Thursday, May 5, 2011

Composting for Cheaters

Yesterday I briefly mentioned composting. Here's the thing, I don't actually compost. Well, I do, but I don't. Are you confused? Let me explain. We have this great resource in our town, a Mixed Organics Cart. All we have to do is collect our mixed organics (everything from banana peels, to used coffee filters, to yard debris), put it in the bin, and set the bin out with our weekly garbage and recycling pick-up. Little effort on our part except for separating the mixed organics from our garbage and recycling by keeping it in a separate container under our sink (that we periodically dump into the mixed organics bin in our backyard). They do the rest!

Our "compost" container - you can reuse any of your old food containers that have a lid!
Eventually I would like to have a real compost when we finally do something with our backyard (put in a vegetable garden, plants, etc. Right now it's just the lovely bark chip landscaping that came with the house), but in the meantime, the Mixed Organics Cart is awesome. I encourage you find out if this is a service your city offers as well, or better yet, start your own compost! To borrow from the EPA,

"Compost use can result in a variety of environmental benefits. The following are a few of the most important benefits:

Compost enriches soils

Compost has the ability to help regenerate poor soils. The composting process encourages the production of beneficial micro-organisms (mainly bacteria and fungi) which in turn break down organic matter to create humus. Humus--a rich nutrient-filled material--increases the nutrient content in soils and helps soils retain moisture. Compost has also been shown to suppress plant diseases and pests, reduce or eliminate the need for chemical fertilizers, and promote higher yields of agricultural crops.

Compost helps cleanup (remediate) contaminated soil

The composting process has been shown to absorb odors and treat semivolatile and volatile organic compounds (VOCs), including heating fuels, polyaromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), and explosives. It has also been shown to bind heavy metals and prevent them from migrating to water resources or being absorbed by plants. The compost process degrades and, in some cases, completely eliminates wood preservatives, pesticides, and both chlorinated and nonchlorinated hydrocarbons in contaminated soils.

Compost helps prevent pollution

Composting organic materials that have been diverted from landfills ultimately avoids the production of methane and leachate formulation in the landfills. Compost has the ability to prevent pollutants in stormwater runoff from reaching surface water resources. Compost has also been shown to prevent erosion and silting on embankments parallel to creeks, lakes, and rivers, and prevents erosion and turf loss on roadsides, hillsides, playing fields, and golf courses.

Using compost offers economic benefits

Using compost can reduce the need for water, fertilizers, and pesticides. It serves as a marketable commodity and is a low-cost alternative to standard landfill cover and artificial soil amendments. Composting also extends municipal landfill life by diverting organic materials from landfills and provides a less costly alternative to conventional methods of remediating (cleaning) contaminated soil."

So how do you compost, are you a cheater like me, or a master gardener that utilizes every square inch of that nutrient-rich goodness?


  1. We have been composting for a few years and have a system that might not work for other people. We keep a nice compost pail with the charcoal filter by the sink. When that is full we dump it into a 5 gallon pail in the garage (those awesome orange Home Depot ones). When THAT gets full Jay goes out to a 55 gallon drum and dumps it in. We already have crunched up leaves and compost going in there and Jay drilled holes along the bottom and lower sides to drain liquid. Instead of a lid we have mesh stretched across the top and we place a piece of corrugated plastic on top to keep out the rain. We have a compost turner to mix it all up. So far we aren't using it around the house but it's definitely cooking in there! We have a long temperature gauge helping us track our heat.

  2. This is why my blog is called "Simple GreenISH Living" and not "Simple Green Living." You and Jay are the pros when it comes to all things green :)

    When we're ready to have an actual yard with plants we'll be sure to hit you up for advice on creating an effective composting system.