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Thinking Green

Eagle Scout builds community compost bins for project.

The Hallcrest Heights neighborhood will soon be looking a little greener, thanks to a local Eagle Scout.

Douglas Landrum, 15, has recently begun his Eagle Scout project, building four compost bins to install in an open, green area around the development for residents to recycle their yard debris.

"I was appointed by [Dranesville District Supervisor] Joan DuBois to the solid waste task force, and one of the reports I heard was that the county's trash incinerator is filled to capacity," said Hallcrest Heights Homeowners Association President Clark Tyler. "A lot of the trash in the incinerator is yard debris, which ought to be composted."

That gave Tyler the idea of talking with Landrum, who lives down the street from Tyler, about possibly creating some kind of composting system for his Eagle Scout project not only to fulfill that requirement, but also to help his neighborhood.

"We have a narrow strip around the parameter of the community between the Dulles Toll Road and Route 123 where we started a community brush pile a few years ago," Tyler said. "If this project works, it'll make a big difference."

"On June 1, our trash-collecting company stopped collecting things that could be composted," Doug Landrum said. "I was thinking that, to help my community, I could start a project that would help them have a place to put their yard waste to compost it, which will also help keep our yards healthy."

FOR HIS EAGLE SCOUT project, Landrum had to fill out a series of forms and paperwork detailing the construction and use for four compost bins, three cold and one hot, and how it would be used to enhance the community, he said.

"A hot bin uses the warmth created by things when they decompose to speed up the composting process," he said. "Cold bins take longer to break down things and it's a more passive approach."

The hot bin will be able to create mulch faster than a cold bins, Doug said, but he wanted to make some cold bins as well, so that if neighbors wanted mulch in the spring and fall, there would be a supply available.

The hot bin will be six feet long and three feet wide when completed, he said, and the three cold bins will each measure three feet wide by three feet long, all measuring 40 inches tall.

In order to gauge his community's interest in his composting project, Doug sent fliers out to the homes in his neighborhood to see if anyone would use the compost from the bin or contribute yard waste.

"Most people are interested in composting, but only six or seven said they'd help us build the bins," he said. Of the more than 100 surveys he sent out, 85 percent of the residence of Hallcrest Heights showed an interest in turning in yard debris and receiving mulch.

"My goal is to help our community. We get a lot of leaves here in the fall and a lot of grass clippings during the summer, and after a while, you'd be surprised by how much less mass you have when you start composting things," Doug said.

He also received some help and guidance from Tyler, who has served as a sponsor and mentor of sorts to Landrum during the process.

"Mr. Tyler helped me talk to Miss [Pamela] Gratton at Fairfax County, who gave me ideas on ways to build the compost bins," Doug said of his help from Gratton, recycling manager for Fairfax County. "She was such a great help."

For the most part, Gratton said, her involvement with Doug's project was mostly from an advisor position, providing some guidelines on the dimensions of the bins and what would be needed to make them work.

"WE APPLAUD his efforts to help the environment in his community," Gratton said. "Yard debris is organic material and it can be naturally broken down, which makes it the perfect thing to be recycled. We hope we'll be able to create other opportunities for other communities to use this idea," she said.

If Doug's project is deemed a success after a year of use, Gratton said the project could be used as an example for other community composting sites across Fairfax County.

"I'm looking forward to hearing a report to share with other communities," she said. "Hopefully, we can show how easily it can be done."

The project has taken a little more than three months to go from friendly suggestion to the building of the bins, with Doug's family supporting and helping him all the way.

"We're really proud about what he's done," said Doug's father, George Landrum. "He started researching this and talking to people about this project three months ago. The interest is there; it's just a matter of getting the bins going."

The county incinerates some 100,000 tons of yard debris each year, Doug Landrum said. "The county just doesn't have the capacity to keep all that waste," he said.