Cool, Calm, and Composted
It’s time to get out your gardening shovel and gloves - May 29th is National Learn About Composting Day! It’s important that we do our part to preserve natural resources and reduce our carbon footprint. Composting is not only an environmentally friendly mix, but it can help you save water, energy, gas, and money!
Composting contributes to regional air quality because it saves energy and prevents air pollution. Less waste at home means fewer trip collection trucks to the landfill as well as less fuel consumption and vehicle emissions in the air.
Along with National Learn about Composting Day, Air Quality Awareness Week is also held in May. Air Quality Awareness Week will be celebrated May 3-7, 2021. The theme for this year is “Healthy Air – Important for Everyone!” Please visit https://www.airnow.gov/2021-aqaw-coming-soon/ for more information.
So, what is composting and why should you consider it? Composting is the natural process of recycling organic matter, such as leaves and food scraps, into a valuable fertilizer that can enrich soil and plants. Anything that grows decomposes eventually; composting simply speeds up the process by providing an ideal environment for bacteria, fungi, and other decomposing organisms (such as worms, sowbugs, and nematodes) to do their work. The resulting decomposed matter, which often ends up looking like fertile garden soil, is called compost. Fondly referred to by farmers as “black gold,” compost is rich in nutrients and can be used for gardening, horticulture, and agriculture. Some more environmental benefits of composting include...
· Water and soil conservation.
· Protects groundwater quality.
· Avoids methane production and leachate formation in landfills by diverting organics from landfills into compost.
· Prevents erosion and turf loss on roadsides, hillsides, playing fields and golf courses.
· Drastically reduces the need for pesticides and fertilizers.
1) Select your scraps.
Items such as fruits, vegetables, dairy products, grains, bread, unbleached paper napkins, coffee filters, eggshells, meats, and newspaper can be composted. If it can be eaten or grown in a field or garden, it can be composted.
Items that can’t be composted include plastics, grease, glass, and metals -- including plastic utensils, condiment packages, plastic wrap, plastic bags, foil, silverware, drinking straws, bottles, polystyrene, or chemicals.
2) Store those scraps.
When composting, your kitchen scraps should be part of an intentional layering process to speed up the decomposition process. There's a method for adding them to the pile, so you'll need to store them in a container so you can add them bit by bit.
You can also store the food scraps in a bag in your freezer or the back of the fridge. That's an easy way to avoid odors and insects in your kitchen.
3) Find a location to make your compost.
For this step, it’s important to take into consideration the space you're currently living in.
If you don't have a backyard or a patio and still want a traditional composting experience you can utilize a compost pile or a community garden that you share with neighbors. Of course, during the pandemic, make sure your community garden is open, and practice social distancing.
4) Make the mix.
In the world of composting, the term "the greens and browns,” describe the 2 main ingredients for your mix. "Greens" are typically food scraps, like fruit and vegetable peelings, coffee grounds, or, if you have a yard, grass clippings. "Browns" are more carbon rich such as egg cartons, newspapers, dried leaves, and pine needles. It helps to shred up the paper products before putting them in your pile.
A good thing to remember is that green materials are typically wet, and brown materials are typically dry. When you're layering, you want the dry browns on the bottom with the wet greens on the top. The number of layers depends on your space and your amount of food scraps, but try to keep the layers to an inch or two. You can also put a little bit of browns on the very top to keep away flies and odors.
5) Be patient.
To keep things fresh, you'll want to turn or rotate the pile with a stick or shovel. As for how often you turn it, you'll probably turn it less if you have the right ratio of greens to browns. When starting out you might be turning the compost once every 7 to 10 days.
To know if your compost is ready, your nose can be the defining factor. If it smells bad, it probably means the compost is not decomposing properly and your pile might be too wet, or you might have to readjust your ratios of greens to browns. When your compost is fluffy and earthy, it’s ready to put it in your garden, or in a plant in your home.
Furthermore, composting eliminates organic waste from releasing methane, which is a potent greenhouse gas in landfills. For more regional air quality tips and information, please visit https://www.airnorthtexas.org/