Composting 101

 
 

Compost is the decaying of organic matter.  It is literally nature's way of recycling, allowing for organic discards to break down over time, returning their nutrients to the earth.  Composting at home is as a easy, rewarding way of making an environmental impact.  It doesn't matter whether you live in an apartment in the city or are out in the suburbs, everyone is able to compost.  

When I embarked on my journey of going zero waste, one of the areas that I noticed my husband and I created the most waste in was our trash.  Even after recycling and limiting our consumption, it seemed like we were barely making a dent.  I knew that composting would make a significant difference however I wasn't sure how to go about doing it.  My husband and I live in an apartment and don't have a yard, which rules out a couple options.  I considered purchasing a composting unit and seeing if a vendor at our farmers market would like our compost for their land however that seemed a like a lot of effort.  Plus, our farmers market is only open March - November which would leave us with not being able to compost during the winter months.  Finally, after watching a video by Trash Is For Tossers and talking to an employee at Whole Foods, I discovered a method that would work for us.  Instead of purchasing a composting unit or trying to work around our Farmers Market schedule, I simply put our compost in a paper-bag that is kept in our freezer until I drop it off at Whole Foods.  This system has worked great for our family as it is free and requires minimal effort; plus, we don't have to worry about any smells.

I'm a little embarrassed to admit how excited I was when I came up with this solution that has allowed my husband and I to compost!  I finally felt like I was making an environmental difference; one that required no cost and minimal effort.  I was very much aware that by composting at home, I would be diverting waste from a landfill, where its natural decomposition would have been inhibited and contributed to air and soil contamination.  Considering that "a third of house-hold waste is organic, composting makes complete sense in terms of waste reduction" (Johnson, 28).

 

Compostable:

BAMBOO

COFFEE GROUNDS

EGG SHELLS

EGG CARTONS

STALE BREAD

VEGETABLES/FRUITS

LEAVES & TWIGS

 

EXPIRED FOOD

LEFT OVERS

LOOSE TEA

MATCHES

SOILED PAPER

DRY GRASS CLIPPINGS

WOOD SHAVINGS

 

NUTSHELLS

PAPER NAPKINS

PAPER TOWELS

WAX PAPER

SHREDDED PAPER

SOILED CARDBOARD


Non-Compostable:

  • MEAT OR ANIMAL FAT | This will attract unwanted pests and will not break down properly.
  • INFESTED PLANTS | If your plants suffer from infestation, avoid throwing them in with the rest of your compost, as this could lead to infestation of your future garden.
  • HIGH LEVELS OF FAT | Do not pour oil into your compost as some bins don't get hot enough to break down a lot of fat.
  • PET WASTE | Leave this out if you plan on using your compost on edible plants.
  • NON-ORGANIC MATERIAL | Plastics, chemicals, pesticides...If you wouldn't want it in your garden you won't want it in your compost!
 

Compost Options:

How you compost depends on a few factors: cost, location, aesthetics, involvement, and capacity.  Some systems are free while others require investing in a unit.  If you have a yard you can either purchase a compost tumbler or throw your scraps into a corner of your yard, turning them over every so often with a pitch fork.  A compost tumbler is great because by turning it each day the compost is able to decompose at a faster rate.  Vermicomposting works in the city or the suburbs but is not for the faint of heart!  Worm castings create some of the richest, most nutritionous soil ("black gold") that you can use in your garden or sell.  Bokashi composting is where scraps are collected and a speical bokashi bran is added, which helps scraps break down anaerobically; basically fermentation for your compost.  It takes a couple of weeks and occurs in a bucket.  This option is works well if you live in the suburbs or if you live in the city and have a balcony.  Smart Composters are the most costly options but work anywhere.  They do a great job at keeping smells away, can be stored in a cabinet, and, like the bokashi, churn out compost in about two weeks.  There are many more options out there, created to fit your needs and lifestyle.  While these options are available for purchase, you can always get creative and use items that you already have, to make your own system.