water for free--and in its original packaging--in my yard. Once drained, like the palm frond, the challenge becomes disposal. Sure, coconuts bio-degrade--unlike plastic--but it can seem like it takes forever before that happens. We have a bonfire size stack of brown coconuts in our yard--curse the no-burn ordinance--and 128 hanging in our nine coconut trees. A couple years ago, I made a labyrinth with our used coconuts. But the weeding of it became unmanageable.

One very viable option to our palm frond and coconut dilemma is to haul them off to our local green waste recycling center. But to do so requires a pick-up truck. I drive a four-door sedan.

Enter the composting bin.

Earlier this year, the County of Kauai announced it was giving away composting bins. Free. Apparently, they'd conducted research that showed some 30% of Kauai's waste came from kitchen scraps. I guess they figured it would be cheaper--and less hassle--to give away composting bins than to find another location for a new landfill. All I had to do to get my free composting bin was to watch a 20-minute video airing at 11:00 a.m. today.

Years ago, a friend who recently found me on Facebook gave me a popular deck of cards making the rounds of creative arenas called "Creative Whack Pack" by some guy from Menlo Park named Roger von Oech. I go years without touching them and one day, something--I don't know what--makes me open the box, shuffle the oversized cards and pick one. Today, was one of those days.

The card I picked was titled, "Check Your Timing." It read:

Shakespeare: "Ripeness is all." Never forget that the greatest idea at the wrong time is a loser. Is the timing right for your new idea? What if you waited six months or a year? Would it have been better last year or the year before? What opportunities will you miss if you don't do it now? How's your timing?

I was 15 minutes late for the 20-minute video that I was supposed to watch in order to receive the free composting bin. But the woman gave me the bin, anyway. Thank goodness.

If you're already thinking something like "Now, Kim, I've seen a composting bin before. They're no bigger than a garbage can. There's no way your stash of coconuts is going to fit inside. Unless, you score a dozen. Which I doubt."

And you're right. I can probably toss a couple coconuts (carbon) in with my kitchen scraps (nitrogen), but I really have no answer for the remainder. Any ideas?


Susan | May 19, 2011 04:00 AM

This coconut and frond disposal situation is an issue for most people in Kauai. Some one with a pickup could make a reasonable amount of money just picking them up for the landowners and taking them to the green waste recycling center. Sort of like the curbside garden waste recycling we have here. Why doesn't someone do that?

Kim | May 19, 2011 11:12 AM

Susan, that's a great idea. I'd sign up for that service.

gregory g graham | Oct 11, 2012 01:25 AM

Just a thought but there are people using coconut husk fiber in stacked planters to grow various and sundry vegetables for commercial use. I know of one man in Walton County Florida who is doing that at the present time and making fair mone selling to restaurants.

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