Every little bit helps when it comes to cutting down on waste and living in more sustainable ways. Composting is a good place to start. Each year Canadians toss tons of food that could have been composted into landfills. Composting is good for your plants, the earth and allows you get more out of your food. Even apartment dwellers can compost! This guide will cover:
Finding a containing
How to assemble
Dos and Don’ts
Finding the container that’s right for your house is the first step. This isn’t just a matter of how much space is available – composting bins can be expensive. If you live on a larger property, you might consider composting outside. Some cities now have green bin programs, which is compost collected and managed by the municipality.
Supermarkets use large plastic bins to transport all kinds of sauces that just get tossed when they’re empty. Try dumpster diving at a grocery store, or ask them directly. Larger units can be stored in a basement or closet but make sure to find one with a lid. Try using a charcoal filter attached to the lid of the bin if it starts to smell. Any small container can work to collect scraps in the kitchen – a large ice cream container works as well as anything.
Making it work
Food scraps are great, but good composts have nitrogen in them. The easiest way to do this is to line the bottom of the composting bin with newspaper and pile dry leaves and other garden clipping on top. Generally throw in a centimetre or so of dry gardening scraps for every seven or eight centimetres inches of food waste.
It should have some moisture but not be dripping wet. If you’re unsure, grab a handful and squeeze it. It should have the same feel as a sturdy sponge after it’s been wrung. If it’s too wet, add more dry materials like cardboard or shredded newspaper. Too dry? Throw some water on it.
Dos and Don’t
Many things are compostable, basically anything you would have left over from a meal. Fruit skins, popcorn kernels, pasta, bread, rice, egg shells, nut shells, seed hulls, coffee grinds, cores and pits are all fine to compost. There are even some unusual items that can be composted, like dry lint, human hair, liquid from canned vegetables or anything else that is organic.
Don’t compost anything that can’t be reasonably broken down in a small container. That means old magazines, cloth, anything toxic or plastics. Also avoid composting any animal byproduct other than milk or cheese. Composting meat is not a good idea, even if it’s just chicken skin or bones. Butter will just attract bugs and it takes far too long to break down.
What to do with your compost
Aside from the obvious, there are a million different uses for compost. Take it to do some guerilla gardening, donate it to a community garden, or sprinkle some on your favourite tree at the park. It takes about 45 days to get good compost from a pile so there’s a lot of time to think about what to do with it.
If using a lot of vegetables regularly in your composting, consider making soup stock. Keep all your vegetable ends and unusable bits in a container in your freezer. Once it’s full, boil everything to create a delicious vegetable stock. The same can be done with bones from chicken or ham.
Don’t forget to aerate. Stir your compost up about once a week.
Adding earthworms to your composter produces some of the best quality compost. They get to eat and you reap the benefits.