CulturallyOurs Zero Waste Kitchen Composting Basics 101

Zero Waste Kitchen – Composting 101

CulturallyOurs Zero Waste Kitchen Composting Basics 101

Earlier in the week we talked about ways to avoid food waste in the kitchen by sharing some shopping tips and ideas to minimize the amount of food that gets wasted and thrown away in most kitchen’s around the world. Along those same lines, there are other ways to ensure your kitchen, and your home for that matter, are as zero waste as possible – especially at a time like right now where resources are stretched thin as we come to grips with long term impacts on the global pandemic. A relatively easy and efficient way to eliminate as much food wastage as possible from reaching landfills is via kitchen composting.

Kitchen composting is a great way to reuse previously unwanted things, reduce the landfill input, and generate great organic soil for your backyard vegetable or herb garden, lawn or even just for your indoor plants. At the very basic level, composting is basically bacteria, fungi, bugs, worm and such mechanism breaking down the food scraps into humus. And this humus can be added to your garden. Compost, at the very basic level, is soil amendment.

Most people don’t realize that they already have all that they would need to try their hand at composting right in their own homes. But there are many misconceptions about composting.CulturallyOurs Zero Waste Kitchen Composting Basics

Common Composting Myths

Some of the common myths that many people have are

# Composting myth is hard and time consuming

This couldn’t be further from the truth. All it essentially takes is dumping your compostable materials into a composting pile (as simple as a bucket with a lid) and then turning it every so often.

# Composting is gross and smelly

If you put the wrong things in there then yes it will stink. The key to good composting is knowing what to compost and what not to compost.

# Composting is costly

Composting is probably one of the cheapest forms of recycling. You essentially only need a few things – most of which you probably have at home – bin with a lid for collecting materials and a tool for turning such as a pitchfork or shovel.

Kitchen Composting Basics

Find a container with a lid that’s easy to carry because this is what you will use to collect your compostable materials throughout the day then take them to your compost pile/bin when that container becomes full. Compost bins are of two types, stationary and rotating. Both types must have their contents turned periodically to provide oxygen to keep the composting process going and combine the materials as they decay. When using the stationary bin method, place the pile in a sunny location so that it has as much heat as possible. If it’s in the shade all day, decomposition will still happen, but it will be much slower, especially when freezing temps arrive in the fall.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, there are a couple of things to keep in mind when creating your kitchen compost. For optimal results, you should have a good balance of green and brown natural materials. Green materials are essentially food scraps and brown materials are everyday items in your yard and home like dry leaves, egg carton and newspapers. The greens like food scraps, lawn cuttings provide nitrogen, while the browns like dry leaves, newspaper, hay provide carbon. Newspaper and hay make good brown matter when you’re low on dry leaves. Shred newspaper so it doesn’t form a mat—be sure to avoid glossy or colored paper. Flowers, leaves, grass clippings, and weeds are perfect for the compost pile.

For best results you will need twice as much brown material as green.CulturallyOurs Zero Waste Kitchen Composting Basics

Starting The Compost Pile

  1. Choose an area for your pile where it will be easiest to take your compost materials everyday and easy to turn the pile. Generally you want to keep it away from your living spaces and decks or patios.
  2. Choose your container. Some people even start the compost pile right on the ground. However, a container will keep unwanted pests like rodents out. You can either purchase a compost bin or you can make your own with old buckets, barrels or wooden boards.
  3. To start, add a layer of brown material like dried yard clippings, leaves. Ideally it should be a few inches deep. If you don’t have any brown materials you can start with a light layer of garden soil. Layer brown and green materials alternatively. For a good compost pile, the ratio of green and brown materials should be about 3 parts brown to 1 part green materials or half and half. The ratio is important for proper breakdown and nutrients.

Maintaining The Compost Pile

  1. Keep the pile moist. It should be about as wet as a cloth that has been wrung out.
  2. Keep the pile warm. Feel it, if its warm or hot its fine, if not then add green materials. You can also add a lid and wrap it in black garden fabric to help it in the colder seasons.
  3. Keep turning the pile. This helps mix in new materials, move the stuff from the outside to the inside and break up any large clumps. You should turn the pile around about once a week.

Using The Compost

It usually takes about two to three months to make a pile of compost. Eventually a layer of good compost will form at the bottom of your bin. Dig it out and make sure that any larger pieces are broken down completely before using it in your garden. Keep this process up and you can get a few large batches of compost each year depending on how much you put in your pile.CulturallyOurs Zero Waste Kitchen Composting Basics

What To Compost

For the most part almost any sort of kitchen waste can be added to your compost pile. The most common kitchen composting materials are

  • Fruit/veggie scraps
  • Coffee grounds/filters/tea bags
  • Eggshells
  • Cardboard cartons
  • Newspapers
  • Brown paper bags
  • Yard trimmings

What Not To Compost

  • Meat
  • Fish
  • Dairy
  • Bones
  • Bread
  • Oil/Grease
  • Leftover food
  • Pet feces
  • Weeds bearing seeds, or diseased or pest-ridden plants.

CulturallyOurs Zero Waste Kitchen Composting BasicsKitchen composting is a free and easy way to turn waste into something useful, thus decreasing trash pickups and landfill usage. And getting started doesn’t necessarily require any special equipment – a perfect home project for those days when being at home may seem long and tedious. Plus you feel good about doing something good for the environment.

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