“greener” lifestyle can be intimidating

Every year green holidays such as Earth Day, Arbor Day and International Compost Awareness Week are celebrated by millions of concerned citizens.  The purpose of these ecology awareness days is to remind us to take care of mother earth, our home.  The myriad of recommendations for implementing a “greener” lifestyle can be really intimidating.  Take it one step at a time.  Challenge yourself to make one small green modification a year. 

A relatively easy first step is a home landfill diversion project. Kitchen composting is a logical starting point. You will simply need to separate “browns” (e.g., leaves, wood chips, paper and cardboard) and “greens” (e.g., grass clippings and food scraps including egg shells, banana peels and vegetable scraps) from your regular trash.  You will then regularly combine greens and browns in your outdoor composting system.  This system can be a “pile,” a homemade bin or a pre-fabricated plastic composting bin. 

Locate the compost pile or bin somewhere close to your house for convenience. A properly maintained compost pile has no foul odor. Separate all the items listed above from your regular trash, and add them to your pile each week. A variety of odor-free countertop containers are available for collecting greens as they are produced in food preparation. The key to successful composting is following this simple recipe: 3 parts browns, 1 part greens, 40-60% water and air. You will need to periodically aerate or “turn” your pile and add water every so often. It takes about six months to a year for the compost to “finish.” At that point you will have created a 100% organic, safe and nutrient-rich compost to enrich your lawn and garden soil.  Autumn is the perfect time to apply compost.  Apply it your garden, mulch around your trees and spread in on your lawn. The compost will impregnate the soil over the winter months naturally preparing the soil for the following growing season.

The most amazing thing about kitchen composting is seeing the amount of waste a single person or family can divert from the landfill. To objectively measure your success, weigh your compostable material before you process it.  Then extrapolate that figure out to weeks, months and years to determine how much waste you will organically recycle rather than destine to the dump over a life time.  The United States Composting Council states that each household produces 650 lbs of compostable a year.  You might be shocked once you start to keep track of your own household waste.

Landfill diversion through composting is not just limited to private households.  Many grocery stores are doing their part by composting vegetable and produce waste (e.g., scraps, trimmings and overripe food).  Rick & Vic’s Piggy Wiggly in Fond du Lac just celebrated their one year anniversary of participation in a local landfill diversion program.  In one short year they were able to divert 34,000 lbs (that is 17 tons!) of material from landfills. Buried in a landfill, that organic waste would have just putrefied. Instead, the organic waste shrunk to a third of the size and was converted into a clean, useful product with minimal effort and input of energy.

For more tips on backyard composting visit http://www.recyclingconnections.org/ and http://compostingcouncil.org/.

Sarah Everson is the business manager for Compost Joe’s Premium Soils and Organics, a private composting facility located between Fond du Lac and Oshkosh. Sarah also offers seminars and private classes on composting.

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