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Tina Ferris April 24, 2009
Composting 101
by Tina Ferris

Composting 101

It’s been a long night at work; I get off the bus and walk the block and a half to my home and put the key in the door. I know my puppy is on the other side, ready to greet me. But, it isn’t until the door is fully open and the first wafts from the kitchen enter my home, that I can truly be satisfied. It may be the pungent, acrid smell of old coffee grinds, or the faint, shallow aroma of eggshells mixed with yolk. Maybe it’s the deep, earthy smell of cilantro stems or browning lettuce leaves. When I come home at night, I don’t look forward to the smell of a meal magically being concocted in my slow cooker, or the fresh scent of clean laundry from an earlier load. It is instead, a freshly brewing pile of compost developing in the small bin next to my kitchen sink.

Composting food is one of my favorite ways to help the environment. I enjoy cooking a lot and this process assures me of the fact that nothing is wasted. For those of you who are not yet in the composting loop, let me give you a brief synopsis.

When any living food is left out, such as veggies or fruits, or leftover yard clippings, it begins to decompose, breaking down into a hearty, earthy substance that helps to enrich the growth of other plants. It is a completely natural process that would occur if you dump your food into a trashcan, on the street, or in a compost bin. So, what most do is set up a convenient storage spot for your compost. Maybe in a bin next to the kitchen sink, or in a garbage can next to your regular trash. Every time you have un-edibles, like coffee grinds, eggshells, watermelon rind, corn stalks, nutshells, etc., just toss them in your compost bin.

If you have a yard, garden, or a number of houseplants, this composted material can be added to your soil to enrich the growth of your plants. You will need to build or buy a composting bin. Here are a couple of great sites to inspire your next step . . . For building your own composting bin, check out This site includes building materials, measurements, and super simple directions. And for those of you in interested in buying a bin: This site can take you from complete compost novice to an absolute expert!

Now, for those of you who live in an apartment building or condo, and may have no yard around, you are not out of luck. There is a great website, Here, you can enter your state, and find a listing of all the composting facilities in your area. Just like taking your recycling to a center, you can also take your composted material to be dumped and decomposed. Now, for those of you who may be discouraged by having to take an extra trip just to dump your leftovers, remember, making positive changes for the environment takes initiative. If a compost facility is not convenient, try working with those in your building to make a bin and put it in the basement. Once a month or more, tenants can switch off going to the facility to drop off the compost. Remember, saving the Earth is not always easy but, it is always rewarding.

I think the most exciting part of this activity is that it makes me feel a direct link and contributor to the life cycle. In countless ways, humans have interrupted this cycle, and the activity of composting is a way to return, becoming a catalyst for new growth.

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