Palouse Environmental Update

Where are Eartha and Beartha?

By David Hall, Board Member of Palouse Prairie Foundation, Paradise Ridge Defense Coalition, and Palouse Water Conservation Network

The fourth goal in the Moscow Food Co-op Strategic Plan and Ten-Year Goals (2009 to 2019, back in Kenna Eaton’s time as General Manager) was to incorporate values of environmental sustainability into the facility.

 Nora Locken sharing the composting excitement with our community! Photo by David Hall

Nora Locken sharing the composting excitement with our community! Photo by David Hall

The Co-op’s first Earth Tub composter, locally named “Eartha,” was a demonstration project funded by a $15,000 grant from the United States Environmental Protection Agency. Eartha was purchased and installed in 2007 through a partnership between the Moscow Food Co-op, the Palouse-Clearwater Environmental Institute (PCEI), and Moscow Recycling. Eartha has diverted more than 20 tons of compostable material from the local landfill each year for the past nine years (roughly 2008 to October 2016). Some of the compost was used by folks at the Moscow Community Garden on West C Street.

In 2016 the Co-op’s Sustainability Committee audited the Co-op’s composting efforts as part of their then-new Waste Audit Reduction Plan and decided that they could do better. In 2016, the Co-op’s Facilities Manager, Bill Bonner, with the assistance of the Committee, purchased from Main Street Market in Spokane a second composter (lightly used, identical to Eartha) for $1,000. Beartha was installed in the alley next to her sister Eartha on September 28, 2016.

The addition of the second composter was to enable the Co-op to begin composting food scraps from the Deli, and the Co-op is now doubling the amount of compost they create. The addition of Beartha was projected to help process an additional 3,200 pounds of waste (presumably per year).

 Nora Locken and Crew. Photo by David Hall

Nora Locken and Crew. Photo by David Hall

The Moscow Food Co-op hosted a Sustainability Celebration November 3, 2016, to roll out the new customer composting program. “Audit results for April (2016) showed we had around 605 pounds of compostable material in the garbage, which made up 38.56 percent of the total waste we were sending to the landfill,” said Misty Amarena, then Co-op Education & Outreach Coordinator. “Our goal is to reduce the size of our dumpster from diverting more waste to composting.”

The Moscow Community Garden on West C Street has been getting compost from the Co-op for several years, initially a pickup load once or twice a season, but, now, with the addition of Beartha, they use a pickup load twice monthly. “It has been a welcome addition and is used to improve many of the plots at the garden,” reported Tim Cavileer, Chair of the Moscow Community Garden Advisory Board. “For the most part we store it on site at the garden to finish composting. Some loads are more broken down than others and it can be pretty hot and may still need to cook before we can apply it to the soil. The only drawback is that gardeners have to screen it because it contains a fair amount of non-compostable items (plastic knives, forks, spoons, and the occasional metal one, and food handling gloves, etc.) or items that take a bit more time to break down (mango pits, coffee filters, broccoli stems, egg shells, etc.). All in all, we are very thankful for the generous donation of the compost to the garden!"

In the waning days of 2017, the two composters were moved from the alleyway outside the Co-op to the grounds of PCEI. PCEI is picking up and transferring food waste from the Co-op to the composters three times a week. The two composters are functioning there. PCEI is exploring some possible methods for further refining and improving the compost, and possibilities for expanding the system to handle increasing Co-op waste and additional community waste. PCEI is actively recruiting volunteers interested in helping to implement the system.

Strategic Plan and Ten-Year Goals (2009)

“Concern for the environment is a core value for many Co-op member-owners, and it is critical that the internal and external physical spaces of the store reflect that value. Sustainability and environmental friendliness were top priorities during the creation of our Co-op’s store and our ultimate goal is to operate a zero-waste facility. In the short-term, we hope to be a model for energy-efficient and sustainable business practices, to take steps towards energy self-sufficiency, and to support and encourage each other as we strive to incorporate and reflect this value in our own homes and workplaces.

“Specifics: a) Become a model of energy self-sufficiency to reduce our carbon footprint: Using green building benchmarks as a guide, the Co-op will take steps to increase its energy efficiency. Examples include the already initiated composting effort (the Earth Tub), adopting alternative energy and resource use as appropriate and pursuing sustainable operations and practices.”


  • Eartha has diverted more than 20 tons of compostable material from the local landfill each year (2008 – 2016)
  • 20 tons per year = 40,000 pounds per year
  • April 2016 audit showed around 605 pounds of compostable material in the garbage
  • 605 pounds per month = 7,260 pounds per year
  • Beartha is projected to add 3,200 pounds per year, from late 2017 onward


Cavileer, Tim. 2018. Personal communication.

Lamar, Tom. 2018. personal communication

Moscow Chamber of Commerce. 2016.

Moscow Food Co-op Invites Public to Sustainability Celebration, November 01, 2016. Moscow Food Co-operative. 2009.

Strategic Plan and Ten-year Goals - Moscow Food Co-op Moscow Food Co-operative. 2016.

Moscow Food Co-op Monthly Board of Directors Meeting, September 13, 2016 Moscow Food Co-operative. 2016.

Moscow Food Co-op e-newsletter, 11/01/2016. An Update on Expansion, A Second Composter, and FREE Tasteful Thursdays! Our Second Composter Needs a Name! Moscow Food Co-operative. 2017.

Moscow Food Co-op e-newsletter, 1/3/2017. Happy New Year: Be Well in 2017 with 10% OFF in Wellness! An Update on Expansion, A Second Composter, and FREE Tasteful Thursdays!


David has been spending his time trying to keep the water in the Grande Ronde aquifer, the highway off Paradise Ridge, the Palouse Prairie in existence, and motor vehicles off the proposed Third Street bridge.