By Christina Cioci
If you could take a few simple steps to improve the earth, would you? If your answer is “yes” then consider starting the process of composting. Composting is the breakdown of organic material such as food scraps, coffee grounds, leaves, worms, just to name a few. This cycle takes place naturally in the environment when leaves and grass breakdown in the outdoors over time.
People can also recreate the process at home by collecting organic materials in a metal bucket. After the small bucket is filled it can be emptied into a bigger container to allow optimum breakdown. While keeping food scraps and other things in your kitchen may not be your cup of tea, those who have composted before find it easy and sanitary.
I spoke with Terri Johnson, a professor of Global Conservation at Quinnipiac University in Connecticut about her composting efforts. Terri decided to begin composting as a way to reduce waste and to show her two children Cole, 10, and Sage, 8, how the process works.
“When we are composting, we keep a small bucket near the kitchen sink and put meal scraps in while doing the dishes,” she said.
Sounds pretty easy right? Terri also informed me that no meat or dairy scraps should be added to this process. She and her husband Todd are both aware of the amount of senseless waste that is produced in the world. They actively try to do small things at home like using cloths instead of paper towels to improve the big picture of saving our planet.
“The bigger goal for me now is to reduce food waste in the first place,” Terri explained. “Composting is definitely much better than throwing away food in the trash.”
Todd had luck in the past getting good soil from composting that was nutrient rich and a factor that many people would appreciate—it was free!
But environmental awareness doesn’t begin with composting. It usually starts with landfills and how much trash we dump into them annually. People have a not-in-my-backyard attitude when it comes to garbage, yet Jon D. Johnston, a materials management branch chief at the Environmental Protection Agency, says we need them. “We’ve come to the realization that landfill is valuable and we cannot bury things that do not need to be buried,” he said. Johnston helps lead the “zero waste” policy which focuses on minimizing waste and conserving energy.
The Biodegradable Product Institute warns people to check out products that are unable to truly breakdown. “Be careful of products that advertise ‘biodegradable.’ Many are partially biodegradable and when sent in a landfill they leave behind some plastic fragments which will harm the earth.”
BPI suggests supporting local composting efforts in local towns to help compost things that can be done right in anyone’s home. It can’t hurt to help the earth, save some waste and get great gardening soil! Although this all seems easy, Johnston says “It will take a lot longer to get average Americans to compost. Reaching down to my household and yours is the greatest challenge.”
Americans should accept Johnston’s message and begin to support and contribute to lessening waste and conserving energy by composting on our own. Think it still sounds like a hassle? First think of the benefits to the earth and maybe even your own garden then follow these steps provided by HowtoCompost.org
1. Gather all grass clippings and green yard waste but be sure to mix with the "brown" materials like leaves and shredded paper to add carbon. You will need both, but if you only add grass clippings your pile will compact and start to stink. (Do not compost meats or pet droppings. Stick with food scraps and yard waste only.)
- Avoid all pesticides and/or herbicide treated material.
- If you add weeds to your pile make sure your pile is good and hot. It should be steaming hot, not just warm otherwise it may not kill the seeds.
2. Turn your pile as often as you can. Each time you turn it will speed up the process.
3. Keep your compost damp but not wet. As you add material to your pile make sure that each layer is moist as it is added. During the summer your pile will dry out and the composting process will slow down.
- Got too much material to compost? Make a second or third pile. Stop adding material to a pile that is underway and start a new pile. This will insure you get a chance to use the compost this season.
4. Add compost to your garden a few weeks before you plant. Let the compost have a chance to work into the soil. Try to mix it in and let it sit before you plant.
- Bugs, worms and most bugs are ok. No need to go crazy trying to keep bugs out of your compost.
Since the compost process works best at temperature between 120 and 150 degrees composting in the warmer months is easier to do, if this is your first attempt at composting best to try in the summer.
Image courtesy of www.howstuffworks.com