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Monday, October 27, 2008
Back to the earth
When we bought our house a few years ago, it came with a black plastic composting bin in the back yard on one side against the fence. We liked the idea, but didn't know much about it, so we didn't do anything with it for several years. This past year I decided to start using it and did some reading on the process. My only experience with composting was when I was a kid. My dad used to have a compost pile and would add the old leaves to it, and garden waste. I don't think we collected our kitchen waste for it though.
Up till this year, I was putting food waste down the sink disposal, which still decreases the garbage output, but after doing some reading I realized it puts a strain on the water treatment facilities.
So, I put a bucket under the sink (with a lid, to keep fruit flies away) and starting collecting all the raw scraps there. We still put cooked food and meat scraps either in the garbage or down the disposal (or into one of our little 4-legged disposals:-) You can't put cooked food or meat into the compost, or you'll attract rodents.
Some of the stuff you CAN compost: veggies, fruit and the peelings, paper (best if it's shredded and unbleached) coffee grounds and filters (we use unbleached filters), tea bags, egg shells, leaves, grass, garden cuttings...anything organic really.
At first I thought the bin would fill up too quickly and I would have to "take breaks" from collecting stuff, but the bin never seems to fill. As fast as I add stuff, it sinks down and gets transformed. Well, it's not really that quick, but it hasn't filled up yet and I've been using it for months now. Occasionally I take the whole lid off and use a hoe to turn it over a bit, bring some of the soil to the top and bury things more. If it gets flies on it, I cover it with one layer of dry leaves which seems to keep them off. To make the process most effective, you are supposed to layer fresh stuff with 'brown waste' (dried leaves or grasses, shredded paper) I am planning to try to collect a large bin of dry leaves this fall so I have them to use in the compost over the spring and summer next year.
The best thing about doing this is that our weekly garbage for the household has decreased to about one small kitchen bag. Hardly seems worth putting it out for collection some weeks, so often we go 2 weeks between collections. Composting is much easier than it sounds!
We've also gotten better at recycling and we check every package for a symbol before throwing it away. Nearly everything we throw goes into some kind of recycling now.
It's annoying to realize that so many people still throw so much into the landfills. It doesn't take much extra time to sort your garbage and take it to the curb in the blue bin or using a small bucket under your sink to collect the scraps. Lots of non-profit organizations take returnable drink containers to raise money, and they will pick them up from you too! One I know about for sure is the Developmental Disabilities Association. They have a program where they supply a bin and they come and collect your returnables periodically. Great for the workplace!
Here's some reading to get you started if you'd like to try composting: