Monday, 3 October 2011

Composting for a Greener Future

Like our friends at 505-Junk, we believe in finding solutions to problems. By using waste for other needs, we can not only help remove the waste (problem/solution #1) but also put it to good use (problem/solution #2). Composting is a great way to reduce your garbage output and environmental footprint! Compost is a form of biomass and is directly related to going green.
By composting you can help the environment by naturally recycling a large majority of your household waste into nutrient-rich soil. Your trash contribution that ends up in landfills is reduced, and using compost instead of chemical fertilizers will also reduce pollution! By composting you can also help your plants by feeding them nutrients.  Compost is great for your garden’s soil, improving its fertility and ability to hold moisture.  A richer soil means healthier and more productive plants. If you are able to grow some of your own fruits and vegetables this is a great way to support their nutritious value!
How does it work?
The science behind composting is fairly simple, the process actually occurs frequently in nature! When a plant dies, it is consumed by animals of all sizes. The result is a combination of digested and undigested food that is left on the forest floor. This mixture, in turn, becomes a rich, soft and sweet-smelling soil. Compost does not leave a foul smell unlike most fertilizers. Similarly, when your kitchen scraps are exposed to air and bacteria, fungi will go to work on it and break down the organic material into simpler substances. It only takes two to three months before it is completely transformed into a dark, earthy soil-like substance!
Easy composting guide
1) Assemble your composting area
You will need a clear space of about three square feet where the composter will be placed. A composter can be purchased (available at most hardware / home and garden stores) or home-made.
There are two types of composters available: open bins and enclosed containers.
Open bins are made out of wood, chicken wire or recycled plastic. The advantages to using an open bin are that it is convenient for adding materials and it easily collects rain water. However, they can often attract rodents and pests, become too wet if not covered, become more difficult to mix and are usually an eyesore. Large scale municipal composting usually operates using the open bin method, but without using a bin. Bulldozers are frequently used to mix the compost heaps so container walls are not practical.
Enclosed containers are more aesthetically pleasing and they do not attract pests; but they do require you to add water.  Enclosed containers are available in two different designs: upright box-like containers and rotating drums. It is difficult to mix the compost in an upright container while rotating drums are easier to mix and unload. Make sure to choose a composter that is right for you.
You will also need a tool to stir the compost with (a pitchfork works well) and a sealable container to collect kitchen scraps that will be added to the compost.
Open Bin Composter
Enclosed Upright Container

Enclosed Rotating Drums Container
2) Collect the right composting materials
It is important to collect the right materials to add to your compost. The materials that you collect are categorized into either “greens” or “browns”.
Greens are materials are fresh, moist and contain a high amount of nitrogen. Examples of greens include grass clippings, green leaves, weeds, fruit and vegetable peelings and scraps, tea bags, pasta, coffee grounds, stale bread and eggshells.
Browns are materials that are dry and contain a high amount of carbon. Examples of browns include dry leaves, dried grass, straw/hay, wood chips, sawdust, napkins, dryer lint and vacuum cleanings.
It is usually not a problem to have too much of the brown category materials (it will just take longer to compost), but too much of the green category can be a problem. Greens alone will decompose quickly at first, but then will just stall leaving a smelly pile of garbage instead of compost. Generally, it is good to have a mixture containing approximately four parts of browns and one part greens.

3) Keep the compost healthy
You must also add oxygen (air) and maintain the right level of moisture in your compost. The compost must be moist like a wrung out sponge, but not soggy. Remember to turn the contents of the heap to work air into the pile. It is good to do this at least twice a month to help break down the contents and prevent odor.

Composting Tips
The composting process works best when the materials are small. Shred weeds and trimmings.
Don't add thick layers of any one kind of waste. Grass should not be more than 6 cm deep and leaves up to 15 cm deep (cut or chop or dry and crumble them). If you can, let grass dry first or mix it with dry, coarse material such as leaves to prevent compacting.
You can add materials to your composter all winter long. The breakdown process slows down or stops when the pile is frozen, but it will start up again in the spring. Thorough turning in the spring will reactivate the pile.  Empty the composter in the fall to make plenty of room.
If you’re short on space, try vermicomposting indoors. Or ask if you can contribute to a neighbour’s compost heap. In exchange, you agree to turn the contents on alternate weekends and share in the proceeds.
If you don't have a garden, donate your finished compost to schools and other community groups for use in their landscaping.
Vermicomposting (Worm Composting)
For those that do not have the space available for composting (i.e. people who live in apartments), vermicomposting is a great alternative. Instead of creating a compost pile outdoors, you can collect kitchen vegetable scraps in a container and use worms to digest it. The worms turn your scraps into a very rich fertilizer.
Many communities also offer composting programs to help you get started. Check out the following for links for information on programs in your community:
Sources:The Garden of Oz

Thank you for taking the time to learn more about renewable energy - Knowledge Is Power! If there is something else you'd like to know write to us at and we'll do our best to address it for you! For more information go to or write to us if you want to get involved. Have a green day!