Composting 101: Everything You Need to Know to Compost Properly
With big cities in the U.S. like Los Angeles and New York recently enforcing compost laws, it’s likely you’ve heard more talk about the benefits and impact of composting on our planet. But what exactly is composting, and how can it empower us to make a positive change for a greener future? In this blog, we'll delve into everything you need to know about composting, from the basics of the process and how you can do it at home, to its effect on our planet.
What is Composting?
In short, composting is nature's recycling process, where organic waste like food scraps is turned into nutrient-rich soil for gardens and the environment. It reduces waste, conserves resources, and promotes a healthier planet. Composting has been around since the beginning of time, but we’re happy to see its resurgence as more people realize that it's a sustainable practice that brings us closer to a greener planet.
How Composting Helps the Environment
Composting benefits our planet in more ways than you might think. For example, did you know that food scraps and garden waste combined make up more than 28 percent of what we throw away? When you compost your scraps, that waste is diverted from landfills and turned into something useful.
Composting also cuts methane emissions from landfills, as it breaks down through anaerobic decomposition, where methane-producing microbes are not active in the presence of oxygen.
Another benefit to composting is that it greatly helps large-scale agriculture systems. Instead of relying on synthetic fertilizers that contain harmful chemicals, composting offers an organic alternative.
How Composting Works
Here is a rundown of the composting process, simplified. When food scraps and other organic materials are collected in a compost pile or bin, bugs, and bacteria come to break down that waste into smaller pieces. Over time, this waste transforms into dark, crumbly, and nutrient-rich compost. This compost is then used to grow food, trees, and flowers!
What Goes Into a Compost Pile
A successful compost pile needs four key elements to thrive: nitrogen, carbon, air, and water. The most important thing about composting is finding the right balance between carbon and nitrogen in the materials you use. The ideal ratio is 25 to 30 parts carbon to 1 part nitrogen. Too much carbon-rich material will slow down decomposition, and too much nitrogen-rich material can create a wet pile. But don't worry, you can fix these issues by adding more carbon or nitrogen materials as necessary. The right combination of materials, air, and water will yield the best compost results!
Nitrogen-rich materials are often called “greens”. These include things like your grass clippings, food scraps, and coffee grounds.
Carbon-rich materials, or “browns”, include dry leaves, plants, twigs, sticks, shredded paper, and shredded cardboard.
Oxygen and Water:
Airflow in your waste piles is achieved by layering materials, making sure they’re broken down into smaller pieces before allowing them to decompose and mixing/turning your piles regularly. As for water, just add enough for the pile to be moist!
How to Compost at Home & Find the Right Compost Method for You
There are multiple ways to compost at home, and it can be done both indoors and outdoors. It all depends on where you live, how much space is available to you, how much organic waste you produce, and the amount of time you’re willing to spend on the composting process.
When it comes to composting in your backyard, you can either follow the hot or cold composting process. Hot composting is a quicker but more controlled way of composting. It involves carefully maintaining the right balance of carbon and nitrogen in the compost to break down organic waste efficiently. With ideal conditions, you can get the final compost product within four weeks to a year! When managed correctly, the high temperatures in the compost pile can eliminate weeds, plant diseases, pesticides, and herbicides, as well as insect larvae and eggs. If you’re looking for a low-maintenance way to create your own compost, cold composting might be for you. It’s slow, but it allows your scraps to decompose naturally without much interference from you. Mother Nature takes the lead, and you don't have to stress about specific compost ratios, regular aeration, or monitoring moisture levels. However, keep in mind that depending on the cold composting method you use, it may take one to two years before you have compost ready for use.
If you’re living in an apartment or condo and don’t have the option to start your own backyard compost, you can still prevent organic waste from ending up in landfills and have it turn into compost. Some cities have programs that provide curbside collection of compost piles along with regular trash, so it’s best to check with your local municipalities first. If that’s not available to you, look for community compost sites that allow you to drop off your organic waste.
When collecting organic waste in a smaller indoor space, it’s likely for things to get messy or develop a smell.
A great place to start would be having a good quality compost bin. Not only does the Net Zero Co. Kitchen Compost Bin have a sleek, minimalist design that looks great on your countertop, but it also has an airtight seal and internal charcoal filter that works to absorb odor and keep out flies. The bins can be lined with compostable bin liners for an easy cleaning process, and the Net Zero Co. Replacement Carbon Filter is best when switched out every 3-6 months.
What to and What Not to Compost
All organic materials can be composted at home. However, it's best to avoid composting animal products in your at-home composting system. Although animal products are acceptable in most municipal composting systems, including them in home composting might attract animals and insects and could leave pathogens in the compost's end product. Let this chart and these videos (1,2) be an easy guide to what you should and shouldn’t compost at home.
Image from yuzumag.com
When to Start Composting
The best time to start composting is whenever you are ready and have the means to do so! Composting can be done throughout the year and is not limited to specific seasons. Whether it's spring, summer, fall, or winter, you can begin composting at any time. The sooner you start composting, the sooner you can divert organic waste from landfills and create nutrient-rich compost. It's a rewarding and eco-friendly practice that you can begin whenever it feels right for you!
Composting doesn't have to be all-or-nothing. In fact, it can be surprisingly easy and simple to start composting at home. You don't have to make a complete switch all at once; taking small steps with composting can still have a significant positive impact on the environment. By doing your part with composting, you can contribute to waste reduction, conserve resources, and promote a healthier planet. So why not take the first step today? Start your composting journey with the Net Zero Co. Kitchen Compost Bin and their efficient Carbon Filters, making it convenient and odor-free.