What is Composting? How Does It Factor into Zero-Waste Living?

First things first….What is composting?

compost12363“Composting is nature’s process of recycling decomposed organic materials into a rich soil known as compost. Anything that was once living will decompose. Basically, backyard composting is an acceleration of the same process nature uses. By composting your organic waste you are returning nutrients back into the soil in order for the cycle of life to continue. Finished compost looks like soil–dark brown, crumbly and smells like a forest floor.

Types of composting:

  • Backyard composting — If you have a yard and a balance of browns (fallen leaves or straw) and greens (grass clippings and food scraps), you have all you need to make compost.
  • Worm composting (vermicomposting) — If you have a tiny yard or live in an apartment or have an abundance of food scraps, this type of composting is for you.
  • Grasscycling If you have grass clippings and don’t want to use them in a compost pile you can leave them on the lawn to decompose. Read about grasscycling for tips, techniques and benefits.”

(Thanks, http://www.recycleworks.org/compost/)

Folks, I LOVE the idea of composting, I really do! But it took me a while to get into it because I live in a city that has limited composting options for residents (Los Angeles, CA). That being said, now that I do compost regularly, I highly encourage you to start composting in one of the following ways. If I can compost on my small condo patio using a few pots and some worms–you can give it a try too!

Composting Options (not exhaustive):

  1. If you own or have access and full use of your own yard, locate a small space away from any dwelling windows that you regularly open. Start with a composting container. There are several varieties, but choose the one that is best for the amount of raw materials you will be adding to the bin and the results you are looking for post decomposition.
  2. Pot (open air) composting. This is the one I am going to focus on, because I know more about this from experience. This is also best for small apartment or condo living.
  3. Worm Composting. I do this in my open air containers, but plan to start a worm box after the workshop that I recently attended facilitated by the City of Glendale.

How does composting factor in to living a life less wasteful?

Food scraps make up an overwhelming amount of the items sent to landfills. Unfortunately, because of the toxic nature of landfills they are not breaking down in ways that support generative production (such as rich compost soil). These scraps actually co-mingle with plastics, oils, animal bi-products, and other nastiness to produce dangerous gaseous emissions that contribute to the multitude of things negatively effecting climate change.

However, if families simply establish small/manageable composting practices in their own homes, they can reduce the amount of food scraps that get sent to landfills exponentially. For example, before I started composting, Corey and I would easily fill a garbage bag with compostable food scraps and garbage scraps each week. Things like melon rind, egg shells, coffee filters/grounds, and paper products are particularly bulky items. Since we started composting, not only have I not had to purchase soil to support my patio garden (another post, for another day), we have also reduced out trash to about half a normal garbage bag each week. Ultimately, these scraps are not being wasted in landfills, but repurposed into rich compost soil that can be used for yourself or gifted to friends with yards/gardens etc.

In the next few posts I will be focusing on things that have come up in my own composting experience so stay tuned! Things that will be covered in the coming posts/days/weeks:

  • Open Air Patio Composting: the set up and the “how-tos”
  • Worm Composting and ALL (or most of) its benefits
  • Compost Troubleshooting
  • White worms: Where do they come from and what do they do?
  • Composting Myth Busted: Shooting down all of your reservations about getting starting

And perhaps some more things as they arise. Feel free to post questions, ideas, and share your own experiences. My rule has been trial and error, so I definitely don’t claim to be an expert (at all!).

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