Interview with EM Sustainable Living

This is the first in the series of interviewing people who are involved in Effective Microorganisms, Bokashi and composting in general. And today’s interview is by the owner of EM Sustainable Living. I see so much compostable waste being thrown away in central London. So I decided to run a series of interviews with experts to both help me and others who read my blog to understand more about the benefit of composting and Bokashi composting, what others are doing to compost more and to better our environment. 

When I started making bokashi bran, EM Sustainable Living was the first place I stumbled upon and I thought the information given on their website was so helpful. I buy my EM1 and molasses from there. So I thought it would be the perfect place to start my series. 

Please introduce yourself.

My name is Robert Sweeney, I am married have children and I am the owner of EM Sustainable Living. My business offers products that contain effective microorganisms (EM). EM is a totally organic product and was discovered accidently when several types of beneficial bacteria were disposed of by emptying an experimental dish containing several types of beneficial bacteria onto grass. Shortly afterwards it was noted that this grass was more vibrant in colour and had grown taller that the other grass around it. The rest is history.

What got you interested in EM?

A friend who moved to Hong Kong told me about it and I tried it for myself and found that it worked on my garden. EM was originally used by farmers in the far east to produce crops without the need for expensive chemical fertilisers and I had an interest in experimenting with it.

What made you start an EM business?

I have always had an interest in gardening and remember fondly helping my Grandfather around his garden but as I grew older my interest in gardening was trying to produce healthy organic food, naturally. It is well known that the addition of manure and other organic material to the soil helps produce good growth and crops benefit naturally. Farmers also spray animal slurry over their fields to produce better crop growth, but the disadvantage of this is that it smells bad depending on what type of slurry was used. These methods add microorganisms to the soil but are time consuming and can be very labour intensive and the mix of the microorganisms is unknown. However with EM the microorganisms are known and it is very easy to add beneficial microorganisms to the soil or compost as the solution comes in a plastic bottle and the required amount is added to a watering can and diluted with water. The solution is than watered onto the ground. EM contains three types of beneficial bacteria which work in harmony with each other and promote beneficial activity when they come in contact with the other bacteria living in soil. This enhanced bacterial activity produces greater food for plants naturally and the plants grow well without the need for chemical additives. I thought this was a great idea and ran tests and discovered that it worked for me and the other people who trialled it. It was very cost effective and reduced the need for expensive chemical fertilisers. I believed it was a great product for gardeners so decided to invest some money in it.        

 Who is your EM hero other than Dr Higa?

There are many people throughout the world who have benefitted from EM use and I believe it is unfair to single out any individual for praise. People have experimented with EM and discovered that EM has many uses.

 Do you brew your own EM? Do you need a special license to sell EM as it’s microorganisms?

 All EM-1 production worldwide is produced under licence from EMRO Japan which is an organisation set up by Dr Higa.

Other than composting, what can we use EM for?

EM was originally used for crop production and due to experimentation it was discovered that EM could turn waste organic materials into a fermented product which was called bokashi. The fermented material bokashi when buried in soil was quickly absorbed into the soils and plants grew well. Over the years EM has been used medically, in waste management, human and animal health products, soil remediation, water treatment, water pollution, oil spill containment. EM has the ability to remove smells and is used in many places where industrial smells are offensive to their communities. New uses for EM are being found frequently and some of these are tightly controlled commercial activities. An example of new EM uses is that in the UK box hedging, which has been used for centuries in gardens both large and small throughout the country and is prone to a disease known as “Box Blight” can be cured using a solution of EM and a sticker agent. The EM fights the cause of the box blight and thus prevents the destruction of the box hedging which is so beloved by gardeners. 

I recently blogged about Bokashi composting without using the bran. Other than using the EMA spray, are there other methods of Bokashi composting without using the bran?

Not that I know of. Bokashi bran which is sprinkled onto waste food adds a carbon based material which contains the beneficial microorganisms and provides food for the microorganisms and as it is a dry material it absorbs moisture. However a solution of EM and water produces the same result although the bokashi will be wetter. It is the beneficial microorganisms contained in the EM that do all the work and ferment the waste food into the fermented product which we know as bokashi. 

Can an enthusiast sell compost made of Bokashi ferment?

In the UK all compost must comply with PAS 100 legislation so any compost sold would have to comply with this standard. However in other countries (not EU) bokashi originating compost/soil is sold. EM Hawaii published a story about raising funds for a school through this method, calling their product super soil.     

What is the benefit of EM in general?

EM has many benefits and enhances microorganisms all around us. Microorganisms are a natural part of our environment and we have billions of them in our bodies, without microorganisms we could not survive. EM use enhances the natural environment and makes life a little better for us.

Why do you think so few people know about or use Bokashi composting in the UK?

The lack of advertising about the benefits of EM and what it can do enhance our living environment as well as the cost of the bokashi buckets put many people off. The lack of support for an organic method of food waste disposal is not a priority in this country and several other more enlightened countries lead the way in bokashi composting.

If there was a program on television about the benefits and use of EM especially on one of the gardening programs then the use of EM would increase however I have spoken to two television presenters about EM and I have had little encouragement from them and they were not in the least interested.