Recent studies suggest that worldwide, about half of all the food we produce goes to waste. At home, you can do your part to mitigate this loss by beginning to compost, turning leftover food into nutrient-rich humus. This “living soil” can be used several ways: to fertilize your garden; to promote growth in trees and shrubs; or even as a sturdy landscaping filler.
A compost pile holds a collection of yard waste and food scraps, usually with the exception of meat and dairy products. Essentially, you should think twice about including anything that might attract wild animals. Beyond this, your compost will accept just about anything that degrades over time. Even strips of newspaper, cardboard, and used paper towels can be composted; in fact, this kind of woody, high-carbon material is absolutely necessary for efficient composting, as we’ll see later.
The first step to composting is creating a collection point in your kitchen to hold decomposing leftovers and scraps. It’s not as bad as it sounds; however, an infrequently-cleaned container may quickly turn foul. For this reason, it’s recommended you buy a compost container with a carbon filter, which costs only a few dollars more than an old-fashioned bucket. Sizes range anywhere from a half gallon for irregular use, to a full 5 gallon bucket for busy kitchens. A 1.5 gallon container is ideal for a typical family, and shouldn’t need to be emptied more than once a week.
A compost pile or bin is normally located outside, though some special models can remain indoors. Many compost piles are simple four-sided structures, usually at least 3′x3′x3′. An open pit is also acceptable, but harder to manage.
A traditional compost pile requires turning with a shovel or pitchfork once or twice per week to ensure enough oxygen is available for decomposition. If you notice the compost becoming dry, simply add water until it appears moist. Some models have lids with watering holes to aid in proper moisture distribution.
Those who aren’t enthusiastic about turning their compost pile may prefer a self-contained tumbler composter. A simple crank of the handle will aerate your compost, while the carbon filter removes offensive odors.
Maintaining a balance
Food waste has too little carbon content for ideal decomposition, so you will need to add sawdust, wood chips, or cardboard scraps to maintain a proper balance. A slight warmth released by industrious microorganisms can be felt with a hand placed near the compost when it’s decomposing most efficiently.
Once the material has a uniform consistency, you’re ready to put the fresh, clean humus to use in your garden.
It’s really just that simple. Try starting a compost in your home today.
Bath & Kitchen Studio sells high quality bath and kitchen fixtures, accessories and furniture at wholesale prices online. Find barclay plumbing at Bath and Kitchen Studio, along with a wide array of other impressive bath and kitchen products. Image by Jared and licensed through Creative Commons.