Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Compost Happens

Bleatings from EnviRambo.



Fall is a great time to start a compost pile. Not that it is autumn already, but it will be here before you know it and now is the time to start planning. As summer winds down our gardens ramp up and bear their full harvest. Mine is producing more than I can keep up with! We have had an abnormally wet season causing many of my tomatoes to crack and rot on the vine, zucchini and squash seem to get gargantuan overnight, and there are plenty of weeds to pull. All garden waste that need not be wasted. Not long from now the garden will have given all it has to give and will leave me with one last gift, lots of dead and dying plant material that needs to be cleared for next season. This is all excellent nitrogen (green) compost material.

With the garden cleared no doubt the leaves will have started to fall. These are compost gold! Leaves breakdown all on their own, but are a superb carbon (brown) source in a compost pile. You want to get your hands on as many of these as possible. Don't have a large lawn or hate to rake? Not a problem. Just drive around any town in October and you will find bags and bags of leaves already raked and sitting on the curb free for the taking. Score! Hey, one man's trash is another woman's treasure.


Speaking of trash, we all have it, lots of it. Did you know you can compost much of your trash? Including your junk mail? Yep, non-glossy paper is a good source of carbon (brown). This includes: envelopes (you must remove the plastic window) and the letter that came in it; newsprint (I stick to the non-colored kind); shredded bank statements; napkins, paper plates (no waxy ones please) paper towels and tissues (if you haven't kicked that habit yet); empty toilet paper and paper towel rolls (if you haven't kicked that habit yet); cardboard food packaging like cereal boxes, etc.; paper shopping bags (please tell me you have kicked that habit); the kids graded homework; magazine subscription cards; the list goes on and on. Then there is the obvious stinky stuff in your trash - food waste. All those vegetable scraps, moldy bread, rotten food from the refrigerator, egg shells, banana peels, tea bags, coffee grounds... do not throw them in the bin to stink up your whole house. Take it outside to the compost heap! Our garbage got a lot less stinky once the food waste went away. Lighter too!

There is other waste around the house that you could be composting too: 100% cotton cotton balls; cotton swabs with paper sticks; hair cleaned from brushes (both human and animal); loofahs; the contents of your vacuum; lint from the dryer; the stuff you sweep up off the floor; your Christmas tree (chop it up with some pruning shears or a wood chipper if you've got it); old worn out wool and cotton clothing; dead houseplants (I tend to have a few); nail clippings; again the list goes on and on.

There seems to be no shortage of material out there. Humans are super compost creators, we just do not put it to good use. We need to start thinking about our waste differently. Perhaps it is not really waste, but can be used in some other way - like compost. Something that could be used to replace our eroding topsoil, keep suburban lawns looking beautiful, grow the acres and acres of crops in America or the small plot in our own backyards. What if municipalities started producing compost? Large scale. Instead of paying to ship our waste off to some unfortunate country or bury it in our own backyards they started composting it and selling the compost? Turning an expense into revenue. What if farmers dedicated an area of their land and started doing the same? They could be spreading compost on their fields and our food instead of toxic fertilizer/herbicide. How much money would they be putting in their own pockets rather than lining those of Monsanto? They do not call compost black gold for nothing. Just think if manufacturers started producing products with this in mind. Creating products and its packaging to be biodegradable with the end goal of being composted. Wow. Imagine the possibilities!

Piqued your interest? I do have a compost pile and a worm bin, but am by no means an expert. I often have issues with mine and am still fumbling my way through it. So rather than have the blind lead the blind I will steer you to more knowledgeable resources.

Lists on what can be composted:

Tips on how to compost:

How to build a bin:

Anything and everything compost:

Composting blogs:



2 comments:

Ivy said...

I never thought of composting paper. Granted, I don't have space for compost at the moment so rather a moot point.

You can also save old junk mail and turn it into homemade paper. I have a friend that makes fancy papers using old junk mail and adds herbs and fragrance. It's very pretty, and would also be a great craft project for kids, to make their own paper.

Erin aka Conscious Shopper said...

I haven't been a big fan of composting - smelly, dirty, one extra chore - but we recently harvested our first batch of compost from our worm bin, and it definitely makes it worth it. So cool to see that our garbage has turned into something useful.

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