Conservation Station: Composting - Environmentally Friendly, Without Losing Friends!

By Stacy Martin on August 03, 2012 from Conservation Station via Connect-Bridgeport.com

This morning I was running through the City neighborhoods and was a little disappointed to see very few recycle bins out for pick-up.  I realize collection days are different, but in one particular section of streets I know it was collection day because some houses had their bins out and ready for pick-up.  These were few and far between though. 
 
SO . . . . COME ON RESIDENTS OF BRIDGEPORT LET’S SHOW THEM WE CAN WIN!!!!  Start recycling today and go to www.Recyclebank.com/greenchoices and sign up to help Bridgeport win, then report your activity.  Bridgeport ONLY has from July 1, 2012 until December 31, 2012 to recycle and log our progress that counts toward the SC JOHNSON GREEN CHOICES REYCYCLING CHALLENGE.  Bridgeport stands to WIN $100,000 in grant money.  We were the chose community in the WHOLE State of West Virginia, so represent our State well and get started!  Go to www.Recyclebank.com/greenchoices - sign up, recycle and report it online each week!!! It’s that easy!

Last week I blogged about the havoc created by the storm on June 29 and how these severe storms wreak havoc on more than just our conveniences of living, but on the environment.  One area, in particular, I focused on was disposing of spoiled food when there is no electricity for days on end. Most people throw it in the trash where it ends up in the landfill with tons of other food. WHY is this BAD?  When food (as well as yard waste) is disposed of in the trash and hauled to the landfill it sits with tons of other dumped food (and yard waste) where it begins to produce methane gas and acidic leachate (the most damaging of the greenhouse gases) and further harms the environment as it continues to decompose (www.about.com, “The Benefits of Composting” by Colleen Vanderlinden).  If methane is not controlled at a landfill the gases begin to seep into the ground and can spread to nearby buildings where it has the potential to explode (www.idreamofeden.wordpress.com “Composting for Dummies”).  But what if there was another way to dispose of food that can also save you money and the environment?  Let’s reduce the methane levels in our community and start composting! 

Composting might sound intimidating, offensive to thy neighbor, or like just too much work.  But in reality, if you know the basics it’s very easy, cost effective, and can be done within the City without being offensive or in violation of City regulations.  As with everything, the internet is a valuable resource for learning everything there is to know about composting – how to get started, what type of compost bin to use, and how to do it without creating offensive odor or attracting unwanted animals.  You can do a search on “Composting without odor” and several websites pop up with very basic instructions.  I will try to lay out some basic rules, as well as address some City concerns that might arise.

First, what type of compost bin should you use?  The answer to this depends on what type of property you have, where you plan on putting the compost bin, how much compost you would like to make, and how much work you want to do to make your bin.  Composting can be done in apartments (although indoor composting requires special red worms and close monitoring of moisture and temperature levels), in apartment complexes (as long as permission is granted from the landlord and you agree to maintain it for the entire complex), housing in close proximity, and homes with lots of acreage.  Essentially, almost anyone can compost!  Compost bins can be made of scrap wood and chicken wire; made from a garbage can by drilling holes for aeration; made from a wooden barrel (again drilling holes); or purchased at garden centers or home improvement stores.  Before deciding what type of bin you are going to use, decide where it is going to be placed – a basement, a balcony, a kitchen, a patio, or in the yard.  Just make sure that wherever you decide to place a compost bin it is in a space that allows for adequate drainage and has at least partial sun.  If you live in the City, I highly suggest checking out www.ehow.com “How to Make Compost in the City” by Heidi Almond.  This is a great article with several links to compost bins or how to compost in confined spaces.

Second, know your basic rules for composting!  (1) If the waste comes from the ground, it can be returned to the ground; (2) keep your compost pile moist but not wet with at least partial sun; (3) add to the compost pile weekly, not daily; (4) use approximately 20 worms (earth worms will do) to break-down the compost more quickly; (5) turn frequently with a hand rake, shovel or rototiller; (6) use a good ratio of “brown” organic matter such as hay, straw dried brown leaves, sawdust, twigs, and shredded newspapers to “green” organic matter such as green grass clippings, animal manure, and food scraps; and (7) know what can and cannot be composted!  To elaborate on a couple of these rules I will say a little more.  Ceramic “cookie-jar-like” containers with holes for ventilation can be bought at local stores and used to collect food scraps, animal fur, hair clippings, dryer and vacuum lint, etc. on your counter until you add to the compost pile.  It is important not to add daily to the compost pile but to turn the exiting pile daily and add weekly when the previous material has started to break down (this will help eliminate odor building up).  The adding of worms is key for two reasons – it helps to keep odor down by speeding up the break-down cycle as they digest the material, as well as they are a good monitor for moisture levels - if you notice worms escaping it means the pile is too moist.

The following lists are from the website www.idreamofeden.wordpress.com:

WHAT TO COMPOST: animal manure, cardboard rolls, clean paper, coffee grounds & filters, cotton rags, dryer & vacuum lint, eggshells, fireplace ashes, fruits & vegetables, grass clippings, hair & fur, hay & straw, houseplants, leaves, nut shells, sawdust, shredded newspapers, tea bags, wood chips, wool rags, yard trimmings (any other questionable items – do an internet search to answer)
 
WHAT TO LEAVE OUT and why:
Black walnut tree leaves or twigs – harmful substances may be released to plants when used
Coal or charcoal ash – may contain substances harmful to plants, garden
Dairy products (butter, milk, sour cream, yogurt, etc) – creates odor problems and attracts flies/rodents
Diseased or insect-ridden plants – diseases or insects may survive and be transferred back to plants
Fats, grease, lard, or oils – creates odor problems and attracts flies/rodents
Meat, fish bones, meat scraps – creates odor problems and attracts flies/rodents
Pet wastes (dog or cat feces, soiled cat litter) – may contain parasites, bacteria, germs, pathogens, and viruses harmful to humans
Yard trimmings treated with chemical pesticides – may kill the beneficial composting organisms
 
Third, be familiar with City codes and any homeowner’s agreements that you are subject to as a landowner/renter. Composting is permitted within the City, but can still be regulated under the Health and Sanitation Code, nuisance, garbage and pest ordinances, or the like, and may also be addressed in any homeowner agreement you might be a part of. Before you start composting get familiar with what is permitted for your dwelling.  Most likely you will be safe if you strive to build and maintain a compost pile/bin that has little odor, adequate drainage that doesn’t interfere with neighboring properties, and is not located too close to your neighbors property or any buildings. Follow the basic rules for composting, especially what can be composted and what should be left out – this will drastically eliminate odor which neither you nor your neighbors want around. Another important note, especially for our Wild and Wonderful State and all its wildlife, make sure you have a nice secure enclosure for your compost. A secured lid or fencing is necessary or you just might attract some very unwanted dangerous animals, as well as many complaints from your neighbors. A secured lid also helps to control the odor, another plus for warding off complaints. 
 
So you can be environmentally friendly and also keep your friends and neighbors when you take up composting. Most landfills are comprised of at least 30% material that can be composted by individual households, but after such severe storms like in June that percentage goes up drastically when people throw yard waste and spoiled food in the garbage. The result becomes high methane levels for our area and a detriment to all.  The plus for you to compost – saving money!  The compost can be used to grow better plants, gardens, flowers (that don’t die right away) instead of spending tons of money on garden soil.  Compost maintains better moisture in the ground causing you to use less water especially in times of drought. Finally, compost also prevents erosion and improves soil and land structure around your dwelling. So do your part and take up composting today!
 
Pictured from top: Compost bin made of scrap wood; compost bid purchased from hardware or home improvement store; compost tumbler and compost barrell.


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