The Ultimate Guide to Home Composting
Composting is an excellent way to reduce your impact on the environment and live sustainably.
♻️ After all, one person's trash is another person's treasure, even in nature!
Get your gardening gloves out! Learn about why composting is great, what you should compost and how to do it. Then hop out in the sun for some fun composting.
What is Composting?
Ah, the classic question, and we get this a lot! In simple terms, composting involves breaking down organic matter. This includes anything from tree leaves to potato peels and even animal manure. It is cheap and simple, and your only real ingredients are organic wastes you have at home.
What comes out of composting is a soil conditioner that is rich in nutrients. It's used for a variety of activities like gardening, landscaping, and farming. So, the leftover scraps from the vegetables you ate can be used to grow your garden faster and healthier! That sounds like a win-win situation to me.
A Quick Look at the World
Annually, Americans waste about 31% of their food. In the United States, the composting rates get as high as 20% in a few states like North Dakota and Delaware. In 2017, 27 million tons of Municipal Solid Waste was composted in the United States.
But, this is considerably lower than countries like Germany, Netherlands, Austria and the United Kingdom with composting rates at 34%. Other countries like India and Australia are engaging in composting to pursue sustainable living.
Help raise that number to create a cleaner world for all of us.
Image Obtained from this source
Image Obtained from this source
Four Reasons Why You Should Compost
There are many reasons why you should compost; this is in no way an exhaustive list. We decided to focus on four important reasons why you should start composting today!
1. Zero-Waste Future
We all want to do our part in keeping our planet healthy. By composting, you eliminate unnecessary trash ending up in landfills. Simple things like composting scraps of fruits, vegetables, packaging, and cardboard can make all the difference!
You can learn more about compostable packaging by watching the following video:
2. Save money
By choosing to compost, you save money, and who doesn't love saving money in the long run?
If you're an active gardener, composting cuts down expenses for chemical fertilizers that you would otherwise need to buy. By composting, you can get your soil enriched with nutrients and the best part? It's entirely free.
But how much money do you save by composting?
First, you want to start off by gathering up some buckets to hold your kitchen composting scraps. You might have some free buckets laying around your house, or you can ask a friend or family member to borrow a few spare buckets.
When you're ready, you can visit this blog on how to make your own cheap DIY composter.
You're probably aware that buying compost from a store can add up quickly. For every gardening season, you may need 2 bags of compost, which can cost anywhere from $15 to $30 each year.
Although this doesn't seem like much, it can add up to more than $100 in savings over 5 years! Keep up that composting to keep saving.
So next time, don't throw those food scraps away.
3. Better Soil & Better Garden
You've probably heard over and over that adding compost to soil works wonders in a garden. Compost improves the quality, structure and fertility of the soil by delivering nutrients.
Composting is an all-natural process. Unlike synthetic fertilizer, natural compost doesn't over-stress or over-fertilize the plants.
Since compost is made up of organic matter, it also eliminates the buildup of toxins. Using organic fertilizers will ensure your garden is happy and healthy in no time!
When you use chemical fertilizers, you run the risk of burning your plants due to the fast release of nutrients. Synthetic fertilizers neither enhance the health of the soil, nor are they cheap! Chemical fertilizers may even permanently alter the pH of your soil through the buildup of harmful toxins.
4. Preserve Resources
Composting also helps save resources by using less water. Adding compost to your soil reduces water evaporation. Since compost increases water retention, you would need less water to sustain your garden in the long run.
Composting is also 100% eco-friendly. There is absolutely no need to worry about harming soil or water by adding pollutants. It works towards reducing carbon emissions. We'll dive more into this in the next section.
Composting also reduces the strain on waste management systems. By composting, we are decreasing the amount of waste ending up in landfills.
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, biodegradable materials comprise approximately half the waste that ends up in landfills. By composting organic materials, landfills can easily take up less space.
Learn more about why you should compost by visiting this resource.
How Does Composting Help the Environment?
Although we mentioned how composting promotes Zero Waste and preserves resources, we wanted to dive more into detail because this section is so important! We believe that everyone can do their share in promoting sustainable living, no matter how big or small, it is always a step forward.
By composting, you are reducing carbon dioxide emissions. In the long run, you are lessening the emissions released by vehicle transport to places like the Garden Center to buy fertilizers. If everyone composted, there would be less waste. This means fewer trips for a sanitation engineer to transport all the garbage.
Did you know that our garbage that ends up in landfills is tightly packed? Due to the lack of oxygen, organic matter breaks down anaerobically to produce methane gas. This harmful greenhouse gas is 21 times more harmful to the environment than Carbon Dioxide Gas. By composting, you are preventing the production of methane and defending our Earth from Global Warming!
Composting is sustainable, renewable and eco-friendly. Plants especially love it! It gives them strong roots, boosts their health and stimulates their growth. Composting also balances the pH in soil and controls soil erosion.
What Can You Compost?
There are many items we have laying around our house that end up in landfills every single year. Here's a quick guide of items you can compost so you can eliminate waste cleanly and naturally.
Let us know what surprised you. Drop a comment below about a few interesting things you didn't think you could compost!
1. Items from your Kitchen
- Coffee grounds
- Cooked rice
- Scraps from fruits and vegetables
- Spoiled milk (of any type or variety)
- Stale bread/crackers/cereal
2. Items from your Bathroom
- Loose strands of hair (yes, it's compostable!)
- Shredded toilet paper rolls
- Nail clippings
- Facial Tissues
- Cotton balls (make sure it's 100% cotton)
- Paper packaging from deodorants (like Wellow)
3. Items from the rest of your Home
- Shredded cotton towels/sheets
- White glue/masking tape
- Shredded junk mail/scrap paper/bills/newspapers
- Packaging & paper padded mailers — Wellow's products arrive in paper-padded mailers like this one:
- Pencil shavings
- Droppings from your pet(s)
- Fireplace ashes
- Wood chips/Saw dust
To check out a more exhaustive list, visit this resource for a couple more items you can add to your growing pile of compost.
Four Simple Ways to Compost and How to Get Started
Deciding which method and how to get started with composting is always the hardest step! Here are 4 different ways you can compost that will fit seamlessly into your daily routines:
1. Hot Composting
This is one of the most standard composting techniques. Hot composting has a peculiar name and for a good reason too, and no, you don't need a stove or oven for this. The heat will start to build up from the pile of organic matter during decomposition. Follow the steps below to get going on this simple process.
5 Simple Steps to Hot Composting
- Gather your nitrogen-rich ("greens" like food waste) and carbon-rich ("browns" like cardboard) materials
- Place the materials you collected inside bins. Choose the bin that's best for you and your budget. You can also go DIY and make your own bin.
- Allow the materials in the bins to heat up. The temperature of the pile should rise as organisms break down your organic matter.
- Make sure to place a thermometer in the stack to monitor the temperature. Ideally, you want the temperature to reach around 60°C
- Turn it over and transfer it into your second bin
- Repeat this process one more time and then let it sit for 6 weeks
Pros of Hot Composting
- Fast results. Finished compost pile by 30 days.
- Heat. The heat kills off any harmful bacteria, pathogens and weed seeds.
- Defense. When hot composting is done correctly, it keeps away rodents and insects.
- Control. By turning over and monitoring the temperature of the compost, you can control the speed of decomposition.
Cons of Hot Composting
- Difficult. It can take a few tries to master this one. You can read more about how to hot compost here.
- Dedication. You need to frequently monitor the temperature and turn over the pile.
- Space. Hot composting requires space to build. This method isn't ideal for people who don't have access to outdoor space or live in apartments.
To learn more about hot composting, take a look at this resource for a more in-depth read.
2. Vermicomposting — Composting With Worms
This method happens to be a favourite among gardeners! Worms are a fast way to speed up your composting while boosting your soil with nutrients and enzymes. But, worms can be tricky creatures to work with, so make sure you follow these tips to get your worm farm up and running.
Tips & Tricks for Getting the Perfect Worm Farm:
- Choose the right type of worm: earthworms, red worms and tiger worms work great
- Grab yourself a worm bin (you can either buy these or turn your bin into one)
- Provide bedding for your worms and dampen it to retain moisture. Ideally, carbon-rich material works best. So make sure to include dead autumn leaves, paper and cardboard for best results
- Scoop a couple of fistfuls of soil and add it to your bin along with your bedding. If you have leftover material from composting you can add that into here as well
- To get rid of unpleasant odour, consider adding nitrogen-rich materials like scraps of vegetables and fruits into your bin
- Choose a shaded location. Worms aren't the biggest fans of the Sun, so try and find a nice, cool place where they can get to work
- Chop or crush your food wastes before feeding it to your worms for faster composting results. But, beware of overfeeding them! General Rule of Thumb: feed them every 3 days or so. Or you will overwhelm the little guys and end up with a foul-smelling bin
Pros of Vermicomposting
- No odor. If worms are handled correctly, they won't release any pungent smells. Their castings smell like dirt.
- Flexibility. You can do this type of composting both indoors and outdoors. Space and season won't affect your composting by much.
- More worms. You end up having more worms than you started off with. Worms double their population every 60-90 days.
Cons of Vermicomposting
- Sterilization. Unlike hot composting, it takes much longer to kill pathogens.
- Cost. In some cases the bins and worms have to be purchased. This can be expensive.
- Time. This composting method takes about 3-6 months. It takes longer than hot composting.
If you want to learn more about how to compost with worms, check out this resource for additional information!
3. Direct Composting
This is a traditional method for our composting lovers. Direct composting involves digging up a hole and burying food waste inside. Get those shovels out! Before placing your organic wastes into the hole, try and chop them into pieces to speed up the process.
What makes this technique so great is that it's simple. If you need to give your garden an extra spurt in growth, this is the way to go! Direct composting invites many earthworms that can help provide the nutrients needed to keep your plants healthy throughout the growing season.
How to Get Started With Direct Composting
- Start by choosing a clear area in your yard and digging a hole that is roughly 10-14 inches. You don't need to dig much further than that.
- Fill a quarter of the dug hole with fruits and vegetable scraps. Avoid adding items like dairy, eggs and meat.
- Top up the food waste with some soil to completely fill in the hole.
- Use your foot to gently apply pressure and make sure there aren't any crevices.
Tip: Mark the area where you have composted. This can make it easy to find the spot in the upcoming weeks when you decide you need some rich soil.
Pros of Direct Composting
- Easy. This method is the easiest to get started. Once you bury your scraps into the ground, there is no additional effort required.
- No odor. You don't have to worry about any bad smells emitting from your pile underground.
- Worms. You will naturally attract a lot of worms that will speed up the decomposition process.
Cons of Direct Composting
Animals. Everyone seems to like compost. From your local raccoons to garden pests, you will attract a lot of unwanted attention. Tip: Have a strong & high fence around your backyard. Place large rocks on top of your soil to deter animals.
Space. You would need access to an outdoor space for this composting method. This method might not be feasible for apartments.
To gain more insights about direct composting, visit this site.
4. Composting With Effective Microorganisms (EMO)
Yes, you can now do composting indoors! Typically with this composting, you use the Bokashi system, which you may need to find and buy online. In Japanese, Bokashi means "fermented organic matter." Here's a quick guide on getting started.
How to Start EMO Composting
- To get started, find 2 large buckets (you might need to buy these as well).
- Fill one bucket with organic wastes and scraps from the kitchen. Limit the amount of liquid, dairy and meat being added (small amounts should be fine).
- Add 2-3 fistfuls of Bokashi into the mix - don't worry about getting the perfect measurements.
- Put the lid back on the bucket.
- Repeat steps 2 and 3 until the bucket is filled over a week or so.
- Let the bucket sit for a bit. In the meantime, you can get started by filling the second bucket with biodegradable wastes by following steps 2-4.
- Once the second bucket is filled to the top, dig a hole in your yard. Tip the contents of the first bucket into it and cover it up with dirt and soil.
- Now that your first bucket is empty keep repeating the process. The waiting time in the bucket helps with the fermentation and allows for faster decomposition.
Pros of EMO Composting
- Indoors. Great for small spaces or apartments.
- Variety. You can compost anything, including dairy and meat. Most traditional methods struggle with that.
Cons of EMO Composting
- Bugs. If you don't close the lid on your bucket you may attract different bugs into your house.
- Slow. Bacterial decomposition can be a slow process.
- Space. If you're an apartment owner: once the waste is decomposed you might need to donate it to a community garden due to the lack of yard space.
To find some additional information on EMO Composting, take a look at this resource.
Composting is the ultimate eco-friendly solution! Taking this step forward is an excellent way to protect the environment, save money, and preserve resources. Not to mention, it's great for the family garden and improving the quality of soil for little to no cost!
Choose a composting style that fits you best. As of 2013, there are over 150 composting facilities offered in the United States for curbside pickup. For some of you, a local composting facility may not be provided in your area. Now that you have learned 4 different ways to compost, you can get started at home today!
Help us achieve our mission in minimizing unnecessary waste that ends up in landfills. Learn about what you can compost and how to do it to reduce your carbon footprint.
Let us know about all your composting adventures!
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