My family has been composting my entire life. Composting was one of the main reasons that I started my personal journey to living a trash free life. I loved that composting has allowed me to reduce food waste and turn it into useable soil! According to a 2012 report from the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC), Americans throw away about 35 million tons of food per year that adds up to around $165 billion dollars. The report goes onto explain how more than 20 lbs of food is wasted per person every month in the United States. That’s roughly the same weight as a one year old child! Why do we throw away so much food?!
In a world where consumerism rules us, we are told that we need to keep our fridge fully stocked for whatever we are craving. We are told that food waste isn’t a big deal. We have the privilege to be able to eat whatever we are in the mood for- despite if something else is about to go bad. Not to mention the amount of food waste that we are unaware of when it comes to attending events, parties, or going out to eat at a restaurant. We can’t stop all of this food waste- but we can reduce the amount that we product in our daily lives.
The act of composting has allowed me to think more critically about the food that I purchase, making sure I use everything in my fridge before I go out to buy more food. It also allows me to not feel guilty for having to throw something out when it does go bad, or if I purchase a bad food item from the grocery store. As a result- I only create about 1% of food waste that actually gets tossed in my personal garbage due to it being a sweet or something that can’t be thrown into the compost.
For all of you who have a burning desire to reduce your food waste, I have provided a step by step guide to starting your own composting system and the types of food you can and cannot throw into your bin!!!
Side Note- My compost pile at home was created by my father back in the 90’s. I think it’s important to note that I have never created my own compost pile. I have decided to attach a few other blog posts from people who have successfully created a thriving compost pile. Please comment below if you have any additional questions or comments on creating your own compost system.
STEP 1: FINDING A PLACE TO COMPOST!
If you can, I highly recommend composting in your backyard. You can purchase or build a crate that can be closed off to the outside critters, but includes slits that allow for warms and the heat to help decompose the food scraps. My family has a small container in the house, when it’s full they dump the scraps into the compost pile. It’s not impossible to compost in your apartment.
I have never created a compost system in my apartment. There are a variety of different types of composting systems, but the most popular one is a worm bin. All you need is a dark corner or closet, a big bin with a top where you can drill holes into, warms, dirt, paper or cardboard, and some food scraps. I have attached a post from Wasteland Rebel on how to create your own apartment warm bin: http://wastelandrebel.com/en/apartment-composting-with-a-worm-bin/
STEP 2: STARTING YOUR COMPOST!
When it comes to starting any type of compost system that is indoor or outdoor, it’s important to have layers of grass, hay, paper, cardboard, along with your dirt and food scraps. This will ensure that your waste decomposes correctly, instead of turning into a big pile of mold. The worms will help turn the compost and bring more oxygen into the decomposing process. It’s also important to turn your compost with a shovel or rake. You should do this daily if your compost is small, or monthly if your compost is bigger. When it comes to turning your compost- make sure to not kill any of the worms. The turning will help with keeping the oxygen flowing in your pile, increasing the heat, and a happy healthy compost.
I highly recommend checking out MakeSoil, a non-profit organization that creates courses, videos, and other sources all around the United States to help people create a happy healthy compost.
STEP 3: WHAT GOES INTO A COMPOST PILE?
When starting a compost pile, many believe that any type of food waste can decompose into the soil. That is 100% false and if you put the wrong food items into your compost- you will end up with mold, dead worms and no nutritionally dense soil to put in your garden. I would highly recommend not adding citrus foods into a small compost pile, since they take a super long time to decompose. If you have a big backyard compost then it is okay to add a few citrus peels in once in a while.
SHOULD GO INTO COMPOST:
Fruits and Veggies of all kinds (citrus should be avoided when your compost is first starting out)
Nuts and dried fruit
Algae, seaweed, and lake moss
Coffee grounds (and natural/unbleached filters)
Bird, rabbit, and other small animal droppings (they don’t eat meat!)
Tea leaves (and natural filters)
WHAT YOU SHOULDN’T COMPOST:
Coal ashes or charcoal
Meat, fat, grease, oils, bones
Milk, yogurt, cheese
Soda or sugary food
STEP 4: THE TRICK WITH COMPOST PILES!
Compost piles aren’t difficult to maintain, however they need a ton of love. Their is defiantly a learning curve to make sure that you don’t kill your compost pile and worms. I recommending doing a ton of research and if you aren’t sure about a particular food scrap, then it’s safe to not add it to your compost. What about all the items that you can’t compost?
I don’t eat meat, dairy, and processed foods, so I can have put all of my food scraps or bad food into the compost. If you live in a house, I would recommend throwing leftover meat and bones into the woods. If you can’t, then I would throw your bad processed foods, meat, and diary into the garbage. It’s not perfect, but it’s the only solutions.
STEP 5: WHY COMPOST?
Composting can look complicated, but once you get the hang of it you will learn to become obsessed with your compost. The reason being that composting helps decrease the amount of food waste going into the trash and bad smells coming from the garbage. You can also use the compost to plant flowers in the spring and start growing your own food in a garden!
I am no expert on the subject. Below are some additional links to helpful and more in-depth compost articles:
The Easiest Way To Compost: https://www.rodalesorganiclife.com/garden/how-compost
How to Start a Compost Pile in 4 Easy Steps: http://www.mariasfarmcountrykitchen.com/how-to-start-a-compost-pile-in-4-easy-steps/
Worm Composting 101: https://www.planetnatural.com/worm-composting/