Composting: A How-to Guide
What Is It?
Composting is the microbial decomposition of organic and dead materials into compost. Composting allows organic matter such as vegetable food waste and paper products to decompose and become nutrient-rich soil. This soil is perfect for growing plants in any environment.
How Can I Do It?
You just put the compost bin somewhere in your backyard, and dump all the organic matter into it. After a couple of months, warm, rich, great smelling compost comes out the bottom. Honestly, you really don't have to do that much work. Whether you live on a big farm or in a tiny city apartment, there's an easy way to compost.
What Do I Do?
The best thing you can do is to buy a recycled plastic composter, stick it in your backyard, and start throwing food and yard scraps into it. Keep it damp and rotate it occasionally – it really is that simple!
Many people choose vermicomposting, which uses worms to help turn food waste into soil: a multi-layer composter is an ideal choice for this type of composting.
Why It's Important:
Composting is one of the best ways to reduce your trash footprint. Currently one third of all trash that goes to the landfill could be composted. Once in a landfill, food does not easily break down. Energy for the garbage trucks is another unnecessary cost of not composting. Think about it - what if a full 1/3 of all the garbage Americans create didn't ever leave the house? What if that garbage got turned into fertilizer to grow local, delicious food. You can do just that if you start composting today!
There are so many benefits to composting:
- Reduces 1/3 of the trash that would traditionally go to landfills
- Saves money and resources (no need to buy fertilizer)
- Enriches soil naturally and organically
- It's fun and educational (your family will love to watch the process happen)
- Helps reduce greenhouse gas
- Enabling things to return their natural cycles just feels great!
- Save $$ on your garbage bill
- Provides a soil amendment for your veggie garden
- Supports community, keeps them green, keeps things local
On this last point, improving your communities really is another benefit to composting. For neighborhoods that don't have a "green bin" trash pickup (i.e., they haven't gotten with the composting program where you live yet), you can still make a big impact on your community by composting. If 1/3 of all household waste is organic matter that could be composted, then composting reduces by 1/3 all the fuel and pollution for all the transport of a community’s garbage.
Even if you don't have a garden you can make a trade of compost with your local green thumb gardener for fresh vegetables at harvest time or sell your compost to garden enthusiasts for profit. Composting turns your unwanted trash into pure gold in the eyes of the gardener!
The Greenhome Bottom Line (what others may not tell you):
Composting is easy, and anyone can do it, but it really helps to get the temperature up! If what you want to compost is not hot enough, it smells bad, attracts pests, and takes too long to turn into compost.
In theory, anything that was alive can be composted. However, in practice, a typical backyard composting setup will not get hot enough to handle meat or bones. So while there's nothing wrong with digging a hole in the ground and dumping all your food scraps in there, or building a box and doing the same thing, the secret to an intensely fulfilling composting experience is to get the heat going and be careful what goes in. Insulated or solar powered bins can help get your compost up to the 160°F needed to make good compost.
- According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, buried waste is the #1 source of human-caused methane gas and a direct contributor to global warming.
- Composting reduces 1/3 of the trash that would traditionally go to landfills.
- Compost consists of equal parts of nitrogen (green materials) and carbon (brown materials).
- Anything that was once living can be composted (however any meat or cooked items may attract unwanted visitors).
- Compostable items include kitchen scraps, coffee grounds, cardboard, waxed paper, yard waste, and junk mail.