So….you can buy compost at the nursery; it’s not too expensive. BUT, you can also produce your own compost for FREE! No un-recyclable plastic bag needed! Plus, no food waste goes to a landfill! Composting is not only good for the planet, it’s good for your pocketbook. I think when we compost, we become more aware of how much food we waste. And this awareness inspires us to plan our meals more carefully and use what we have on hand, rather than doing spur of the moment grocery shopping and having food rot in the refrigerator.
Take a look at the Environmental Protection Agency’s graphic for Municipal Solid Waste (trash that goes to a landfill).
In 2017, food waste accounted for 15.2% of solid waste! Each of us can completely eliminate our contribution to this figure by composting at home.
I started composting about a year ago, and I’m still learning! I use a closed system because my yard is a Wildlife Waystation…I love my raccoon, possum, squirrel, and coyote friends, but I don’t want to feed them. I have tried a tumbler type system and a more open stacked worm composting system, and I prefer the tumbler. It’s takes a while for the compost to generate, but I don’t get as dirty dealing with it. I store my food (green waste) in a container in the refrigerator and take it to the bin when the container is full. We routinely shred our confidential paperwork, and I add that shredded paper (brown waste) so there’s about a 50:50 mix. If I need more brown waste, I use leaves and yard trimmings. You need water too for the decomposition process. I wander out to the yard and turn the tumbler 10 times every few days – that’s it. When the compost is ready, I mix it in lightly in my beds or add it to my potted plants.
Using this system, I have found that it takes about 3 months for the compost to become dirt. It helps to cut the food waste into small pieces so it breaks down faster. Adding worms to the waste breaks it down even faster.
Because it takes so long for the food waste to “cook”, I work with 2 barrels at once. I keep adding food to one until I have the amount I want, then I leave it to process while I add to the other one.
Here is what should NOT go into your food compost: Diary products, eggs, meat, bones. I am currently trying to figure out what to do with these waste items - Stay tuned!
For people without a yard or a good place to put composting systems outside, there are counter-top electric composters for food waste. I think that’s pretty cool! The VitaMix FoodCycler FC-30 CAN handle the above mentioned yard compost no-go items – eggs, meat, dairy, bones. It’s expensive at $300; it will be interesting to see if the price goes down over time as dealing with food waste becomes a more ingrained part of how we run our kitchens.
I feel pretty good about the composting we are doing. It’s easy and takes almost no time. Plus it feels good to know that I’m keeping waste out of the landfill by feeding my plants – everybody wins!