This is the first in a series on composting. Please do not be afraid and stop reading at this point – it’s not so bad, I promise.
I understand how most people feel about composting. In my own journey to going green, composting was one of the last activities that I embraced. I was worried that it was complicated, time consuming, and that it would be messy and smelly. I also thought that I wouldn’t have room for a compost bin in my yard or have enough garden space to use the top soil it would create.
Photo via giamarie
I’m here to tell you that compositing is not hard, it’s not messy, and you don’t need a large yard to do it. This is the first in a series of posts covering all you need to know but were afraid to ask about composting.
Compost refers to decomposed organic material. It’s a simple and totally natural process. All you really need to compost are three things we all have readily available – food waste, air and water. If you have a large property or garden, you can literally just bury the food waste in your yard and let nature run its course. For those of us with Southern California sized yards, you probably want some type of composting bin – more on all the many types of compost bins and systems in a future post.
The first question to answer, is why even bother composting in the first place. The main benefits of composting are that it significantly reduces food waste in the landfill and it provides an almost constant source of free fertilizer and soil conditioner.
According to a recent study by the Environmental Protection Agency, Americans generate roughly 30 million tons of food waste each year, about 12 percent of the total waste stream. All but about 2 percent of that food waste ends up in landfills. In addition, the rotting food that ends up in landfills causes odors; attracts flies and vermin; and produces methane, a major source of greenhouse gases (and according to the EPA, 20 times more damaging to the environment than carbon dioxide).
Not only does composting divert a considerable portion of your family's food waste from the landfill and water treatment facilities, it is a natural method of taking organic materials that would otherwise be thrown away, and turning them into valuable humus, or compost. Flowers, vegetables, trees, shrubs, grass and even house plants all grow better in soil mixed with compost. Compost also helps retains water in the soil, adds nutrients to the soil, cools the soil's surface, and helps mitigate erosion. And it’s totally free – why go out and buy topsoil when you can create your own endless supply in your backyard?
Home composting is also a great activity for kids. It teaches kids about conservation and it’s a home science experiment every day. And hey, if it gets the kids to voluntarily do yard work, even better. Seriously, my kids argue over who gets to bring the food waste out to the compost bin and who gets to turn the handle to aerate the material in the composter. Of course my kids just had a serious argument over who got the little plastic thing that comes in the middle of the pizza box so maybe that’s not the best example, but I do see that they enjoy being part of the process and seeing the material biodegrade in the compost bin.
So, hopefully I gave you enough to think about that you might consider the idea of composting. If you are ready for more information now, check out these links for more information about composting:
Environmental Protection Agency's Guide to composting
Stay tuned, next up, the types of food and yard waste that can be composted and how to find the perfect composting bins and systems – for any price range and property size.
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