If you’re like most people, you’re probably at least somewhat conscious of your impact on the environment around you. You may have committed to a lower waste lifestyle, switched to eco-friendly trash bags or started to take recycling more seriously. If you want another awesome way to reduce your carbon footprint, consider the art of urban composting.
Composting is an excellent way to reduce your overall environmental impact while also benefiting your garden and saving money. While most people think of composting as something done on farms or large, open areas, the truth is that anyone can compost at home, even in urban spaces.
What Is Composting?
According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the average person in the United States disposes of approximately 4.5 pounds of trash every day.
In contrast to throwing organic waste into the trash, composting is the process of recycling organic waste that is then processed rather than dumping it into the trash, which will eventually wind up in a landfill.
In the United States, food scraps account for 30 to 40 percent of the food supply, and while food is biodegradable, it can rot in a landfill for years before breaking down properly. This organic matter is instead converted into a substance that is usable in gardens and flowerbeds as fertilizer and soil through the process of composting.
Composting occurs when organic material, contained in a prepared space with access to moisture and aeration for an extended period of time, decomposes and turns into nutrient-rich soil used for gardening.
Composting is far more environmentally friendly than dumping organic matter and food scraps in a landfill because, as organic material decomposes, it releases methane gas, which contributes to global warming. Organic material waste, when processed correctly in composting piles and containers, is better for the environment and is just as valuable for the production of food.
Urban Composting Techniques
To compost successfully, you must ensure that you have the proper mix of organic material, which means adhering to the three “colors” of composting: brown, green, and blue. You don’t want to just put food material into a composting container. You want to mix it with other organic items that contribute to breakdown.
To make a compost pile, you should combine equal parts brown carbon-rich materials such as dead leaves and twigs with green nitrogen-rich materials such as plant matter and food scraps and enough water (blue) to keep it moist. In addition, you should make sure that you are composting the appropriate materials.
It is not recommended to compost dairy products, meat, oils or fatty foods such as fish, among other things. In fact, the best composting systems are those that do not use any animal products at all. Coffee grounds, plant matter, eggshells, fruits and vegetables, bread and tea bags, on the other hand, can all be composted.
You should water your compost pile to keep it damp but not drenched. If you are composting in an urban environment, you will want to make sure that you have the proper container and that you are following the proper methods for doing so, whether it is in your backyard or on your apartment’s balcony.
Compost Pile Tips
If you have access to an outdoor area or backyard, the compost pile is the most convenient method. A compost bin can be made out of wood with a cover on top, or you can purchase one online, into which you can throw away your compost scraps. This is also the best type of system to incorporate worms into your compost, as worms thrive in outdoor composting piles.
An outdoor pile should be contained in a container with good airflow and be protected from drenching rain. It should also be open enough to allow moisture to enter the pile as needed.
Outdoor Compost Container Tips
Larger versions of these containers can be placed on a patio, with smaller bins being placed on an apartment balcony, depending on your available space. The container could be as large as a kitchen trash bin or as small as a large flower pot, depending on where you want to position it. The container should have holes drilled into it to allow for airflow and evaporation exchange. It should be light enough to be moved easily to allow the mixture to be turned over and circulated properly.
Even if you don’t have access to a patio or backyard, you can compost indoors, though you shouldn’t use worms in your composting in this situation. Purchase bins and containers designed specifically for composting or make your own out of a 10- or 18-gallon plastic bin. If you are building one yourself, make aeration holes in the top before you begin to fill it with the contents.
If you are composting indoors, you will probably want to avoid adding odorous foods to your compost, such as onion scraps or wet items such as leftovers from melons. Still, you should always add a handful of dried leaves or strips of paper to your compost every time you add food scraps. Make sure to turn it frequently to ensure even mixing, and that the food scraps are chopped into small pieces before putting it together. The smaller they are, the easier it is for them to be broken down.
What Can You Do with Compost?
There are numerous applications for your homegrown compost, including use in your garden or in your indoor potted plants. You can even give it as a gift to other gardeners who would appreciate it, perhaps even delivered in 30 gallon compostable trash bags.
Your compost can be given away to farms or neighboring gardeners, sold at farmers’ markets or donated to educational institutions with gardens. Whatever you decide to do with your compost, you can be proud of the fact that you are contributing to better environmental practices every step of the way!