Composting For Busy Mamas

13 May

Did you know in North America:

  • 65 % of what we throw away can be composted?
  • we throw away enough food yearly to feed the country of Canada
  • we throw about 660 lbs (300kg) of food each year per person, according to the 2011 report commissioned by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations Global Food Losses and Waste?

Did you know:

  • GOOD ORGANIC RUBBISH buried 3 feet deep in landfills DO NOT TURN into soil?  They DO NOT DECOMPOSE.
  •  a banana peel takes 3 to 4 weeks to decompose outdoors on the ground but IT WILL NEVER DECOMPOSE IN A LANDFILL because it lacks oxygen, bacteria and earth worms?

In our house, we fill about 1 or 2 of those 1 pound spinach plastic containers full of kitchen scraps everyday.  I have always felt guilty about putting our organic waste in the rubbish bin that goes directly into the landfill, so I’ve been trying to compost for the past 4 years.

Well, all of my attempts the last few years have failed.

I first turned our garage into a cockroach haven.  I thought an expensive compost machine would be the easiest and fastest solution: plug it in, add equal parts of wet and dry and some soil, leave it alone… and voilá compost!  WRONG – besides the slight roach infestation and the unforgettable stench, it never created compost.  What we received from the machine instead was disgusting compost ‘tea’ that leaked everywhere and ate through our garage floor.  It was the worst contraption I have ever bought.  Supposedly my ‘thing’, hubby kindly took on the chore of cleaning it many times because I found it truly gross and too much work.

Then last year, I decided to vermi-compost.  My mother has her own mini vermi-composting factory in her small scale organic farm. Her worm area never smells and she has compost to give away to friends every Christmas.  How hard could it be?  Excited at my enthusiasm, my friend Christina presented me with her old worm bin and a handful of worms from her compost pile to kick-off my new project.  After following a step-by-step guide on how to create a worm bin, within 2 weeks, I lost all the worms. I found some worms in our garden and put them in, they died after a few days. Persevering, I bought 100 African Night Crawlers, the crème de la crème of composting worms and started all over again.  Well, after a month, they were all gone too.

I wanted to get more worms or one of those compost tumblers but I didn’t want to kill more worms and feared the compost tumbler wouldn’t work either.  So, I guiltily threw all my organic compostable rubbish in the trash again.  My heart would sink every time I thought of MY food that would never decompose in the landfill.

Then I visited my friend Sherri.  Sherri grew up on a farm and composted all her life. After I asked her what gadget I needed, she said with her arms up in the air, “I don’t know why people need to buy all these tools to compost when it’s the easiest thing in the world!  Let me show you!”  So she did.  Sherri merely throws her bananas behind a special bush and doesn’t even cover it up with dry leaves.  She digs up a little bit of the ground and buries citrus peels here and there in her garden.  Her compost pile is nondescript – you wouldn’t even know it was there.  It doesn’t smell and is simply food mixed up with some leaves on the ground. Sherri doesn’t turn it very often and doesn’t even bother covering it with brown leaves. 

The Most Natural Way To Compost

I was eager to try this lazy man’s way to compost… let me tell you, it works, it’s so simple and easy! No need to be intimidated by a simple process and no fancy useless gadgets involved, just a pitch fork. No stench, no cockroaches in my garage, lots of fat earthworms, hardly any work and I already have compost after just 2 months!

Where's My Compost Pile?

Now you see it.

Now you don't.

If you’re a busy Mama and have the space in your yard, this has got to be the easiest way to compost!

  1. Choose any spot in your garden for your compost pile. If you choose the right place, people won’t even know you have a compost pile.
  2. Place some surrounding soil (adds bacteria and microbes), your browns (dried leaves, paper) and pieces of greens (grass, leaves, yard trimming, coffee with filters, egg shells, fruits, tea, vegetable, NOT dairy, fats, oil, grease or meats – although my friend Sherri will beg to differ) on the spot.  Sherri puts all her food waste including bits of meat, fat and dairy in her compost pile without any problems.
  3. Mix together.
  4. Top with more dried leaves to hide it and help with circulation so critters don’t smell it and come for a visit.  Consider a pile 3 ft x 3 ft, as this area promotes heat and breakdown of  organic matter.
  5. Add more scraps and turn once a week to speed the process.  An abundance of insects and fat earthworms are a good sign!
  6. Water it once in a while to keep the pile damp and to speed up the process.
  7. Start another pile if you want your original pile to compost thoroughly.  The first pile will reward you with compost in 3 to 6 months!  Although some say if you cut everything in little pieces and turn your pile often, you can get compost in as little as 2 weeks!

Troubleshooting:

If your pile smells bad, check what you’ve put in it or it is too wet or needs turning.
If pile is dry, add water or add less dry matter. Food may also attract ants when dry.
If pile is damp but not composting, turn it and mix in grass clippings and more woody wastes.

Resources:

Cutting Food Waste To Feed The World – Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations

Everything You Have Always Wanted To Know About Home Composting – New York State Department of Environmental Conservation

Global Food Losses and Food Waste – report by Swedish Institute for Food and Biotechnology

Jane Hiller of Sunoco Recycling in the Midlands – Holistic Moms Network

Municipal Solid Waste Generation, Recycling, and Disposal in the United States: Facts and Figures for 2009 – Environmental Protection Agency

Two Charts Explaining How You Waste Food – Good

Waste in Place - an elementary curriculum by Keep America Beautiful

Waste Decomposition Rates – Green Living Tips

World Wastes 1 Billion Tons of Food Each Year – CNN Money

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One Response to “Composting For Busy Mamas”

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  1. School Lunches versus Packing a Lunch: How to Keep Both Healthy « - May 23, 2012

    [...] composting, recycling, reusing and reducing in the community and at [...]

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