You may read the title and think ‘Duh! Of course composting is sustainable!’, but have you ever looked in depth as to why? And whether it’s a viable option for you home? Today we highlight why we compost, types of composting, the pros, the cons, how to get started composting in your home, the do’s and the don’ts.
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The age old question. So, why do we compost? Composting is a process that works to speed up the natural decay of organic material by providing the ideal conditions for detritus-eating organisms to thrive. By putting most of your food scraps into a compost, it eventually breaks down and produces nutrient-rich soil! This can be used on your garden, to grow veggies, to give to your neighbour or even to sell! Composting also reduces methane emissions from landfills and lowers your carbon footprint which would help to make up for all those electronics you have.
Types of Composting
So, what kind of composting are you interested in? There’s aerobic, anaerobic and vermicomposting. Anaerobic composts are very time-consuming and can be toxic if not done correctly- best to leave this one to the professionals. Vermi-composting won’t be discussed in-depth in this article but look out for it in the future.
Aerobic composting is decomposition of organic matter using microorganisms that require oxygen. Anaerobic composting is decomposition that occurs using microorganisms that no not require oxygen to survive.
Vermicomposting is a type of composting in which certain species of earthworms are used to enhance the process of organic waste conversion and produce a better end-product.
There are many pros when it comes to composting. Not just for the environment, but also for you!
- Composting reduces methane emissions from landfills and lowers your carbon footprint.
- It also has the ability to clean-up contaminated soil and regenerate poor soil!
- Composting is great for reducing energy put towards irrigation systems and improves soils ability to hold carbon! This can actually save you money in the long run.
- Finally, because composting promotes plant growth so greatly, it actually yields a greater crop which means more veggies for you and your friends.
Honestly, there aren’t that many cons. There’s mainly things you have to be careful of which we will highlight later in the article under ‘donts’.
- Composting requires patience and a very particular mix, you can’t chuck anything in there. This mean it’s a little time-consuming and can spoil easily.
- Sometimes rats and smaller animals are attracted to it due to it being food, and this can cause more problems than just taking care of your compost.
- Unfortunately, composting is also not pretty. It takes up a lot of space, can look and smell quite ugly.
- Finally, if done incorrectly, composting can contribute to climate change due to the amount of greenhouse gasses that comes out of decomposing food, so you have to make sure you’re informed.
How to start in your own home
Aerobic is the most commonly used as it goes off of the basis that living things need oxygen! Therefore oxygen becomes part of the decomposition process.
Aerobic composting requires 3 basic colours! Brown– sticks, dead leaves, branches. Green– grass clippings, vegetable waste, fruit scraps, and coffee grounds, and Blue– water. It is important to set your compost up in the shade near water so it doesn’t dry out, making sure that you spray each layer of the green/brown mix as you add it to your bin. Finally, add all fruit and veggies under atleast 10 inches of browns and greens to begin with and then you’re done!
Do make sure to turn your compost! As the decomposition process gets going, your compost is going to generate heat, and eventually if it gets too hot it’ll kill all of the good microbes. Make sure you turn your compost to let in fresh air. A tumbler is recommended for this but you can just flip the layers of news paper if you’re using a typical bin
Do compost the right foods! A list is available at epa.gov but a summary of my most commonly used foods include: fruits, vegetables, tea bags, coffee grounds, paper, houseplant, dryer lint and hair or fur.
Do water your compost! Your compost needs to stay damp, not sopping wet, to be able to decompose. Otherwise it’ll dry out and the microbes won’t have anything to decompose.
Do use a compost activator . Mix a small amount into water, pour it onto your compost and after 10 weeks of rotting your compost is ready to use.
Don’t compost the wrong foods! A list is available at epa.gov but a summary of my most commonly used foods include: eggs, dairy, pet waste (poop!), meat or fish, meat or fish bones, fats and oils.
Don’t suffocate your compost! If your compost is starting to smell, chances are it can’t breathe. Add some fast-decomposing, deciduous sawdust.
Don’t use any diseased plants or weeds! Sometimes these plants cannot be killed naturally or it’s very difficult, which causes your compost harm.