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Composting 101

Did you know that with every 100 pounds of food waste sent to landfills, 8.3 pounds of methane is released into the atmosphere? Composting helps reduce and repurpose food waste while decreasing global methane emissions. 

Composting is the process of converting food scraps and organic waste into fertilizer and nutrients for soil. While it can seem intimidating, it is relatively simple, requiring very few steps and tools.  

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What can and can't be composted: 

A good compost is composed of both “green” and “brown” materials. Green materials give the compost nitrogen while brown materials provide carbon. A good balance of green and brown materials is key to a good compost (3 brown: 1 green ratio works best). 

Green items:  

  • Fruits and vegetables  
  • Egg shells 
  • Coffee grounds + coffee filters 
  • Tea bags + loose leaf tea 
  • Stale food items such as: potato chips, bread 
  • Seaweed 
  • Grass clippings 
  • Freshly pulled weeds 

Brown Items:  

  • Dry leaves 
  • Hay and straw 
  • Black and white newspaper 
  • paper/cardboard 
  • Stale cereal 
  • Untreated wood sawdust 
  • Wood chips  
  • Hair  
  • Fur  
  • Corn stalks  

Can’t compost:  

  • Pet waste 
  • Meat 
  • Dairy products 
  • Coal/ash 
  • Fats/oils 
  • Plastic 
  • Anything treated with chemicals  

Tools to help you with composting: 

  • Composting bin: a container where you can collect compostable items that will turn into compost over time 
  • Space to compost: fence off an area (3x3x3 feet is ideal) 
  • Compost drums/tumblers: sealed containers that rotate the compost 
  • Compost shredder: breaks down pieces of compost, quickening the process of making compost 
  • Shovel/pitchfork: used for turning the compost 

This can vary depending on your space. If you live in an apartment without a backyard, store your compost in a compost bin and keep it in the freezer until you can drop it off at a local farmers market or compost center. If you have an at-home garden where you would like to compost, invest in compost drums/tumblers or a compost shredder to cut the amount of time it takes to create compost. 

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How to compost:  

  1. Map out your compost pile

Pick out an area in your yard/space for food scraps, then fence off 3x3x3 feet. If desired, a tumbler can aerate the compost and expedite the process.  

  1. Add to your compost pile

Using the 3:1 carbon to nitrogen ratio, add greens and browns to your pile. A compost shredder breaks up large pieces speeding up the process. This is also accomplished by breaking up the pieces by hand. 

  1. Turn your pile 

It is crucial that compost is turned every so often. Turning compost ensures it is properly aerated and prevents it from getting smelly. During hotter seasons, turning your compost on a weekly basis is best, while you can turn your compost a lot less frequently when it is cooler. Use a pitchfork or shovel to turn the pile.  During its final stage, the compost should appear dark brown and crumble like soil.  

  1. Enjoy the (decomposed) fruits of your labor

Put the completed compost over your lawn, plants, or add it to your soil! You can also donate it to friends, family, or a community garden.  

 

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