Composting — reducing greenwaste for a greener world and a greener thumb

The average household discards between one and two pounds of organic waste each day. For the city of New York, that adds up to over one million pounds per year. New York has its own compost project, and as does San Francisco, and even Los Angeles is starting a pilot table-scrap composting program.

Click here to see what composting programs might be available in your region.

The EPA notes that composting could reduce waste going into dumps by 700 pounds per year per household. If that’s not convincing enough, the EPA also lists the following benefits of composting:

  • Reduce local garbage disposal costs
  • Conserve valuable landfill space
  • Reduce air emissions from the incinerator plants that burn garbage
  • Produce a nutrient-rich additive for soil.

We started composting this year. Here are some tips we learned the hard way:

  • If you’re in an area with animals roaming (foxes, bears, raccoons, skunks), do not compost meat products and oils. They will attract animals more than your other organic waste.
  • If your compost begins to smell nasty, use cut grass and leaves in it to accelerate the breakdown of organic matter. You can also cut larger items into smaller pieces (corn cobs, watermelon rinds, grapefruit skins) to help them break down. Ideally, your compost will give off a rich smell that shouldn’t be offensive.
  • Get two compost bins or tumblers — we use these recycled pickling barrels made by a company in Vermont, Jack’s Composters and Rain Barrels. When one seems a bit full, we let the compost mature and use the other barrel.

Some benefits we’ve experienced: our kitchen garbage smells far less than it used to,and we change it less often (organic waste is what generally decomposes and stinks first); we have amazing, rich compost to use in potting plants or for growing vegetables in the summer; we feel better about bringing less garbage to the dump; when it’s time to finally give up on that rotting fruit or head of lettuce, it feels better to recycle it in the compost than to throw it in the trash.

If you get into composting and want to learn more, try these useful sites:

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