Composting 101

A lot of us have heard the three pillars of living sustainably – Reduce, Re-use, and Recycle. What some of us may not know is the fourth pillar … Rot! Composting, baby. Ah yes, that sweet sweet dirt. So what is composting and why should we do it?

Instead of tossing organic materials into the trash, toss it into your compost! Depending on what type of composting and what budget you have, you can use your compost to get rid of pretty much anything. Well, anything that breaks down organically anyway.

Why should we compost?

When organic materials get trapped under piles of garbage at the landfill, they actually can’t decompose properly. Lack of air and proper treatment cause organic materials to create methane gas. This methane gas is then released into the atmosphere where it contributes to climate change. When we properly compost organic materials, they are able to break down naturally, avoiding this methane gas. Plus you get to have nutrient-rich soil for your garden or plants! It’s a full circle moment, and boy is it beautiful. 

Did you know that 30% of what we throw away can be composted instead? Why would we waste all that good stuff? Today I want to breakdown how you can compost at home. Whether you live in a quiet town or in the city, there is a way for you to compost too!

Let’s breakdown composting options based on our budget. Like we said before, helping the planet doesn’t have to cost your wallet.

1. Bins – $

The only cost for this first option is the bin itself. Take a storage bin and drill some holes into the sides for air flow. A good compost bin is 1 part “green” (food scraps and plant materials – nitrogen rich stuff) to 2 parts “brown” (soiled pizza boxes, bread, wine corks – carbon rich stuff like that). Make sure you regularly turn this mix to create airflow. Once you have a nice mix going, you can add your organic waste as you go. Continue to mix soil once a week and cover!

What can I compost?

Almost anything! Avoid any dairy products as this could attract pests or animals. And with this option, bones cannot be composted.

When do I get my dirt?

2-6 months

“New worm bins” by Tim Musson via Flickr

2. Vermicomposter – $$

Our second option is very similar to our first, but with worms! This is a great option for those of us in smaller spaces. You’ll want to keep this worm bin inside to keep a regular temperature for your worms. It is possible to buy pre-made worm bins, but if you feel like saving some money and being creative here are detailed instructions on how to build one yourself! Another plus to this option, is that your worm bin will create “worm tea” (it is so good for your plants, trust me!), and when you have enough worms you can begin placing them out in the garden or sharing them with friends!

What can I compost?

Almost anything! Do not compost animal products (meats, fats, or bones), coffee filters, or plastic covered paper (like stickers). Worms will eat the paper in the bin but nothing covered in plastic. And don’t compost any citrus, onions, or garlic (it will make the soil too acidic).

When do I get my dirt?

About 3 months. Once your compost reaches the holes at the top of your bin, you should be ready to harvest.  

3. Composting Service – $$$

If you have the resources available to you, you can hire a pick up service to collect compost and do all of the work for you. Toss organic material into a provided bin and set it out to be collected once a week. 

What can I compost?

Everything. Composting services are the most expensive option because you have the pay them monthly, the plus side is that they have a bigger operation that allows you to compost pretty much anything. Dairy, tea bags, bones, #7 compostable plastics, etc. 

When do I get my dirt?

Here’s the con to services. You don’t get to keep all of your soil. Depending on which service you use, you will get some free compost every spring! Just in time to spruce up the garden.

So whether you want the cheapest option to the simplest option, composting can be for everyone! And if you don’t have the resources to compost right now, you probably know someone that does. Freezing your food scraps to give to a composting friend is another excellent option.

I’m sure your friends, their worms, and our planet will thank you!

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