How to Start Home Composting to Help the Environment
Want to become more environmentally conscious? Then there is no better way to start than by compost as much of your household waste as you can. This includes those kitchen scraps, not meat, and your lawn cuttings and leaves in the fall.
Composting is a green way of turning organic material into fertilizer for soil. It is one way to reduce your household waste that would otherwise collect in the landfills, while providing you with an inexpensive way to replenish the soil in your garden and flower beds.
How does compost form?
Microorganisms and earthworms break down the organic materials that you put into your compost heap. When these materials have broken down, they are then in a form that becomes useful for plants to absorb.
What are some green reasons to compost?
Besides saving you money on fertilizer and reducing waste in the landfills, there are even more reasons to compost. These reasons include:
* Reduction of greenhouse gas emissions –
Waste that ends up in landfills produces a harmful greenhouse gas called methane. This is produced because air cannot reach the organic waste. In contrast, composting at home produces no methane, because composting ensures an adequate supply of available oxygen during decomposition.
* Less need for garbage trucks –
When you (and everyone else) throws away less garbage, not as many garbage trucks need to be out using fuel and creating further emissions that enter the air.
* Less fertilizer runoff –
If you can use compost instead of fertilizer, it means less fertilizer that gets into our rivers, lakes, and oceans. The nitrates in fertilizer are responsible for creating large algae blooms, which consume and remove the oxygen from the water, resulting in “dead zones” which cannot sustain fish and other marine life.
One such “dead zone” exists in the Gulf of Mexico, and it was last recorded to be 6474 square miles in size. This would be equivalent in size to Connecticut and Rhode Island!
What can you compost?
This is not an all-inclusive list by any means, but gives you a place to begin.
* Vegetable and fruit peels
* Coffee grounds and the filter paper
* Rotten fruit
* House plants
* Leaves and grass clippings
* Tea bags and tea leaves
* Toilet paper rolls
* Eggshells (crush them)
* Old bedding plants
* Pet hair
* Brown paper bags
* Vacuum cleaner contents
* Dryer lint from natural fibers
What can you not compost?
* Kitty litter
* Animal feces
* Cooked meat, vegetables, dairy products, bread, rice or pasta (in most cases – keep reading for more information)
* Weeds with seeds (otherwise you’ll spread the weeds later)
* Treated wood
As you can see, composting the right kinds of materials will reduce how much you are throwing away and will benefit the planet in so many ways.
As was just stated, cooked food waste is generally not composted by most people. However, it can be done if you know what you are doing, and this will be covered next.
Composting Cooked Food Waste – What you Need to Know
As you probably already know, a lot of items from your home can be composted – fruit peels, tea bags and tea leaves, coffee grounds and filter paper, and so much more!
However, there are also items that are not suitable to be composted, such as regular kitty litter and treated wood. Cooked foods are also not usually recommended for composting unless you are a more experienced composter, as there is a bit of a science to it.
However, with a bit of education, it IS possible to compost cooked food items. After all, all organic material eventually breaks down. Here is what you need to know.
Composting cooked food items presents its own set of challenges
Most people know that when they compost, they are doing something good for the environment by eliminating waste in the landfills. However, a lot of people don’t really fully understand how composting works, and what they should do to get the best results.
Therefore, if an inexperienced composter begins composting cooked food items, he may notice that the compost heap smells terrible, and that he is attracting unwanted animals such as rats, raccoons, or even bears. He may also notice maggots on rotting meat in the compost.
Now, before you decide that composting food waste is not worth the effort, consider this next statement. —-> Half of the food produced worldwide is wasted
According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and other organizations, much of the world’s food is being wasted. Consider how much food is ending up in landfills, producing methane, and contributing to greenhouse gases. Therefore, the more food items that we can all compost, the better off our environment will be.
You need to control the variables
To get the best results from composting cooked food items, you will want to control the rate at which the compost breaks down, keep pests and smells away, and be aware of how bacteria affect the results you get. In addition, you need to balance food (and other items), moisture levels, and air in the compost. Here is more information on how you do this.
1. Keep temperatures high in your compost bin –
You want your compost to get between 140 and 160 degrees Fahrenheit. You can test it with a compost thermometer, if you want, especially if you are new to composting. As you get more experience under your belt, however, you will know that the temperature is correct if you notice that items are decaying and disintegrating quickly.
You can keep temperatures higher in your compost bin by placing it in a sunny location. You also need to turn and stir up your compost regularly (at least once/week). This ensures that enough air (and aerobic bacteria) get to the compost to break it down more quickly and effectively. Also ensure that your pile is about a cubic yard in size, as it needs to be about this size to ensure that you achieve the higher temperatures.
2. Balance the green and brown materials in your compost –
You will speed up decomposition if you create the right balance.
Green compost materials are sources of nitrogen for your compost pile, and include moist items such as leaves, grass clippings, vegetable and fruit peels, cooked meat, coffee grounds, and plants.
Brown materials, on the other hand, are sources of carbon and include dry items such as dead leaves, old hay, straw, eggshells, tea bags, paper, and cardboard.
It is suggested that you want to aim for 30 parts of carbon to 1 part of nitrogen for best results. When you have too much carbon, then the decomposition slows down. Too much nitrogen, on the other hand, means that the compost will stink. Note that a 30:1 ratio does not mean that you need thirty times more brown materials than green ones!
If adding cooked meat to your compost, make sure to keep the compost heap on the dry side to reduce smells.
3. Make sure that your compost pile is not too dry or too wet –
The microorganisms that break down your compost cannot function properly if the moisture levels are not ideal for them to do their work. If you are unsure at the start, you may want to purchase a compost moisture meter. If your compost is too wet, start by stirring/turning your compost. If there is still a lot of moisture, you may also want to add carbon-rich items such as newspaper or straw.
For piles that are too dry, you can add water gradually, and make sure you add it to the whole pile. You can also consider adding moist items such as moist coffee grounds, vegetable and fruit peels, for example that will add some moisture.
4. Bury cooked foods in the compost pile –
This will reduce smells and increase speed of decomposition, versus leaving it right on top of the pile.
5. Use a closed compost bin instead of an open compost pile –
All of this will speed up decomposition, decrease smells, and reduce the risk of attracting unwanted animals and insects.
6. Consider the equipment you are using –
A pitchfork can be used to turn your compost over, but it can be awkward and more difficult to use. This is why some people get an aerator/compost turner instead.
In addition, there are special composting bins such as the “Green Cone” or the “Green Johanna” hot composter, which recycle all kinds of food products including cooked food.
Worms can also be used to aid with composting (vermicomposting). Bokashi bins are another option for composting meat and dairy products. The latter bins work differently in that they encourage anaerobic (not requiring air) vs. aerobic (requiring air) bacteria to do the job.
Here is our Pick for a Perfect Home Composter
Yimby Tumbler Composter, Color Black
Yimby Tumbler Composter
Main Features of Yimby Tumbler Home Composter
- 2 chambered composter
- Made from recycled plastic
- Steel frame
- Adjustable air vents
- Makes compost in just 2 weeks
Overview of Yimby Tumbler Composter
Composting is definitely a popular trend these days. The problem with many traditional composter is that it can take a long time for your kitchen scraps and garden cuttings to turn into compost. Another hold back is that the compost needs to be turned. As it gets wet and heavy this can be a huge problem for some people.
With this Yimby Tumbler it is easy to turn the handles often. This helps speed up the compost process. Some customers state that it is possible to have great compost in as little as two weeks using this product.
Another nice thing about this composter is that it looks neat and tidy and is not too large. This means it can easily fit in a small backyard.
Additional Features and Specifications:
- Product Dimensions: 26 x 28 x 36 inches
- Shipping Weight: 26.8 pounds
- Product Weight when assembled: 30 pounds
- 37 gallon capacity
This composter is delivered in pieces and requires assembly. Sometimes putting a product together can be a nightmare. Which is why it is a good idea to check the customer reviews before purchase. We found several reviews on this Yimby Tumbler Composter over at the Amazon website. You can read a few below or visit the site to checkout more.
- This composter came in many pieces, but all fit together perfectly. When assembling, be sure to notice one section of the side wheel panels that have a hole and need to match and be in the top most position before starting to affix the remaining panels I use all of the Method products, but I use the all-purpose cleaner the most! I use it in my Rug Doctor to clean my carpets and upholstery, as well as in my Hoover Floor Mate… my floors, upholstery and carpet have never been cleaner! Good for dusting, too. Just wet it, squeeze it very dry, and dust.
- UPDATE, one year later: Both my Yimby tumbling composters made it well through the rough winter, much colder and snowier than usual for this area. In spring I had two wheelbarrow loads of compost, which I put in my vegetable garden before planting tomatoes, beans, and okra
Customers are enjoying having this composter in their backyards and it seems to endure winter weather well. The two chambers allow you to cook your compost on one site while having freshly made compost on the other. Plus it seems that assembly issues are not a problem with this product either.
You can visit the Amazon sales page for this Yimby Tumbler Composter, Color Black here: Yimby Tumbler Composter, Color Black