Updated: Oct 27, 2020
If you are passionate about Mother Earth, which I'm sure you are if you've found your way to this page, then let's dive right into the wonderful benefits of composting. Organic waste makes up somewhere between 25-50% of your garbage in the form of food and yard waste. That garbage is picked up weekly by a local trash collector and dumped directly into a landfill. What you may think is, "great, won't that naturally decompose and also help breakdown other materials nearby as a rich organic matter aiding in the decomposition of the landfill?" Unfortunately this common misconception is so far from the truth. Instead, the food scraps and yard waste become trapped within the trash and cannot decompose due to a lack of oxygen. As a result, these bundles of organic matter start an anaerobic decomposition and produce a ton of methane and carbon dioxide.
I once believed this misconception myself, and felt prideful my trash had consisted mainly of food scraps. That was until I began to understand the cyclical nature of our landfills. It's not your fault if you are a once me. Now you know, and here are some easy steps to eliminate adding unnecessary methane to our landfills.
Composting, what gardeners call "black gold", is an easy way to remove your landfill impact and create a generous abundance of nutrients and humus for the soil. It's ok if you don't have a big garden area. You can collect compost in a small air tight pail under your sink and in a few weeks to months you'll have your very own black gold!
Where to begin?
Choose your bin: If you do not have the space for a compost tumbler or a dirt hole for waste in the yard, then purchase a small compost bin or pail. These can be a cost effective option good for smaller homes or even to be used as a daily collection bucket to eliminate too many trips to the outdoor compost.
Once you're ready with your bin or dirt hole, start collecting compostable items layer by layer (per the list below), based on equal parts Carbon to equal parts Nitrogen. Some more advanced composters may suggest you adjust this ratio, as too much carbon matter can lead to slowed decomposition, but I think the 50/50 method is a good motto for beginners .
As you add the layers your compost pile will begin to warm with enough moisture and oxygen. If you feel like it isn't heating up or it has lost it's heat, then stir your compost up every once and awhile to allow oxygen to flow more freely through the matter. If it stops heating up and looks and smells earthy like soil (not rotting food), your compost is ready.
Use this "black gold" in your garden, or if you do not have a garden add it to your indoor plants. I assure you they will be very grateful.
If you do not have the capacity to manage a full at home composting cycle or you do not have plants to feed it to, an alternative is to do some research in your local community.
Many communities offer compost bucket swaps or compost drop-offs.
The swap often works where you bring in your compost bucket bi-weekly before it has decomposed. They then swap buckets and give you fresh & ready compost in return. There is generally a monthly fee to participate in a compost bucket swap, but it's well worth it for a frequent gardener needing nutrient rich soil additive.
If you just want to do your part in eliminating your landfill waste, another option is to drop-off your organic waste buckets at accepting locations. Some community gardens will allow you to bring your organic waste and drop it off for free. Do some research in your area to find options for this.
Items to put in your compost:
The list is truly endless!
50% Green - (Nitrogen) such as plant-based kitchen scraps, grass, weeds, etc.
50% Brown - (Carbon) such as dead leaves, wood chips, straw, etc.
Coffee/Tea (Some tea bags are made with plastic so if you find tea bags remaining in your compost, sort them out, stop buying them, and email the tea maker to change!)
Food scraps (No Meats/Oils unless you have a compost designated for this as these will attract wildlife) (Be cautious of banana peels and oranges that may have pesticide residue)
Eggshells (These can take a bit longer to decompose)
Pastas, grains, crackers (Keep in mind bread can sometimes attract critters too)
Paper (Toilet rolls, cardboard boxes, shredded up for quicker decomposing!)
Used napkins that do not have meat or oil residue
Old clothing, rags, etc.
Yard waste, leaves (Do not place plants that had disease in the compost as it can come back)
***Remember this is just a list for inspiration, the options for composting are endless!
Make sure you balance the appropriate amount of carbon matter with equal amounts nitrogen to produce a yummy soil that neutralizes both acids & alkaline and brings it to the perfect pH level for plants.
Happy composting! M.E. (Mother Earth) thanks you.