Composting 101

By Marlena Norwood

city-dump-932064-mReduce, reuse, and recycle. We often apply that phrase to paper, since mass deforestation has been called to the public’s attention in recent years. But we can apply the “recycle” motto to more of our consumption patterns.

Take the amount of sheer garbage that humans produce. We’ve been practicing the “out of sight, out of mind” approach. Eventually, we will run out of room. Since it’s highly unlikely that our global consumption rate will decrease, what are we supposed to do with all our garbage?

For many materials, the answer is simple – take advantage of Mother Nature’s naturally occurring process: decomposition. Much of what people send to the landfill could be put into compost. This includes all table scraps, cardboard, wood chips, yard clippings, lint, coffee – and pretty much anything organic (view a complete list of compostable items here).

If you are lucky enough to live in an area that provides homeowners with weekly compost pick-up, make sure everything that can go in the compost bin does go in the compost bin. It reduces the amount of garbage volume being sent to the landfill.

But if you don’t have access to compost services, don’t worry – there is a simple and easy home mechanism for composting organic material! It can be done in your own backyard.

Simply pile up all of your compostable materials and cover them with a tarp to retain moisture and heat. Or, just purchase one of these composters. When organic materials (like the ones mentioned earlier) are placed together in the presence of moisture and heat, with exposure to microbes like aerobic bacteria, they break down. The bacteria eat away at the matter over time and you are left with a heaping pile of nutrient-rich soil.

At-home Compost Bin

At-home Compost Bin

In addition to reducing the amount of waste you’re sending to the landfill, composting eliminates the need for fertilizer.

Fertilizer is attractive because it is nitrogen rich – plants need this nitrogen in order to grow. But many fertilizers kill decomposing bacteria, deplete natural nutrients from soil, and pose a threat to human health if they enter water run-off systems. In the composting process, the microbes breaking down the organic material naturally convert atmospheric nitrogen into nitrogen that can be taken up by plants in the soil. Instead of using inorganic fertilizer, composting provides your yard with ready-to-use nutrient-rich soil that won’t kill microorganisms and that won’t endanger our health.

Get started on composting today! Here’s how:

  • Review the full list of compostable materials here.
  • Designate a location in your backyard to begin the composting, or purchase one of these composting containers.
  • Make sure to churn your compost pile every once in a while to allow oxygen to reach the aerobic bacteria in the middle of the pile.
  • STOP using inorganic fertilizer for your garden and START using your new homemade, nutrient-rich organic compost to better the health of your garden and your family.

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