It’s Hip, It’s Easy, It’s Green! Composting 101

The United States is the #1 trash-producing country in the world, producing about 40% of the entire world’s garbage. Every year the average American throws out about 1,600 pounds of organic waste. This organic garbage is the number one least recycled material in the U.S. Composting this extra waste would lead to a significant reduction in the amount of trash that heads to our country’s landfills each year. By investing just a small amount of time, you can contribute toward solving a growing and worsening problem, while also improving your landscape and gardens. If you and your family are not already composting, take the first step and get on board—I promise its easier then you think to begin composting at home today.

Let’s break it down (no pun intended!):

•    What is composting?

–  Compost is one of the best ways to enrich your soil without using commercial fertilizers. One of the best aspects of compost is that it is cheap, in fact, almost free. All you need is a little bit of effort and the organic waste you’d otherwise be throwing in the garbage. The process involves breaking down organic waste and turning it into a dark, nutrient-rich soil. Most people create their compost by using a container of some sort, or by forming into a heap. The material begins to decompose because of certain (naturally) occurring bacteria and fungi. Additionally, small creatures, such as earthworms, and millipedes help to move the decomposition process along. While composting it is important to use approximately equal amounts of “greens” (ie: food scraps, grass clippings, leaves etc…) and “browns”(ie:  straw, dead leaves, small branches etc…)

•    What is organic waste?

Organic waste is anything that was or is still living. This includes:

-Garden/yard waste: grass clippings, dead leaves, branches, sawdust, hay, flowers.

-Food waste: vegetables, fruit, coffee, egg shells, tea

-Other: shredded newspaper, paper, vacuum dust, cardboard.

•    What should I avoid putting in the compost?

-Meat and bones, diary products (basically anything that will rot or attract rodents) -Large branches or logs

-Diseased plants

-Magazines or bleached paper

-Bread, rice, pasta, or cake


•    What are the benefits to composting?

– Aside from drastically reducing the garbage issue, compost helps to significantly improve overall soil quality. It loosens clay soil while also improving the water retention of sandy soil. Adding compost to your property generally improves soil fertility and also promotes the healthy root development of plants.

•    How do I start composting?

1.) First choose the desired location for your compost. Most often this is in the backyard of your home’s property. I recommend a compost bin as opposed to a contained heap, mainly because they are nicer looking. They also tend to keep the compost hotter, making it decompose quicker. There are many different container options from which to choose, including retail compost bins (available at most home and garden stores) or what the DYI version, which I prefer. Simply take a large rubber garbage can, preferably one with a lid, and drill anywhere from 30-40 small ventilation holes through the sides and bottom of the bin. Thinking smaller and want to get the kiddos involved? Here’s one that we made and decorated!

2.) Buy or find in your home a medium sized container with a lid in which to store your green kitchen scrapes. Begin filling it while preparing dinner tonight!

3.) Add your first layers of browns and then greens to the compost bin and continue to alternate the materials. Keep the compost damp, but not wet, and mix the contents up occasionally with a shovel or simply by tipping the (sealed) container over and rolling it around a few times. Within 3-6 months, your compost should be ready for use.

Remember, if done correctly, you should never have to worry about your compost smelling foul or being unsightly. Enlisting help from the whole family, makes this a more manageable experience, while also helping to teach your children about helping to reduce our community’s overall waste.

4 thoughts on “It’s Hip, It’s Easy, It’s Green! Composting 101

    1. Great Question Christi!!

      After a few months of adding both greens and browns to your compost, and giving it several good stirs on separate occasions, it will become a dark, rich soil. At this point, grab your shovel and begin hauling it to any area of your garden or landscape. Mix it right in with your garden soil or spread it around your trees and shrubs. You can even spread it around over your grass. The nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium in your compost make for a fantastic natural fertilizer!

  1. There is a company that gives you a sealed compost bucket, picks it up weekly, and leaves a fresh bucket. You can receive free compost or donate it to a local farm. They don’t operate in Birmingham right now, but if they get 500 interested people to sign a form they will consider Birmingham! sign up here if interested:

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