Composting 101

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, food scraps and yard waste account for 30% of what ends up in landfills. Instead of throwing these materials away, they can be composted! Compost is decomposed organic material that is commonly added to soil to enhance nutrient quality, promote soil bacteria and fungi that aid in plant growth , and help retain soil moisture. In addition, organic material disposed in landfills produces methane, a greenhouse gas. Production of this gas is greatly reduced when wasted food and yard clippings are composted.

What You Need

Brown material – dead leaves, twigs, branches, shredded paper
Green material – grass clippings, fruit and vegetable scraps, coffee grounds 
Water

Composting at Home

Select a dry spot near a water source to host your pile. You can fence off a small area or, if you prefer a tidier arrangement, purchase bins to contain the waste. In the past I have used a bin with a lift off lid to add in the materials. Although this was cleaner and kept the critters away, I found it more difficult to access and mix the compost compared to open piles. Tumblers are also a good option as they are easy to maneuver.

Once you have set up your space, add clippings, scraps and any other organic material as it is accumulated. As the “greens” carry more nitrogen and the “browns” carry more carbon, alternate layers of each type, being sure to moisten dry materials as they are added. Turn your compost pile with a shovel or pitch fork weekly during the summer and monthly during the winter. Don’t worry – a compost pile that is managed appropriately will not smell or attract rodents!

From the Kitchen to the Bin

Although this may seem like common sense, be sure to determine a sustainable way to get your compost outside to you pile. Here are some ideas that may work for you:

  • Take it out after every meal
  • Store it on a small countertop container, like this one, to be taken out every other day or so
  • Store food scraps in the freezer until you run out of space

Your compost may take anywhere from 1 to 6 months to fully breakdown. This will depend on the moisture, temperature, and composition of the material. When the material at the bottom is a rich dark color your compost is ready to use. Now have at it and don’t forget to add the finished compost to your garden, house plants or landscaping!

*For those uninterested or unable to participate in backyard composting, but would still like to recycle organic waste, check out findacomposter.com . This resource connects you to organics collection services in your area. Rust Belt Riders, the top commercial organics collection service in Northeast Ohio, have been collecting and diverting over 32,000 pounds of food scraps each week from landfills as of December, 2018! They plan to have their Residential Composting Service up and running by summer 2019.