Friday, April 16, 2010

It's Earth Day - let's talk compost

Of course the Extraordinary Mother composts! Earth Day and every day.

Naturally we all recycle these days, but do you also reduce landfill waste by composting?!

Composting is one of the least expensive environmentally-friendly things you can do. It is simply the decomposition of plant remains and once-living materials (grass clippings, leaves, and food waste). This organic material breaks down and becomes soil (or in other words, compost). Mature compost can be applied to lawns and gardens to help condition the soil and replenish nutrients, improve the soil around trees and shrubs, and used as soil additive for house plants and planter boxes.

At the same time you are producing all this fabulous soil you are also making a significant reduction in waste to send to landfills. Yard trimmings and food waste make up 26 percent of the municipal solid waste stream in the United States. That's a lot of waste to send to landfills when it could become useful and environmentally beneficial compost instead!

So is this really that easy? Absolutely. Composting can be as easy as putting your leaves, food waste, and grass clippings in a pile on the ground in a convenient spot in your yard. If you would like to contain it you could build a simple cage around it (plywood & chicken wire). Of course there are those of us who do not want to look at the actual grass, leaves, and food waste while it decomposes (and our neighbors may not want to see it either) in which case there are quite a few composting bins on the market to choose from. Check out my recommendations (I use both types and prefer the bin to the tumbler).

So this is good for the environment, great for your lawn and garden, and is as easy as putting waste in a pile. However, you should only put certain waste into your compost and certain things you should definitely NOT put into your compost. First, the no-no’s: here is a pretty good list of what NOT to put in your compost pile and why:

NO – do NOT put in compost:
• Black walnut tree leaves or twigs - they release substances that might be harmful to plants
• Coal or charcoal ash – they might contain substances harmful to plants
• Dairy products (e.g., butter, milk, sour cream, yogurt) and eggs - because they create odor problems and attract pests such as rodents and flies
• Diseased or insect-ridden plants – they can be transferred back to other plants
• Fats, grease, lard, or oils – they create odor problems and attract pests such as rodents and flies
• Meat or fish bones and scraps – they create odor problems and attract pests such as rodents and flies
• Pet wastes (e.g., dog or cat feces, soiled cat litter) – they might contain parasites, bacteria, germs, pathogens, and viruses harmful to humans
• Yard trimmings treated with chemical pesticides – they might kill beneficial composting organisms

And here is a list of common items that you can compost:
• Cardboard rolls
• Clean paper
• Coffee grounds and filters
• Cotton rags
• Dryer and vacuum cleaner lint
• Eggshells
• Fireplace ashes
• Fruits and vegetables
• Grass clippings
• Hay and straw
• Houseplants
• Leaves
• Nut shells
• Sawdust
• Shredded newspaper
• Tea bags
• Wood chips
• Wool rags
• Yard trimmings

For food waste I recommend getting a compost container for your kitchen. You can put your scraps into the container, then take them all out to the compost bin when it is filled. I also love using biodegradable liners – it makes cleaning up your kitchen container a breeze.


1 comment:

  1. We have been thinking about doing this! Great post--especially the comments on the bins. Thanks! Following from MBC. You can see my blog over at