In our already busy lives, it may seem impractical to add one more task to the list, even if it’s proven to support a healthy environment. Composting, however, is a surprisingly low-effort way to reduce the waste we produce and put good things back into the soil. It can make a positive difference in the world around us.
What Is Composting?
According to the EPA, compost is an organic matter that benefits plants when added to the soil. Up to 20-30% of what we throw away could be added to a compost pile, including select food scraps, paper products, and lawn waste. Good compost should contain a mixture of brown matter (such as dead or dry vegetation), green matter (fruit and veggies scraps, coffee grounds, and green grass clippings) and moisture. Additional items, such as egg shells and select paper products, may be added. Farmers and serious gardeners have been using compost for ages, but it’s an accessible activity that anyone – even apartment dwellers – can do on a small-scale.
Everything you add to a compost pile is one less thing to go into our landfills, where it would take up space and add to the growing ecological problems that we face. Composting turns organic materials back into food for plants and takes large portions of usable garbage out of the expensive waste management cycle. Composting is something you can do, on your own, to help reduce your household’s waste without added cost. Compost itself is an amazing additive, that enriches the soil, keeps moisture in the earth, and creates a natural environment for beneficial fungi and bacteria. The result is a nutrient-rich “humus,” which – when added to your garden or potted plants – decreases the need for chemical fertilizers!
How Do I Start?
It can take some time to learn everything there is to know about what is compostable and what isn’t. In the meantime, start small, with a countertop compost pot, and add your non-meat food scraps, eggshells, and coffee grounds. Set aside compostable paper products, and leave grass clippings and yard waste in an area to be composted later. When you have created a space in your yard or purchased a large compost bin, these things can be combined, moistened, and ready for the magic to begin!
Here are some additional tips:
As you introduce new materials to your pile, be sure to bury them beneath the surface. Your compost heap may get warm, and this is the science of the decomposition process doing its work. Be sure to turn the pile regularly, keeping it moist, and adding a good mix of green and brown materials. Small amounts of paper items may be added. After two to five weeks, a rich compost will begin to form. Large, outdoor compost heaps may take one to two years to become the amazing humus we need to add to gardens and flower beds.
Remember, a properly maintained compost heap will not smell bad or attract pests. If this happens, one of the following may be happening:
Too many greens – Add brown materials, or paper products, to restore balance. (Newspaper works well.)
Too much moisture – Again, add some paper products, turn the pile regularly, and allow to dry somewhat.
Improper layering – If your greens and browns aren’t able to touch, they can start to break down improperly. Mixing is key!
As you can see, many of the problems can be fixed by mixing better and adding paper or browns. Did you know? Dropps packaging boxes are compostable. Unlike other detergent jugs and pouches, simply add them to your compost bin or heap, and watch them go to work! Since it takes all kinds of materials to create a successful compost, they can add valuable ingredients to the mix and can help restore a good compost balance.