Trash Trivia: in 1979, there were 18,500 landfills in the U.S., just waiting to be filled. By 1995, it’s estimated that only 3,000 were available. The average American throws away 4.5 lbs of trash a day. Every year we fill enough garbage trucks to form a line that would stretch from the earth, halfway to the moon! (according to the Cass County Solid Waste Management District in Indiana)
How can you reduce your landfill impact? Simple. Compost.
Composting involves the process of turning your useless, organic leftovers (shrubbery, leaves, food) into a fertilizing mixture, just ready to improve the quality of your garden. When plant waste decays, it releases the same chemicals found in fertilizer.. which is what your compost should look like when it’s ready to use.
Here’s how you do it:
1. Start keeping a separate bowl in your kitchen for food items you would otherwise throw away (leftovers, banana peels, egg shells, coffee grounds, etc.) Also start saving dead plant waste from your yard.
2. Pick out a bin big enough for your compost, and layer these two products in a 2:1 ratio … 2 parts green waste (like food products, green leaves, grass clippings), 3 parts brown waste (dead leaves, sawdust, cardboard, etc.)
3. Moisture is essential.. put enough water in your bin so that when you pick up a green waste item, you should be able to wring it out like a sponge. Often, water will make up 40 – 60 % of your bin. (Keep this in mind as you start layering.) If you feel like you’ve overmoisturized, you can always add more brown waste to balance out the mixture.
4. Mix this pile once or twice a week to help aerate it. This can involve dumping it out and putting the mixture back in or simply stirring it up (which can take a lot of muscle). The more you turn your mixture, the less it will smell like decomposing compost.
5. When your compost is ready for fertilization, it will literally look just like dirt – you shouldn’t be able to identify the contents of your compost. Pour over your plants or vegetable gardens, and reap the benefits!
Composting is a great way to reduce your impact on landfills.
Suggestions: Aeration is an important part to the decomposition stage, so leave this bin outside in your backyard where it can get lots of oxygen. On a similar note, the more surface area that has contact with oxygen, the faster it will decompose, which may impact your storage bin.
There are a few questions you should ask yourself if you are unsure whether to throw something in your compost bin: is it biodegradable? Did it come from a chemical-free lawn? Does it have any contaminants, diseases or toxins that could make me sick? If your answers lead you to think the substance might in any way be harmful, do NOT put it in your compost bin … dispose of it in with your household trash.
Some microorganisms can cause your compost to steam in colder temperatures. Don’t worry about this! Colder temperatures slow down decomposition, but it still happens.
Grain-based items, like bread and pasta, and newspapers don’t decompose as quickly as other items, so they get really slimy and may potentially slow down your rate of compost. Jump on curbside recycling to toss out your newspapers instead.
Another composting method involves adding worms to your bin (along with slightly different steps) to speed up the process.
For anyone with rose gardens, break open your used tea bags and sprinkle the grounds around the roots.. trust me, your mother will appreciate the results. Enjoy!