Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Step Two to Zero Waste

2.Set up a Compost Bin

As I’ve firmly stated many times before, I truly believe that composting will save the world. If everybody composted, either in their backyard or through a municipal program, we could cut our waste by at least a third, and possibly by one half. Composting is the ultimate form of recycling, as it takes your waste and turns it into rich food for the earth through an all-natural process that has no harmful effects or toxic by-products. I understand that composting can seem time-consuming and difficult at first, but as long as you have a diverse, well-aerated pile, you’ll have no trouble at all. I run a whole separate blog about composting, so I recommend that interested readers go there to explore the world of composting, but if you want the nutshell version, here it is:

To compost you just need a pile of organic material, but it’s easiest to put this in some sort of bin or container. Examples of compost bins are in the resources section at the end of the article. Once you have a bin set up, either indoors or outdoors, contribute all biological material to it. This includes kitchen scraps, hair and nail trimmings, yard waste like grass clippings and leaves, the contents of your vacuum cleaner, pizza boxes, and any wool or cotton cloth that’s been worn out.

Never layer more than six inches of one kind of material into the bin, otherwise the bacteria that break everything down won’t have a diverse enough food source and the pile will start to stink. Properly done, compost never smells of anything more than the forest floor. Shovel the pile around once a month so that the stuff on the top is now on the bottom and vice versa. This ensures that the bacteria have plenty of air. Without it, aerobic (air-loving) bacteria move out and anaerobic (non-air-loving) bacteria move in. This is bad, because anaerobic bacteria are the ones that stink.

After six to eight months, you should be seeing a rich, dark material that looks like the mulch or compost you see in all those Better Homes and Gardens pictures. This is finished compost, and is the best thing your garden or yard could ever get. Spread it around in your vegetable beds, flower gardens, and even in a thin layer over your lawn. You can fork it in if you like, but the worms in the soil will go mad for it and dig it in for you if you’re willing to wait a week or so.

Compost returns important nutrients to the soil, helps keep moisture locked in, and encourages all sorts of good bacteria, fungi, worms, and insects to move into your soil and start working for your benefit. After composting for years, I can’t imagine doing anything else with my biological waste, and wouldn’t want to.

Indoor Composting (more information on this at Composting World)
Kitchen Compost Collection Pail (if you don't want to just use an old bucket or bowl)
Composting Guide (just one article, but goes over composting more in-depth)

First time reading about a hundred steps to zero waste? Go here for the introduction and index.

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