Sixty percent of all waste that ends up in American landfills is organic. That’s a ton of organic material that will never be able to decompose because it doesn’t get the oxygen it needs to decay. And that’s a damn shame, considering the fact that 30-40% of our individual household waste could be composted and turned back into healthy soil to grow healthy foods.
Landfills are environmental nightmares. They are the third largest source of methane in the United States – a greenhouse gas far more harmful for our environment than CO2. The more trash we can keep out of them, the better.
But other than the incredibly important mission to reduce your household trash output, why compost?
- Compost enriches the soil and improves garden yield.
- Reduces the need for chemical fertilizers and pesticides in gardens and landscaping
- Reduces pollution of air, soil, and water by reducing CO2 & methane emissions from landfills and by reducing heavy metals & grease from stormwater runoff.
Composting is one of the best things you can do to save money and reduce your carbon footprint.
What do I compost?
- Table scraps: fruits and vegetables
- Hair and fur
- Coffee grounds
- Tea bags
- Grass clippings
- Hay & straw
- Paper products (as long as they’re not inked)
- Eggshells and nutshells (NOTE: if you have chickens, make sure the chickens and all other animals have no access the the eggshells in the compost.)
- Dryer and vacuum lint
Keep these habits for optimal compost hygiene:
- Empty your kitchen compost pot once a week.
Last summer, I was so busy with work that I went weeks without taking out the compost. It was bad. I opened the compost pot to see creepy crawlies in there that were doing their best to break down the food – and I am very appreciative of their hard labors to bring me next year’s glorious fertilizer – but I did NOT appreciate the fact that they were in my kitchen!
I had to take the compost pot out, empty the festering contents onto the compost pile in the pasture, and then I had to scrub out the pot.
- Make sure you get the right mix of greens and browns
In order for compost to work, you have to add three main ingredients:
- Straw, hay, twigs, branches, and dead leaves provide carbon
- Grass clippings, fruits and vegetables provide nitrogen
- Provides moisture that assists with organic breakdown.
- Turn the compost on a regular basis
This is a step I’ve forgotten to remember in the past. You need to regularly turn your compost pile – I turn mine with a shovel (It’s a great workout for my core, so I’m not complaining!)
Turning your compost speeds up the process by airing it out to re-heat it and keep it in an aerobic state (so it can continue to break down the organic material). It mixes the air and moisture to continue the compost process.
I’ve spent years trying to reduce our household trash output, and composting is one of the best ways to reduce what goes in the garbage. Not only that, but it’s gold for the garden – I love watching our table scraps turn into rich soil, which helps our garden grow.
And without the garden, we wouldn’t have pickles, chamomile, salads, or summer squash casseroles… and those are what makes summer so great.