How (and Why) to Compost

This weekend I got in touch with my inner eco-nerd by purchasing a tumbling compost bin, installing it in the side yard, and feeding it kitchen scraps and leftover fall leaves with the intensity of a Vegas slot player plugging quarters into the machine. (Word of warning to would-be composters, the bin is highly addictive.)

I’ve been fantasizing about eliminating garbage from my life ever since I read Colin Beaven’s, “No Impact Man.” Beaven convinced his family to alter their lifestyle in order to reduce (or neutralize) their impact on the environment. His first step was to stop generating garbage. Reading about his project intensified my longing for the uncluttered, unlittered life, and gave me some ideas on how to get started with my own no impact project. For me, step one was to buy my milk in recyclable glass bottles from a local farm. Step two is composting.

According to the EPA, 25% of what we put in our landfills is organic waste that could be composted and turned back into soil. If everyone used a composer one quarter of our garbage would literally, go away. To be more accurate, it would turn into a clean substitute for costly, polluting fertilizers. The beautiful thing about composting, is that it turns waste into something useful, something fertile and creative.

I’m figuring out how to do this with lots of help from websites like journey to forever, a site that advocates sustainable farming, and with videos like the one below, from clean air gardening.

Recipe for Healthy Compost
75% carbon (brown)
25% nitrogen (green)

Carbon items (75%)

Fireplace ashes
Pine needles
Cardboard (shredded)
Dryer lint or vacume cleaner lint
Cotton or wool rags
Nut shells

Nitrogen Items (25%)
Table scraps
Fruits and vegetables
Coffee grounds (and filters)
Tea leaves (and tea bags)
Garden plants or house plants
Yard trimmings or grass clippings

Neutral Items

Do NOT Put the Following Items in Compost Bin
Anything that comes from an animal: meat, fish, animal fat, bones, dairy – these foods putrefy and attract flies and vermin.
Salty foods – salt can kill microrganisms essential to the composting process
Dog or cat poop – too stinky for suburban composting, and could introduce diseases.
Black walnut tree leaves or twigs – Releases substances harmful to plants
Coal or charcoal ash – Might contain substances harmful to plants
Diseased or insect-ridden plants – Diseases or insects might survive and be transferred back to other plants

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