It’s ok. We’ve all been there. You have your box of tasty, fresh produce, and you’ve cooked a few meals, but you’re busy. You forget to use an item. Maybe it sits in your produce drawer in your fridge until it is too soft to use. You could throw it in your trash can… Or you could think about recycling the nutrients in your waste food! According to the federal Environmental Protection Agency, food scraps and other organic waste currently comprise about 20 to 30 percent of what we throw away, and when these nutrients go into landfills, they are no longer usable for agricultural and horticultural applications. When trapped deep inside a landfill, without oxygen, decaying food scraps also produce methane, a powerful greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change. Why not complete the system and return those nutrients into the soil?
Home composting is easy, and if done properly, it shouldn’t be the least bit stinky. If you are a gardener, you can use the compost to fertilize your garden (or you can donate it to a friend if you aren’t the green thumb type). All you have to do is add the right ingredients and do a little bit of maintenance.
Proper composting boils down to three main ingredients: browns, greens, and water. According to Umbra Fisk of the web magazine Grist, browns are “dry, carbon-rich materials like cardboard, dry yard waste, potting soil, leaves, sawdust, and wood chips”, while greens are “wet, nitrogen-rich organics like food scraps and grass clippings”. You’ll notice that browns and greens are meant to supply the two main elemental necessities for healthy plants- nitrogen and carbon. If you mix these two ingredients together with some water, you create an environment that is very hospitable to decomposers like bacteria and fungi, who will process
the waste materials into a rich, dark brown soil-like substance that will instantly enrich any gardening soil. If you want to try something really crazy, build a vermicomposting system, which uses earthworms to do the work of decomposing the food scraps.
An important note here- it is important to keep dairy, meats, oils, and pet poop out of your compost. These can contain harmful pathogens that will also grow in the decomposition environment, and the heat that is naturally generated by decomposition will not be enough to destroy them!
All in all, composting can be a fun way to help the environment and your garden. It’s fascinating to watch yucky waste food be transformed into a rich soil additive before your eyes.
Enjoy the last weekend of May!