Compost Awareness Week: No More Excuses, Start Your Pile

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According to the U.S. EPA, 24 percent of our waste is organic material that can be composted. Photo: Flickr/littlelovemonster

Compost Awareness Week will take place May 2-8 this year. And we promise, it’s easier than you think to start composting at home today.

The U.S. EPA says about 24 percent of our waste is organic material that can be composted.

In fact, Americans throw away an average of 1.3 pounds of food scraps daily – translating to almost 13 percent of the nation’s municipal solid waste (MSW) stream.

However, according to the National Resource Defense Council (NRDC), only 8 percent of Americans compost their waste, including residents in cities like San Francisco and Seattle, where composting is part of the general waste pickup.

Let’s quickly break down the basics of composting:

1. Learn the benefits

Composting is the natural process of decomposition, sped up by a deliberate strategy in a concentrated environment to transform ingredients such as grass clippings, vegetable scraps, newspaper and more into a new material that can then be incorporated back into the soil.

One of the largest contributors to home-based composting piles is kitchen waste. Scraps from meal preparations as well as cooking supplies can be added to a compost bin and, in turn, contribute to your soil and mulch.

2. Pick your location and your bin

Before you can collect these scraps in your kitchen, you need to prepare where the compost will be stored.

Composting bins have come a long way throughout the past few years, and the kitchen composter is the leader of that change. Popular options range from the stylish counter containers, like the Kitchen Compost Crock, to the hidden cabinet unit, such as NatureMill’s automated composter. Both these units are useful but serve different purposes.

The crock would be best used for a home that has an outdoor compost pile and is just used to store scraps for a short time inside the house. This unit can be kept on the counter next to the sink or by the stove.

As the week progresses, add your kitchen scraps to the small container. Just like trash duty, assigning compost duty will include taking the house scraps out to the large pile and cleaning out the crock weekly.

The automated composter is useful for smaller spaces or homes without larger piles available. You can compost your scraps inside your home in a shorter period of time.

3. Here’s what goes into your pile

Once you pick your spot, you have to get educated on what can go into your pile. omposting guides generally sort matter into two categories, according to what they contribute to the process: green (nitrogen) and brown (carbon). A lot of kitchen items are perfect for your pile.

Common items include fruit and vegetable scraps, eggshells, grains, coffee grounds, tea bags, grass clippings and other yard waste. View a list of more compostable items.

4. Consider vermicomposting

If turning your pile daily seems like a lot of work, consider vermicomposting, or composting with worms. Vermicomposting is a simple to setup and minimal maintenance is required. Not only is it a great option for your trash bin, but it’s also a perfect way to fertilize your household and garden plants!

5. Read more about it

Here are our favorite how-to and in-depth articles on composting:

Cheat Sheet: Composting
The Next Wave in Composting
I Got Worms! Composting and You