Welcome to our latest nerdy project: composting! Composting is the process of turning organic waste such as food scraps and yard waste into rich soil. And before I loose all the non-environmentalists out there, this isn’t just about helping the environment. It’s also about improving our next big family project for the year: gardening.
Starting a compost bin was something we’ve been wanting to do for awhile, but have been putting off. We thought we’d start one this year or maybe next year, because we thought we’d have to build something and that the start up would be expensive. But then Jake and I watched No Impact Man and found that the No Impact family had a tiny compost bin under their sink in New York.
Oh. That’s easier that we thought.
Reducing our waste is one thing we’ve been seriously thinking about and something we’ve been slowly changing. It’s been a process evolving over years for us. We started to recycle at our first apartment (which did and does cut down our trash by about 2/3). We started recycling our glass and taking it to Ripple Glass bins in 2010 when the awesome company started up. We switched to mostly squiggly bulbs. We use our own cups when buying drinks out. We take our own bags when we shop. We wear stuff unti it wears out, donate what we don’t use, and buy second hand when possible. These are all small things, individual actions that certainly aren’t enough, but are extremely doable.
We figure that the next reasonable steps in our journey to waste reduction is to reducing organic waste through composting. It makes total sense: organic materials in landfills create harmful gases that can pollute air and water. Or they can be turned into soil (something we’d be buying anyway) in our backyard. Seems like a no-brainer.
In true nerd style, I started by researching a bunch. The articles I found most helpful were from National Geographic: How Do I Start a Compost Bin? and Guide to Starting a Compost Bin. In these articles, we learned how to layer brown materials and green materials, what to compost and what to leave out, how to insure that the process works as quickly as possible, and how to make sure things don’t get smelly. The whole family had sort of a mini-class from me (hah!). If you’re thinking of starting up your own compost, I highly recommend these articles!
We used this tutorial for creating a compost bin from a plastic container. This seemed like the best fit for our super small city yard. All it took was a really big plastic container, a drill (here’s ours), and a little time.
After I finished up drilling holes, the kids and I started filling the bin. We gathered a bunch of dried out vines and torn up paper for the first brown layer, then added in the scraps we’ve been saving for the past week to the first green layer. That picture is the before; things compost faster in small bits. The kids had fun chopping up the scraps with shovels.
They also thought that tearing up paper was a good time.
After mixing everything up good, the last thing we did was worm hunt! I mentioned that I planned on buying worms for the bin, and in true Hermione style, Eliza remembered a passage in one of her books (101 Things to Do Before You Grow Up) on how to find worms. We overturned rocks and bricks and looked over leaf piles. We found three so far, but we’re going to do some more in-depth hunting today.
Do you have any experience with composting? Is it something you’re interested in trying if you don’t?
P.S. If you want to find the best of the articles on composting and gardening I find, follow my Gardening & Composting Pinboard.