Composting 101: How To Repurpose Waste

If you’re looking to make reduce waste, want a backyard garden in the near future, or are looking to make an Earth Day-friendly lifestyle change – consider composting! It’s a great way to make a positive contribution to the environment and it can lead to a healthier, more conscientious lifestyle overall.  Here are the need-to-know basics of composting to get you started.

What exactly is composting?

The scientific definition of composting is the process of creating ideal conditions for the rapid decomposition of organic materials. In this case, “organic materials” means food waste, so if you’re the kind of person who regularly leaves their vegetables untouched for a little too long – you might want to consider composting. ☺

Why should I compost?

Composting ensures that your waste isn’t actually wasted. Instead of moving your organic waste to a landfill where it pollutes the environment and takes up valuable land, composting saves money and space – especially if you take pride in how your lawn looks.  Compost improves soil texture and increased the amount of plant nutrients. That’s why compost is referred to as “black gold.”

So I should only compost if I have a garden?

Not at all! It has a positive impact on the environment. The amount of energy and money wasted transporting your waste into a landfill is huge. Lessening your waste means increasing resources.

Okay! So what do I need to start?

Chef’n EcoCrock Counter Compost Bin, $40

You need four basic things to begin:

  1. A compost bin.  Ideally, this is a wooden container that’s three by three feet or larger. It doesn’t have to be made of wood, but the material should be sturdy and be able to retain heat and moisture. You can also find stylish compost bins that will fit right on your countertop, like the Chef’n EcoCrock Counter Compost bin.
  2. Your “greens.” Greens will be the ingredients that provide your composting bin with nitrogen. Grass clippings, eggshells, carrot tops, and other fruits and vegetables are in this category. This will be 25% of the bin’s container.
  3. Your “browns.” These are the carbon-rich materials and are all in the same color family.  Wood chips, leaves, straw, and shredded newspaper are included in this category. They will be 75% of the container.
  4. Garden soil. Just a shovelful will help you get started, as it will bring the necessary microorganisms for decomposition.

To mix the ingredients together, place all items in the bin and try to keep the middle spot open. Mix everything together, then place the bin in a shady spot with good drainage.

Aside from the above, what else can I compost?

All organic waste is compostable.  Just make sure to cut up larger materials into smaller pieces as to not overwhelm the mix, and don’t rely on just one kind of waste.

How do I take care of the compost?

Composted soil isn’t considered “finished” until all waste has broken down.  The process takes time, and you should make sure to test the soil every few weeks. Grab a handful and feel how wet it is. Unless it’s a dark, crumbly soil – it’s not done. To help the process along, turn the pile with a pitchfork or rake once a week.

Will it smell?

Not much. If you notice a strong smell coming from your compost pile (and if your neighbor complains), add more browns to your bin.

Once the soil is ready, what do I use it for?

You can use it for anything you’d like! You can start a garden, re-pot your houseplants, or gift the soil (yes, really) to a friend with a green thumb. Make sure to keep your bin strong by continuing to add new waste and mixing it into the bin as needed.

Happy planting!

Want more info on composting? Check out the infographic below:

Alex Wilson is a freelance writer interested in fashion, lifestyle, and all forms of pop culture. Her writing has been featured in various digital and print publications, including USA Today and Long Island Pulse. When not writing, Alex can be found testing new recipes, exploring new neighborhoods, and window shopping. She hopes to someday travel to all seven continents (yes, even Antarctica).
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