Looking for a smart and easy way to help the environment? Try composting.
Composting is a natural process where organic materials biodegrade into a dark, rich substance called compost that is a wonderful additive for soil.
What kind of materials? Well, many of the items that are currently thrown in the trash, including grass clippings, fruit and vegetable scraps and even shredded paper can be used for compost.
Now, not everything can be composted. See the table to the right for what items should and should not be composted in a residential setting.
The first step for composting is knowing how much is needed. Decide where the compost will go and how much area it will cover. Multiply the length x width x depth x .003 to find out the sufficient amount.
Then start collecting items based off the table and mixing them together. The easiest method is to store them outside in an open, shaded part of the yard. This can either be in a big pile or an open container.
Compost should have a 3-2 ratio of ‘brown’ items to ‘green’ items to prevent foul odors. As items are added, simply mix them into the compost to cover them up.
It’s very important that the composting pile stays moist and that each week it is thoroughly mixed. This helps decomposition. Commercial composting bins are available that make the mixing process easier, but typically cost as least $100 and usually more.
A pile has fully turned to compost once the content looks like rich, brown dirt.
Please note that this process is time-consuming, and could take months depending on the amount and content of the pile. But once it’s finished, know that this compost has preserved water, the environment and your pocket book.
Composting aids all foliage by putting healthy nutrients back into the soil, which limit the need for fertilizers and pesticides, which pollute waterways.
It also reduces the volume of garbage a household generates by nearly a third – and there is a difference where these materials biodegrade. Biodegrading in landfills mostly creates methane. In homes and yards, it creates carbon dioxide, which plants use to turn into oxygen.
Composting also saves water, as it eliminates the water used on food scraps going down the garbage disposal. The compost left over also reduces water needs of foliage, because it retains moisture, reduces evaporation and provides the necessary air space for roots, which promotes strong plant growth.
This is a simple example of composting, but many other options and strategies are available.
Green items: (nitrogen-rich)
• Fresh grass clippings
• Garden trimmings
• Fruit and vegetable scraps
• Coffee grounds and filters
• Tea bags
• Manure (plant eaters only)
Brown items: (carbon-rich)
• Dry leaves
• Dried grass clippings
• Hay or straw
• Shredded paper
• Finely chopped wood and bark
Don’t use in backyard composting:
• Meat, fish, poultry and bones
• Dairy products, oils, grease and fat
• Weeds with seeds
• Cat and dog waste
• Charcoal or Duraflame® ashes
• Treated wood products
• Cat litter
• Basic rule: If in doubt, leave it out