How many of you throw your leftovers or food scraps in the trash?! We're all guilty of it at some point or another. But why is this such a bad thing? It turns out that when we throw food in the trash, it ends up in a landfill with things like plastics, fabrics, metals, and a lot of junk. But if food breaks down, what's the big deal? Well, food doesn't break down the same in a landfill as it does in a compost pile. Why? It doesn't have the right conditions. For food to degrade properly it needs oxygen and heat. Two things that may be hard to come by in a landfill. In fact, without proper air (oxygen), the decomposing food lets off a lot of methane, a very potent greenhouse gas.
What can we do? You can start a compost pile!
Let’s start off by defining what composting is. Composting is the act of mixing decayed organic matter to create fertilizer and condition the land. What does that mean? It means you take things like leaves, grass, twigs, and food scraps and mix them together. They breakdown into what is essentially rich, nutrient dense soil that can be used in your garden or on your land to enrich it.
So how do you do it?
-Select the area – You’ll want a place that gets some sunlight but isn’t super sunny/hot. You also do not want a super shaded place.
-Pick your style – Some people prefer the ease of a rotating compost bin that keeps items contained, off the ground, and is easily turn-able. Some people prefer to put it all in a pile on the ground and put up metal wiring around it (to keep animals out).
-Make it small – The items you are composting that is. It will break down faster if your items are in smaller pieces. So chop up the food scraps and crush the dried leaves!
-Place your compostable material in your composting bin or in a pile. You want to make it about half food items that come from your home and half “brown” items like dried leaves, twigs, and paper. Make sure the items are slightly moist but not soggy.
-Rotate. You’ll want to mix or turn your compost to allow it all to get oxygen. That is important to the decomposition process. You’ll want to rotate every couple of weeks. This allows the inside of the pile to heat up and breakdown.
-Ready to use – You’ll know when it’s ready to use when it looks like rich soil.
What can I compost? From your home Fruit and vegetable scraps Food scraps from your breakfast, lunch, dinner, or snack Coffee grounds Egg shells Shredded paper and cardboard From your backyard Dried leaves Untreated grass clippings Finely chopped wood or bark Sawdust from untreated wood Straw (the type that horses eat, not the straws you sip from, unless they are compostable!) What can I not compost? Coal and ash Dairy products Fat, grease, oils Meat, fish, bones Animal waste Sick/diseased/insect-ridden plants Grass/plants treated with chemicals How Do I use my compost? Once you're items have turned into a beautiful and rich soil, you can mix it into your garden or potted plants to give them more nutrients. If you have too much you can ask friends and family if they would like some!