Beginner’s Guide to Composting

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Composting is something I’ve wanted to do consistently for years, ever since I started caring more for the environment in high school. The past month or two I have been doing it consistently and have been so excited to share all of my info and tips for people who want to make simple but impactful changes..so here we go!

Why you should compost:

Compost reduces waste and thus decreases methane emissions from food and yard waste in our landfills. When these things are left in landfills to decompose, methane (a greenhouse gas) is released into the atmosphere which in turn enhances the greenhouse effect, aka the warming of the earth. Not going to go into a full science lesson here, but obviously the more waste in our landfills, the more enhanced the greenhouse effect becomes and the more climate change we will experience.

Not only does composting reduce our carbon footprints by minimizing waste, it produces incredibly rich, organic soil and thus better crops and healthier plants! Soil made from compost also does not need chemical fertilizers, so all around it’s the healthiest way to grow anything. Last of all, composting is extremely satisfying and fun as hell.

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According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, here is what to and what no to include in your compost collection:

What can be composted?

  • Fruits and vegetables (For me this normally includes peels, apple cores, small scraps left from prepping and cooking, ends of carrots, broccoli stems, and things that accidentally go bad before being used)
  • Eggshells
  • Coffee grounds and filters
  • Tea bags
  • Nut shells
  • Shredded newspaper
  • Cardboard
  • Paper
  • Yard trimmings
  • Grass clippings
  • Houseplants
  • Hay and straw
  • Leaves
  • Sawdust
  • Wood chips
  • Cotton and Wool Rags
  • Dryer and vacuum cleaner lint
  • Hair and fur
  • Fireplace ashes

What cannot be composted?

  • Black walnut tree leaves or twigs
  • Coal or charcoal ash
  • Dairy products and egg contents (shells are fine)
  • Diseased or insect-ridden plants
  • Fats, grease, lard, or oils
  • Meat or fish bones and scraps
  • Pet wastes
  • Yard trimmings treated with chemical pesticides

**But of course be sure to check with where you are dropping off your compost for exactly what you should and shouldn’t include in your compost!**

 

Copy-of-Compost-410x1024
Source: outsidemodern.com

Here is one of the best graphics I have found on what you should and should not compost, save it to your phone or desktop in case you’re ever unsure!

Clearly as a person that is mostly plant-based (I eat eggs which the shells are compostable for!), almost all of my waste can be composted. I’m not perfect and can still do much better on single-use plastic from things like produce packages, but I can’t even tell you how many trash bags I have already saved, and it feels pretty good knowing I’m not contributing as much to landfills.

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How to store it:

There are two ways to store your compost: in a compost container (tumbler, bins, etc.) in your backyard if you plan to create an actual compost for gardening or what have you, or in your freezer if you plan to drop it off at a compost collection.

I’m going to talk more about the latter in this beginner’s post because I want to show how easy and non-committal composting can be, especially because I know most of my following are young and living in cities and may not have a backyard. BUT if you are wanting to do the whole shebang from scraps to soil, I’m going to refer you to the following articles that I think could be super helpful to you:

Now if you’re taking the simpler route and donating your compost, you’ll want to store your compost in your freezer. This will prevent any smelling or rotting so you can do fewer compost drop offs! You don’t exactly need any special containers for this (personally I just use a few really big old tupperware containers), but of course there are plenty on the market. The Container Store has a bunch, click here!

These types of containers are probably much better than my setup right now actually, because you can just take the whole container with you to wherever you’re dropping off and trap in any smells that may form once they start to thaw, so maybe it’s time to invest in one myself….. But for now I have just been transferring it to a reusable bag to take to my compost drop off and then throwing that bag in the wash!

Which brings me to my next subject…

GrowNYC-Compost
Source: GrowNYC

What to do with it:

So now you have all these food scraps in your freezer…what do you do with it? You do not want to keep the compost in your freezer for more than a week as it will start to smell, so you want to find the best drop-off option for where you live.

Most farmer’s markets have an area where you can drop off your compost for the farmer’s to use for their soil (as I mentioned earlier, compost soil is extremely rich, so richer soil = better crops = better food for you to buy from these farmers! We all win). For all my NYC followers, this is actually extremely easy for you. The Union Square Farmer’s Market has a large compost drop off area on the corner of Park and 17th with about a dozen bins for you to just throw your scraps in and carry on with your day. SO. EASY. There are also many other compost stations throughout the city by GrowNYC and other organizations.

Non-NYCers: go to your local farmer’s markets and ask the vendors or the market coordinator if there is a compost drop off, or if they know if any of the vendors would like to take your compost with them to use (I’ve done this! They actually are very appreciative).

And to my fellow students, check the agriculture department at your school and see if they compost! Mine does and that’s where I drop mine off each week 🙂 I’m already up on campus so it’s practically zero hassle at all. Research compost drop-offs in your area and find what works best for you!

Storing and donating your compost is so incredibly easy, and I hope this post has shown that. Even just one week’s worth of compostable scraps will have you shocked at how much waste you are saving with practically no effort, and you’ll probably wonder like me why it took so long to start doing it. Now go get your compost on!

Sources: 

United States Environmental Protection Agency, epa.gov – “Composting At Home” – https://www.epa.gov/recycle/composting-home

PlanetNatural.com – https://www.planetnatural.com/composting-101/getting-started/composters-bins/

Better Home & Garden – https://www.bhg.com/gardening/yard/compost/how-to-compost/

Department of the Environment and Energy Australia – http://www.environment.gov.au/climate-change/climate-science-data/climate-science/greenhouse-effect

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