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For Lake Worth Commissioner Mulvehill, It IS Easy Being Green

Lake Worth Commissioner Suzanne Mulvehill has a headfull of programs she'd like to see in Lake Worth to make it the greenest little city in South Florida. On the agenda: composting, public orchards, rain barrels, and front-yard vegetable gardens. 

Mulvehill says her own back yard composting projects inspired her to promote a composting plan for the whole city.

Mulvehill used her old yellow and blue recycling bins (Lake Worth has replaced these with larger green and yellow wheeled cans) to manage her compost, which she spreads on her garden as an organic soil enhancer. The compost is so rich that rogue tomato plants sprout from it -- Mulvehill says they're her strongest tomatoes. Now the commissioner is behind a plan to get Lake Worth residents composting their own organic food scraps.

Raw vegetable peelings, that head of lettuce you never got around to making a salad of, coffee grounds, apple cores, damp paper towels and coffee filters can all go into a properly kept composter.

"Twenty-nine percent of all our garbage is compostable," Mulvehill says. "It was intriguing to me to find out just how much of that is going into our landfills." If the plan succeeds, the city's public service director, Joe Kroll, estimates it could save the city more than $110,000 a year in landfill costs. State Rep. Mary Brandenburg sent Mulvehill an email last week saying she thinks citywide composting is a "great idea." 

The city is running a pilot project with 50 volunteer residents from local neighborhood associations who've received free plastic composting bins equipped with a mixing paddle to test the program. And judging from the comment thread on this Palm Beach Post article, the idea appears to have totally outraged some Lake Worth residents.

But those folks better prepare themselves: Composting is just one of the green projects Mulvehill is pushing in the months leading up to the next City Commission election, when she'll be running to retain her District 2 seat against Lisa Maxwell, formerly a LW planning and zoning board member.

The commissioner also likes the idea of encouraging residents to use rain barrels to conserve water in this increasingly dry city -- lawn watering is still restricted to one day a week. And she's working with Tree Board President Gael Silverblatt on a potential "community orchards" project.

"Twenty six states have public orchard programs," Mulvehill says. "We could use the city's surplus property to plant mango and avocado orchards that residents could tend and harvest." Residents would be able to pick fruit free or at low cost. For the time being, she's working on a program to encourage residents with surplus fruit to collect it and bring it to a central site, like the Lake Worth Greenmarket, to give away rather than just letting it rot on the ground.

And finally, Mulvehill is working to change the city codes to allow residents to grow vegetable gardens in their front yards. "Until the 1940s, Palm Beach County was number one in the nation in production of fruits and vegetables," Mulvehill says. "I think we can make Lake Worth a sustainable city."

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Gail Shepherd
Contact: Gail Shepherd

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