Everyone knows the importance of getting into the habit of recycling. However, what a lot of us don’t realize is that a large part of the waste that we create is food waste, and that needs to be recycled as well. Learning how to compost will help you get into the habit of recycling food waste back into the Earth. However, before you begin simply putting all of your household’s food waste in a pile outside, there are a few tips that you need to know about how to compost effectively.
How to Compost: What to Compost
The first step of note is to decipher which food items can and cannot be composted. Anything that grows in the ground can be composted—that is, fruits, vegetables, and plants. Fallen leaves are also great for the compost heap. Anything that contains animal matter—such as meat, bones, dairy products, and animal waste—should never be put in the compost bin.
Certain man-made items may be composted as well, such as napkins and cardboard boxes. Check for the compostable symbol on different paper products to see what you can add to your pile.
How to Compost: Where to Compost
You will want to create a bin over bare soil in your yard that is about one cubic yard for optimum composting. Build up the sides of the bin with wood to help retain moisture and keep hungry animals out. Or, if you’d rather, you can also build the bin out of chicken wire. There are also many different commercially made compost bins that available for purchase.
It is important to have a good mixture of “green” and “brown” compost items. “Green” materials are high in nitrogen and are made up of plant matter. Green items include all of the approved food waste, as well as coffee grounds. On the other hand, the “brown” materials balance the carbon levels of the compost and include dry items, such as cardboard, fallen leaves, and hay. It is suggested to maintain a 3 to 1 ratio of browns to greens.
Should you find that your pile is too moist, add more brown items. Your compost pile should maintain a slight moisture, similar to a wrung-out sponge. If it is too dry, you can add water.
How to Compost: Upkeep
You should turn your compost pile every couple of weeks so that the materials that are breaking down are mixed with the newest compost items. This helps speed up the process as well as provides aeration (and will improve the smell!).
We recommend purchasing a small compost bin with a lid that you can keep in your kitchen. The convenience will cause you and your family to be more likely to compost all scraps, instead of having to run outside every time you peel an apple. It will also help avoid attracting fruit flies into your kitchen and the smell of the food will be encased in the bin. These are relatively cheap to purchase, and can be transferred to the compost pile when full.
How to Compost: Use the Compost
Once the bottom layer of compost has been turned into nutrient-rich soil, then it is perfect to use for gardening. No need to buy special soil, because you have created your own right at home!
Here at Southwick’s Zoo, one of our main goals is to become better at caring for our environment and the creatures around us. We invite you to visit us so that we can share more conservation tactics with you.
What are some ways that you can think of to make composting a habit in your life?