Composting; in detail

For a Quick read and my composting jingle- click here. It also gives you a small step if you’re overwhelmed with Composting.

The sign at my compost drop off; shows the Do's and Don't of my personal local organization.

Ok. You’ve read that post and you are ready to do the damn thing.
I’m so excited!

If you plan to drop-off or have your compost picked up then you’ll get specific instructions by the organization regarding what can and cannot be collected. Here is a common list of what can and cannot go into typical compost:

What to Compost

  • Fruits and Vegetables (no stickers)- skins, seeds, pits, perished… all of it.
  • Egg shells* this varies but more than not is fine.
  • Coffee grinds, filters, and tea leaves/bags (paper not micro-plastic mesh bags)
  • Nuts and nut shells with the exception of black walnuts
  • Shredded newspaper, paper, and cardboard.
  • Yard trimmings, grass clippings, leaves, woodchips, sawdust
  • House plants- as long as they’re not infected by bugs or disease
  • 100% cotton and wool rags- clean, no chemicals and cleaning products
  • Vacuum and dryer lint
  • Hair and fur is fine
  • Fireplace ash- no coal or charcoal (harmful to plants)

Possibly (check with organization or intention):

  • Dairy- butter, milk, sour cream, yogurt…- this will attract rodents/pests
  • Meat/fish bones and scraps- this will attract rodents/pests
  • Fat, grease, lard, oil… -this can also attract rodents/pests

If you plan to compost at home, be mindful of the wildlife in your area- bears would be attracted to these smells. If you have raccoons or foxes they can be deterred by bins with lids or tumbler options.

What not to Compost

  • Pet waste*- carries parasites, bacteria, germs and viruses that can be harmful to humans. I have not found a collector who accepts this.
    *If you are composting at home, this is ok as long as you are not using the compost in… per se a vegetable or herb garden.
  • Rubberbands, stickers or other food packaging
  • Weeds- composting weeds will actually make the organic material spread weeds in whatever garden you are using the soil for- so essentially it will kill your plants or vegetables.. it’s a no.
  • Any yard trimmings or plants treated with chemicals or pesticides- this will kill the beneficial composting organisms.
  • Items listed as biodegradable or oxo-biodegradable.

Composting without a backyard

For those of you like me, collecting and ridding of the compost, you do not NEED any fancy or cute looking compost bins. You probably already have something you can use in your kitchen. Remember, CONSUME LESS, everything on this planet stays on this planet. If you don’t have anything- look at secondhand shops. The best containers will be either ceramic or stainless steel. I was using a giant stainless steel stock pot. I could’ve also used my ceramic Rachel Ray Dutch oven- I never used it to cook. Anyway, in the end my dad bought me a designated compost bin with the charcoal filter lid. Around the holidays I didn’t really want ‘things’, if anything I like experiences, the annual NP pass, or TSA prescreen… those sort of things. People get excited to share environmentally friendly gifts/finds with me.

Truly, I think he didn’t want me using his really nice pot that lives in a cabinet, untouched. Either way, I got the hint. If I had my choice, I prefer the pot!! The lid was better and the pot has more room. Your compost should not have a strong scent as long as you are mixing both brown and green waste so you can also use plastic. Might as well make something useful with it; especially if you plan on making a compost bin for your porch, or yard! The smaller bins obviously fill faster however, over the week they will compress as the food composts- in any container.

Ok, real quick. Green waste is all the food scraps and grass clippings (think wet) and brown waste is the rest of the yard waste and some house- dead leaves, branches, wood, paper towels (think dry). Browns put out carbon and greens put out nitrogen. If you have compost on your counter and you think it has an odor add more paper product. Toilet paper rolls, paper towels… whatever waste you have like that.

Some common sense: paper products are fine to compost- but not if they had chemicals on them, i.e. paper towels are fine as long as they weren’t used with toxic cleaning products. And I learned receipts aren’t treated as paper because the ink used to print on that paper is toxic.

A properly managed bin will not attract pests or rodents- IT WILL NOT SMELL. This is extremely important for people who plan to collect waste in their homes to use for their potted plants.

Setting up a compost in your backyard
and a fun idea for longevity.

I do not have experience in setting up an outside compost but found a lot of information about this as I was learning more about my own compost. I actually tried to talk my dad into doing it… as well as some other people. I found out my mom composts in her backyard- but she has a big space! Being that I can still compost without a yard I don’t assume the space matters so much.
Here is what I learned:
To build your own compost pile, you will want to begin by designating a space on the ground (or in a large box/bucket) near an accessible water source (hose) and in a shaded area (you can also cover it). Start by laying twigs or straw a few inches deep (or at the bottom). Then add your compost in layers- moist, dry, moist… or think green, brown, green waste. For wood and ashes- sprinkle it in a thin layer across the waste so it does not clump in the process. You should water your compost pile regularly so it stays moist but is not drenched. You can also rely on rain. It is best to keep covered to trap in heat and protect it from becoming too wet and also to keep it from drying out too quickly and deter pests if you fear it will be a problem. Every few weeks you need to mix it with a pitch fork or shovel. This adds oxygen; you’re aiming to have a fluffy texture. Once the compost pile is established you will no longer need to layer, you can just add and mix. To speed up the process add more grass clippings!
Tips: cut large yard waste down. Moisten dry materiel as it is added. Once established, bury the new added green waste 10inches into the compost. Ideally you’ll want to have more browns than greens- don’t forget to throw paper towels, napkins, and toilet paper rolls in! Make sure you’re buying non-toxic paper goods.

A table full of organic produce- picture taken in Borobudor, Java, Indonesia.

Not gonna lie… that seems a little overwhelming. For people who have flower beds and vegetable gardens you can dig and bury your compost into the garden and worms will feed off of the waste while nourishing your plants. You can also find outdoor composting bins at garden stores or hardware stores. If you live in a suburban area with a smaller yard (less than a couple acres) or mostly concrete… etc or if you want to compost indoors for your own plants then perhaps the best option is to purchase one of those; A tumbler style or a Worm Bin.

For moms- I think the Worm Bin could be a fun way to get your kids excited and teach them about composting. They might even help sort waste.

Another fun way to compost, kids or not, is to have a ‘moveable feast’. If you compost directly on the ground than you can move your pile yearly and use the previous spot to plant a new tree- a fruit tree! The ground with be full of nutrients to support a native tree. Every Arbor day? Cherry blossom trees, apple trees, willows. This would be the way I choose to compost if I had a yard.
Of course, I’d also be growing herbs with my compost- I grow herbs and other vegetables without a yard. Some fun ones to start if you want to use your compost are: cherry tomatoes, bell peppers, jalapeños, basil, rosemary… MINT (but contain the mint or it’ll spread like weeds).  

Kaitlin

A traveler who has allowed the World to show her that extreme posing beliefs are necessary to find the sweet spot that is revolutionary. Because life is too complex; it’s a balance of black and white; we need to blend the two so we can live in the grey space of an Open Mind. Currently finding a balance in exploring the World and being sustainable everyday.

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