When considering all the things people can do to decrease waste, I'd be remiss if I didn't discuss composting. While composting is not as simple of a change as using a shampoo bar or bringing your own bags when shopping, it is probably the action that can have the largest impact. Since warmer weather has arrived, it seems appropriate to devote some time to this topic now.
But why consider composting? Putting aside the interesting and recent morbid composting news, it is an age-old method of greatly reducing waste that can all be done in the confines of your home. The potential impact is enormous, as the EPA estimates that food scraps and yard waste together make up 30% of what typical households send to landfills as trash. My personal experience would confirm that we are diverting closer to 50% of our waste through composting, as we continue to compost more items over time.
I did not grow up in a home that composted and did not even know what compost was until much later in life. The same friend who introduced me to bringing containers to restaurants is the one who made me aware of composting. She hosted us for dinner one night and I was surprised to see her scraping the food waste from dinner plates into a ceramic canister on the kitchen counter. When I inquired about this, she took me outside to see her compost pile. I was instantly fascinated by the concept. I could not believe the amount of food (vegetable and fruit peels, dinner scraps, coffee grounds, and so much more) that was being diverted from the trash and essentially turned to a rich soil after a short period of time.
I had concerns about doing this on my own, but was swayed by the prospect of redirecting waste away from a landfill and into a useful product. There are many different methods and approaches about how to compost. For now, here are my answers to some often-asked questions about home composting:
Won’t it smell? No. I have several different types of compost piles and have never experienced foul smells or odors.
What about animals – won’t they be attracted to the food waste, especially rodents? I have never had an issue with animals being attracted to a composter and we have lots of animal residents in our neighborhood: rabbits, squirrels, chipmunks, deer, turkeys, and even the occasional woodchuck. In 15 years, we’ve not had any issues with any type of rodents due to composting.
Won’t there be bugs? If your composter is one that sits on the ground, your compost should attract worms (a very good sign). Depending on the time of year and if I have the proportion of “ingredients” wrong, I have seen bugs, but they never last long and are not harmful to the process.
Isn’t it incredibly time consuming? It does take some time to get the process set up (e.g. where are you going to collect the food in your house, buying and setting up the composter, turning the compost, etc.), but I spend no more than five minutes a day tending to the process and many days do nothing at all.
I will never be accused of having a “green thumb” or understanding much about science, but over time I have managed to make decent compost and it has become the single, greatest means of reducing waste in our house. By expanding what I am composting this year, I’ve been able to reduce what is put at the curb to be recycled. In fact, in June we just took out our recycling for the first time this year (one can).
The intent of this entry is to get you thinking about the possibilities of composting. Ensuing posts on this topic will explore different types of composters, where to store what you plan to compost, what can be composted, tending to the compost, and more.
If you live near me, I would be happy to show you first-hand how I do it (I’ve done it before: we once held a Cocktails & Compost party). I found it infinitely valuable to have someone assist me when I began the process. If you don’t have someone to help show you how to begin, please feel free to contact me directly and I can attempt to help over the phone or through email.
So, until next time, give the idea of composting some thought, and then come back to learn more.