Composting is essentially a different form of recycling, but it seems a lot more daunting than simply tossing a soda can in a blue bin. On average, Americans waste 25 percent of the groceries they buyand only 5 percent of food is composted in the US. Discarded food is the largest single component of municipal solid waste.
Christopher Griffin, the author of the garden guide You wake up, Gurl!, who affectionately calls her plants “Gurls,” says spring is a prime time to make composting a part of your daily routine once and for all. “While I fertilize my plants year-round — much less during the fall and winter — the arrival of spring means my green gurls,” Griffin says, “strut into growing season.”
Comprised of a variety of organic matter and beneficial microbes, compost retains moisture and slowly releases nutrients essential for plant growth. Composting is also beneficial to the environment as it helps reduce the massive amounts of methane produced by food waste going to landfills.
“Composting is a wonderful and sustainable way to provide your green gurls with the nutrients they love and enjoy,” says Griffin, who notes that compost ideally contains three parts of brown matter (like dried leaves or grass, shredded newspaper, and others carbon-rich materials) and some green waste (such as vegetable and food scraps, grass clippings, coffee grounds, tea bags and other nitrogen-rich materials).
If you are ready to start your composting journey, here are tips on how to decide which method is best for your life situation, and where to find more information to ensure composting is an easy and enjoyable process.
Before you start composting, think about how you can reduce food waste even before it’s thrown away. Never buy more than you need. When planning meals for the week, shop for recipes that reuse ingredients. For example, if you’re making lamb with sautéed mushrooms and shallots, use the leftover mushrooms and shallots the next day in an omelette with goat’s cheese and some thyme, then use the rest of the goat’s cheese in a salad and the thyme in roasted vegetables.
Freeze meat and veggies before they completely spoil, and use bones and discarded veggies to make broths. Instead of single-use plastic bags or flimsy plastic containers that aren’t compostable or recyclable, invest in sturdy glass containers and reusable bags. There are also food hacks that will extend the shelf life of food in your pantry, like using marshmallows to keep brown sugar soft.
Outsource the work
Composting isn’t necessarily something you have to do yourself. Many municipalities now treat garden and food waste separately. In Minneapolis, for example, the city takes care of that drop off points for organic material. Meanwhile, Phoenix offers big Compost Bin for $5 per month which are collected together with recycling and other waste. Check what pickup and drop-off services are available in your city. Most of these services, in turn, give you free compost back.
Choose the right container
There are several stylish caddy options from simple human, oxoand Joseph Joseph Safely store food waste indoors before transferring it to a larger outdoor container, taking it to a composting site, or collecting it. You can simply scrape things like vegetable skins and peels into these bins for composting.
Concerned about odors? A caddy like Full Circle’s Scrap Happy Collector and Freezer Compost Bin is designed to keep leftovers in the freezer to help eliminate unwanted odors. You can freeze scraps until ready for the next step of composting.
For those with yard space interested in doing large scale composting themselves, a tumbler like the one from EJWOX dual chamber reproduction is a great solution. You need to turn it a few times a week to mix organic matter with microbes and infuse oxygen. The sealed container increases heat, which speeds up the composting process and keeps animals away. For those with a balcony or a smaller garden, Miracle-Gro offers a smaller variant.
One of the most popular forms of composting, worm composting uses different types of worms to break down compostable material. (Basically, they eat your waste and excrete usable compost.) It may sound gross, but it’s one of the easiest and most environmentally friendly ways to compost.
The Hot Frog Essential Living Composter is ideal for beginners interested in vermicomposting. Colorful bowls are stacked on top of each other so you can add one as soon as they’re filled and the worms can travel vertically. The device also has a container for collecting worm tea, a liquid that increases microbiological activity in the soil by adding bacteria, fungi, actinomycetes and protozoa.
Think about fermentation
If worms make you squeamish, bokashi composting is a wobble-free method that’s also faster. Bokashi is a Japanese word meaning “fermented organic matter”. Developed in the early 1980s, this form of composting uses layers of microbial mixture to break down organic matter. It usually only takes about 10 days to produce nutrient rich compost. There are a few kits which come with everything you need to get started.
If you don’t have outdoor space, consider an indoor composting machine like this lomi, Vitamix FoodCyclerand Reencle Prime. These little devices plug into an outlet and use heat and motion to break down waste much faster than other composting methods.
“We have to work on consuming less,” says Jeremy Lang, whose company developed Pela Lomi and the world’s first compostable phone case. “I understand that changing or giving up certain habits and lifestyles is difficult, but there are many small fixes people can make throughout their day-to-day lives to reduce waste.”
The machines range in price from $300 to $500 and are more expensive than other options that are better for the environment, but they promise not to attract critters and give you the option to make your own compost.
Understand what is compostable
As with other recycling materials, don’t assume that all food waste can be composted. In fact, some items can actually be harmful when placed in the compost. However you choose to compost, check the guidelines first. In general, meat and bones are not compostable in most places.
Once you’ve started composting, it’s important to learn more about your process. There are many places online that share composting tips and information, such as: B. the Facebook group Come post your compost and the Compost Reddit. These forums are great places to ask for tips when efforts go awry, e.g. B. if your compost is too smelly or not decomposing fast enough.
Many government agencies, nonprofit groups, educational institutions, and community gardens offer composting classes. And the books Composting for a new generation and Composting without waste are also good sources.
Nylah Burton is a Chicago-based author. Follow her on Twitter @yumcoconutmilk.
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