I’m not going to lie, I had always written off the idea of composting. Stuff rotting in my kitchen? No thank you. Honestly, I was terrified of the smell and the possibility of swarming gnats attracted to the decomposing stuff inside my compost bin. Yuck! It wasn’t until I heard that composting reduces your environmental footprint that I decided to look deeper into it, instead of just declaring that it wasn’t for me. I found that composting is a great sustainable practice, as “turning waste into compost means less trash gets buried in the ground in landfills. Breaking down organic items into compost renews their ability to grow new plants” says Science Buzz. In addition to the sustainability factor, composting has many more benefits to consider.
5 Benefits of Composting
Composting Lowers your Carbon Footprint
When you throw away foods that can be composted, such as fruit peels and vegetable scraps, it ends up buried in a landfill. These organic materials decompose in the absence of oxygen, broken down by anaerobic bacteria, which in turn, produce methane. According to the Environmental Defense Fund, “methane is 84 times more potent than carbon dioxide” which means that it is a greenhouse gas with the potential to add to the ongoing climate change crisis. In contrast, when you compost, the organic materials are broken down aerobically, or with oxygen. This method does not produce methane and the end product of your compost can be used to enrich soil. That being said, composting organic materials lowers your carbon footprint as less methane is being produced and released into the atmosphere.
Composting Improves Soil Fertility
Healthy soil with added compost will be naturally fertile. Not only does compost help the soil retain both nutrients and moisture, but it also protects the growing plants from pests and diseases. According to the Cooperative Extension, “better moisture retention means less watering, allowing you to conserve water and reduce runoff pollution.” Furthermore, compost makes good mulch, which can be mixed into garden and potting soils.
Compost is Better for Plant Growth
As claimed by the Cooperative Extension, “Compost introduces and feeds diverse life in the soil, including bacteria, insects, worms, and more, which support vigorous plant growth.” Furthermore, plant-available nutrients are increased from composting, as composting bacteria break down mulch and plant debris into these nutrients. Thus, with more nutrients, plants grow faster and better.
No Need to Add Fertilizer
Plants need to be fertilized because most soil does not provide the essential nutrients required for optimum growth. As stated above, compost adds fertility to soil. Therefore, if you compost, you do not need to buy and add fertilizer to your soil, making it beneficial for your wallet, and the environment. Fertilizers can harm the environment and our ecosystems by getting into our waterways. This can cause a process known as eutrophication, or excessive richness of nutrients in a lake or other body of water, frequently due to runoff from the land, which causes a dense growth of plant life and death of animal life from lack of oxygen, according to the National Ocean Service. Luckily, by using your own compost, you eliminate the likelihood of this happening!
Composting is Free (Mostly)
Bags of fertilizer can be very expensive! A bag of lawn fertilizer can cost anywhere between $5 to $30 depending on the pounds per bag and the fertilizer nutrient profile. Again, by using compost, you do not need to pay for excess costs. Composting is nearly free, with the only cost being at the very start of your composting journey: buying the bins. Composting is a great way to cut costs and save money on lawn, garden, and plant fertilizer.
So, now that we have been over the benefits, I think it is safe to say that composting really does have an impact on the environment. However, I was still a little skeptical of the possibility of bugs and a foul smelling kitchen. I delved into more research and am happy to share the following eight pro tips to compost at home. Additionally, if you follow these tips and tricks, bugs and smells should not be an issue!
8 Tips to Composting
1. Start Small
Contrary to what you may think, composting does not necessarily need to be a huge project. Have a garden or house plants and want to help out the Earth right now? Simply bury your organic food scraps in the soil of your plants! For example, sprinkle your leftover coffee grounds in the soil of your home plants. However, make sure not to overdo the amount of stuff you add to your plant’s soil. A good rule of thumb, according to the Compostess, is to “avoid adding anything that’s wetter than your leftover coffee grounds, as bacteria needs moisture to breed” and too much moisture may give your plants diseases or infections, which could also cause them to break down.
2. Find a Space Indoors for Your Bin
Ready to level up from the previous tip? Start your own compost bin! The first step to starting a compost bin at home is to find the right spot for it. “You can store a compost bin in any dark and dry space indoors, such as the basement, a closet, an under-the-sink kitchen cabinet, or even out on a counter,” says Bob Villa Home Advice. Check out Amazon for a plethora of aesthetic compost bins to spice up your kitchen counter, if that’s the place you chose for your bin. If you are going the basement or closet route, there are cheaper, non decorative bins that will do nicely in these places as well.
3. Or, Install a Bin in Your Yard
Want to go even bigger? Putting your compost bin outside gives you more room to have an even bigger compost bin. The best way to compost in your backyard is to make the bin yourself. Find a large plastic bin, such as this one on Amazon or a hardware store, and drill holes in the bottom of it. This will help your compost to aerate. Stand the bin back up, and coat the bottom of the bin with dried leaves. Now, you are ready to start adding your organic waste and food scraps to the bin! Alternatively, you can purchase an outdoor compost bin, here are some from Amazon.
4. Keep a Good Balance Between Organics
“When creating your compost pile, look for a balance between green carbon-rich materials, and brown nitrogen or protein-rich materials,” says Shed. A well kept, healthy compost pile should have more organic carbon matter than organic nitrogen matter. A great rule of thumb when trying to maintain this balance is to use two parts carbon rich matter to one part nitrogen rich matter. How do you tell the difference between the two, you ask? Carbon rich materials are typically brown, while nitrogen rich materials are green. Here are some examples of both:
|Carbon-rich materials||Nitrogen or protein-rich materials|
|Dried Leaves||Fruit or vegetable scraps|
5. Turn The Pile
Tip number five could be my biggest tip, as this one helps control the odor of your compost. To supply oxygen to all areas of the bin, you need to make sure to turn the pile of compost so that everything in your compost bin breaks down. “Wait at least two weeks before turning the pile, to allow the center of the pile to “heat up” and decompose,” says Gardening Know How. After the initial two weeks, you should turn your compost bin every 3 to seven days.
6. Keep it Covered
There are several reasons why you should keep your compost covered. If you have an outdoor bin, and it rains frequently in your area, you should want to cover your compost to avoid it getting too wet from the precipitation. When your compost gets too wet, it becomes waterlogged, and “there’s not enough air present inside the pile and the bacteria that break things down die. That’s when a compost pile becomes putrid and slimy,” according to HGTV. Keeping your compost covered is a good way to speed up the process of composting. A covering holds heat in the pile, which is essential for the bacteria to work more efficiently, thus speeding up the whole process. Furthermore, the heat kills off any diseases. Finally, if you have an indoor compost, you may want to keep it covered for the smell, and so that you and your guests don’t have to look at a bunch of decomposing stuff.
7. Try Layering
Tip number seven is to try layering, one common layering technique is called the “lasagna layering” method. This tip has you alternate between green in brown layers (what things go in these different layers is stated above). You should always start and end with a brown layer, so that food never shows in your bin. According to the Cooperative Extension, “The Lasagna method is a way of structuring a compost system so that maintenance is minimized, pests are deterred, and both large and small amounts of compostables can be handled at any time.” With this layering method, it is not necessary to turn your compost bin. However, if you need compost to help your plants and need it quickly, this is not the method for you. Lasagna layering may take up to six months or more.
8. Use Your Compost!
How do you tell if your compost is ready to use? By the smell! If it smells sour, there are still microorganisms at work and it is not ready. However, if it smells earthy, you have the go ahead to use your compost! Once your compost is complete, simply scatter the remnants of your bin under trees or shrubs, in your garden, or in the soil of your house plants. Nature will take care of the rest. Now you can celebrate knowing you have reused your food scraps to help the environment!
Read this far and still not convinced that composting is for you? Check to see if you have composting service available. Some places have compost drop-off or pick up service, and you can see if your area does using this website. If you live in a city, another option is to join a community garden, as most compost and will take your organic waste. There are many ways to get into composting, whether you create your own compost bin at home, put food scraps in your plants, or use a composting service, you are helping the environment and lowering your carbon footprint! However, like most things, there are do’s and don’ts to composting. Making sure you are putting the right things in your bin is essential to ensuring that you won’t attract bugs or have a bin with an odor.
|What to Compost||What to Avoid|
|Fruits and Vegetables||Dairy Products|
|Coffee Grounds||Meat and Bones|
|Hay and Straw||Yard Trimmings with Herbicide or Pesticide|
|Paper||Fat, Grease, and Oil|
Composting gives us the power to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions and lower our carbon footprint. It doesn’t have to be a chore or a major project, but can be as easy as burying your orange peel in the soil of your living room plant. Small, sustainable changes are the best way we can help fight climate change. Which composting method will you try out? Let us know by posting and tagging @cookandculture on Instagram!