Friday, April 24, 2015

Thoughts on Composting

Most people talk about composting as a viable alternative to tossing things into a landfill, but I was curious about how many people actually make the effort.

I was also interested to learn about the reasons why folks don't compost.

That was the focus of April's survey.

Let's take a look at the results:

Survey Results - Do you compost?

  • COnstantly traveling.
  • Why NOT compost? It's great for the garden, it reduces our amount of garbage, and it's good for the earth to put food and yard waste literally back where it originated ! We had an old plastic "earth machine" one for years but it always filled up too fast so this year we built one out of old repurposed fenceposts and chickenwire, with one half for current garden and food waste and then when it fills up, we'll let it settle and start filling up the second one. They say more than 20% of our garbage dumps are filled with food - crazy!!! Every city should have mandatory curbside composting like our big cities here on the west coast - it just makes sense (economically as well!).
  • Because it reduced how much trash we were throwing out, it's good for the environment and for our garden, and we get free soil.
  • I compost because food waste is such a problem in the landfills, plus it's free fertilizer. I don't use bins though, I bury mine right in an empty garden plot to decompose.
  • We don't have anywhere to use the compost we'd make.
  • I've had a garden my entire adult life. My current one is my toughest, here in the American desert Southwest. It's hot. And dry. To manage water usage and keep vegetables comfortable through hundred-and-teens, I have to have compost (and mulch, which is sometimes the same thing)! Besides, it's the right thing to do--perfectly good coffee grounds and vegetable peelings certainly don't need to clutter landfill.
  • To nourish my soil and recycle my green waste
  • I am studying here and I live in apartment, thus I don't have place to plant or cultivate. In my hometown, my family lives in city and has the same situation.
  • Because it good for the soil and keeps the balance of nutrients naturally. We also should be recycling everything we can and this is a great way to recycle your food scraps and make use of the that nature provides us. It is also very economical.
  • Less waste, though we don't know how to make it compost faster and just put it into a bin we got at a hardware store, so any tips would be great :)
  • Because it makes sense! :)
The majority of people, who participated in the survey, do compost. Reasons included things like reducing landfill waste and nourishing gardens. Some folks use commercial composting containers, others make their own, and still others simply bury compostable materials directly into an empty garden plot.

My sense is that those who do compost, use it in their gardens rather than participate in curb-side pick-up or donate it to a neighbor or community garden.

One participant asked for tips on how to make a compost pile work faster. I found a great article on the subject which you can read HERE. Suggested methods include shredding, turning the pile often, and ensuring that the carbon to nitrogen ratio is appropriate (they include the ratio of common items like grass clipping, food scraps, etc., and give you an easy way to approximate the ratio).

A few people don't compost and their comments got me thinking about situations that make the practice difficult (or impossible) and how we might comes up with solutions.

Composting while traveling

Many of our green-living practices suffer when we travel. Certainly composting seems to fall into that category. Still, we need to eat and that means generating usable waste. Here are a few tips which might help:
  • If you eat out, choose restaurants which compost kitchen scraps. To find out, call ahead and ask.
  • If you prepare food while traveling, bring along a bokashi composting system which can be carried back home for use in the garden. Or, carry a container with a good lid, fill it with scraps and bring it home to your bin.
  • Ask the hotel, campground, bed & breakfast, etc., if they compost and, if so, how you can add scraps to the bin.
  • If you are staying in a rented home, find out if curb-side collection is available or if a neighbor might be able to use scraps.

Composting without gardening

What if you don't garden and have no use for compost? Here are some ideas:
  • Participate in curb-side collection if it is offered.
  • Donate your compost to a local community garden, a neighbor, or offer it on Freecycle or Craigslist (I'm guessing that someone would be happy to pick it up and use it).
  • Use a bokashi bin and then use the fertilizer on house plants or a lawn ... or, again, give it away. And if you don't have house plants, get some ... they are a great way to clean indoor air.

Composting in an apartment

So here's the scenario ... you live in an apartment which doesn't have a deck or patio. There's no space for a garden. There's no curb-side compost pick-up. Of all the reasons not to compost, this one is, in my opinion, the most difficult to find solutions for. But let's see what we can do. How about these ideas:
  • Consider the bokashi system. Use the results on houseplants or offer it up on Freecycle. Perhaps the apartment management would appreciate a bit of fertilizer on their landscaping ... just be sure to ask, first.
  • Collect scraps in an air-tight container and donate them to a community garden.
  • Find out if a college or work facility has composting. If they do, ask about adding your scraps to their bin.
  • Contact the city waste management department to discover options. If they have no options for you, ask them to consider providing some in the future.

A few more thoughts on composting

When we think about composting, we tend to consider it from the end results. While free, green fertilizer is appealing to those of us who garden, it really doesn't mean much to people who don't grow things.

So perhaps we need to look at this activity from the other end ... the beginning. If we consider it as a viable way to divert usable materials from landfills, it becomes a practice which all people can take part in. Yes, there's still the question of what to do with the end results but that seems relatively easy. There's always someone who could use free soil enhancements.

With the many, easy ways to recycle our food waste, composting is no longer a labor-intensive, stinky process. In fact, anyone with a counter can compost. It takes no more effort than tossing those scraps in a trash bin. Yes, perhaps it means coordinating with a neighbor or driving to a community garden but protecting our environment is worth the effort.

If you're not already doing so, I encourage you to compost. It is one way to keep "stuff" out of landfills and protect the earth.

Thanks to everyone who participated!