The Impact of Composting

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June 1, 2011

Up to one-third of the waste sent to landfills is comprised of food scraps and yard waste that could easily be composted. With a few minor adjustments to your household, composting can have a major impact on the amount of waste you send to the dump. If you tend a home garden, compost is an invaluable addition to your soil, nourishing plants without expensive chemical fertilizers.

The beauty of composting is that it can happen just about anywhere. Some people prefer a bin or tumbler, making it easier to turn over larger piles of compost, while others use a simple wood or wire bin that can be made from recycled materials. If you’re undecided, you can find scores of books and articles written on the subject. It may seem daunting at first, but the basics are all you need to get started.

No matter how you set up your composting equipment, the key is finding the right balance between green and brown material. This balance can be the difference between making lush, fertile compost that breaks down quickly and creating a miniature rotting landfill in your backyard.

Food scraps, grass clippings, coffee grounds, and even hair are all considered green composting material because of their high nitrogen content. While green material will help compost break down quickly, too much can lead to a foul-smelling garbage heap.

Even out the ratio by adding brown material such as dry leaves, paper and wood products, straw and even dryer lint. The carbon content of the brown material slows the decomposition process down. The proper ratio for best results is between 5-to-1 and 8-to-1 brown-to-green material.

Even if you don’t have the space to compost at your home, you can likely compost through a city or county program. You will be helping your municipality create revenue, as these programs sell finished compost to the community. Plus, when it comes to environmental stewardship, every little bit helps.