Eco Go Go

Crazy for composting

September 23, 2020 Elyse Kardos Season 1 Episode 5
Eco Go Go
Crazy for composting
Chapters
Eco Go Go
Crazy for composting
Sep 23, 2020 Season 1 Episode 5
Elyse Kardos

Tune in to find out more about how you can transform your food scraps from waste to soil!

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Rate and review Eco Go Go at ratethispodcast.com/ecogogo
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Music by Richie Colosimo - @parmageddon_
Artwork by Bronson Lockwood - @bronson.lockwood

Show Notes Transcript

Tune in to find out more about how you can transform your food scraps from waste to soil!

Follow Eco Go Go on social media
Facebook
Instagram

Rate and review Eco Go Go at ratethispodcast.com/ecogogo
Check out the new website at ecogogo.org

Music by Richie Colosimo - @parmageddon_
Artwork by Bronson Lockwood - @bronson.lockwood

Elyse (00:32):

Hello everyone and welcome to Eco Go Go, the podcast that makes sustainability easy. I'm your host Elyse Kardos. Thanks for joining me for yet another episode. I wanted to talk about composting this week. Not only have we had some listener requests for it but I wanted to know a little more too. I grew up composting a little bit but my dad mostly took care of the pile for me and for our family. So I thought I knew what to do when it came to composting but it turns out that I actually don't know so much.


Elyse (01:10):

In my current living situation my roommate and I have a nice compost pile in our backyard but neither of us are 100% sure what we should be doing with it, how it works, how much of what we need, if we're actually making anything right now. So I thought this would be a great episode to touch on and we'll have a lot of options here so if you don't have a yard please don't fret. You know we're going to cover this for hopefully everyone in all circumstances. So let's get crazy for composting!


Elyse (01:46):

We have one term to cover this week and that is composting. Composting is a fermentation process that involves the breakdown of biological or organic material using insects and other microorganisms in the presence of air and moisture. This organic material can then be used as nutrient-rich soil.


Elyse (02:12):

So what are some composting facts? Food scraps and yard waste make up about 28% of what we currently throw in a landfill in the United States. That is a pretty significant amount that you could be doing something else with or redirecting. And you can use your compost and soil on your potted plants or your garden. Even cooler, composting reduces global warming as composted soil has an enhanced carbon storage capacity.


Elyse (02:48):

So let's talk a little more about composting there's so many different ways that you can compost but a few key components are crucial for composting to work properly. You need a carbon to nitrogen ratio of between 25 to 1 or 30 to 1 in your compost pile. If you have too much carbon it limits the development of the microorganisms that break down the carbon and if you have too much nitrogen then you'll have a result of ammonia and really heavy terrible smelly compost, or at that point it's not even compost it's just kind of a pile of old moldy food scraps.


Elyse (03:36):

Inorganic materials also have fixed carbon to nitrogen ratio. Some organic materials, I'll name a few, food has 15 to 1 carbon to nitrogen ratio. Sewage sludge, we talked about this on our don't dump that down the drain episode, that has a 16 to 1 carbon to nitrogen ratio. Your grass clippings 19 to 1. Leaves have a 60 to 1 carbon to nitrogen ratio. Paper has a 200 to 1 carbon to nitrogen ratio, and wood has a 700 to 1 carbon to nitrogen ratio.


Elyse (04:23):

Some other things that you'll need for a compost pile to work properly... enough moisture or water, enough aeration within that compost pile, and the proper temperature. You can't compost really if it's too well if it's extremely hot out and obviously if it's really cold out things freeze and you're not able to do much either. So it's recommended that you have a compost pile that is 3 to 1 parts of brown to green in your compost. What do I mean when I say brown to green? Brown materials tend to be things made up of carbon. So twigs in your backyard, dead leaves, shredded newspaper, branches, etc. Green materials are materials that are more nitrogen based. So veggies and fruit scraps, other food scraps, yard clippings, and coffee grounds.


Elyse (05:26):

And why are we talking about composting, what are the benefits here? As I said before, we're reducing greenhouse gas emissions because the nutrient-rich soil that we're making is able to hold more carbon and as we mentioned before composting creates a nutrient-rich soil for plants which means you'll be able to use less chemical fertilizers for your green friends at home. This also leads to a lot less of your waste ending up in a landfill. And composting lowers your carbon footprint. Who doesn't want to do that? That's why we're here right?


Elyse (06:09):

What kinds of things can be composted? There are so many things that can be composted it will take me much longer to read a list of things that can be composted versus things that can't. That might be an exaggeration, but regardless there's a large list of things that you can look up typically if you're wondering if something is compostable or not. You can find an answer very quickly on the internet, but I will name a few. You can compost fruit, vegetables, eggshells, tea, coffee grounds, grass clippings, twigs, branches, shredded newspaper, sawdust, and fireplace ashes among so many others.


Elyse (06:55):

Now on the flipside, what are some things you should generally avoid composting? Again this is another large list of things for this too but generally some common things that you can expect won't compost well in your household compost. Meat, dairy products, animal waste, you know like feces from your cat or your dog, fat, oils, stickers on your products on your veggies and fruit, yard waste that has been treated with chemicals, walnut and walnut twigs, this is because these contain chemicals that can kill the microorganisms, and diseased plants.


Elyse (07:40):

So if you're in a location where your community or your municipality actually does composting, you might hear me say that meat and dairy products and fat and oils aren't compostable, yet your local composting program accepts those. That's because some of these things may compost in commercial composting but not in your household composting. So these things require a lot of extra time and attention and things to factor in for them to break down properly. Which is mostly possible in a commercial composting facility.



Elyse (08:21):

And in addition to what you can and can't be composting it's really important that you are mindful of what you are composting and how much of it. While many fruits and veggies can be composted, certain parts of them may take longer to break down. You should keep the amount of these things that you compost to a minimum. Overly acidic food scraps like orange peels and lemon peels, tea bags and coffee filters, these tend not to compost well if they are not made from compostable materials, so ensure if you are dumping out your uses tea or coffee in your compost pile that you either remove it from the bag or filter or ensure that your bag or filter is compostable. I did see people saying that you could put dryer lint into your compost pile, but recall in the past we've spoken about microplastics that can easily be released from washing synthetic fabrics in your own clothes washer. It might break down fine in your compost pile but still you are now risking having these microplastics physically inserted into your compost pile. And pits of certain fruits, like avocado, take a really long time to break down, so they should also be composted in moderation. Again this list can also go on. There so many possibilities, so when in doubt I like to look up what I'm composting.


Elyse (09:57):

And let's pause for a quick drink break.


Elyse (10:11):

And we're back! I hope you all took some time to get a drink too. Let's get to the best part. What can you do to compost in your situation? How can we make a difference and an impact in our food waste through the use of composting? Let's start with if you have a yard and you’re able to create a compost pile on the ground in your yard. You’ll need a minimum of 1 cubic yard to make your pile on the ground. If making a compost pile on your ground is not a viable option you can purchase a compost bin from your local home improvement store or online.


Elyse (10:51):

I recommend a product called Free Garden Earth. This is a great option and it's manufactured of 100% recyclable content. It fits well in any part of your yard. Find a location out of direct sunlight and you want to mix in some leaves and water so there's moisture but more just kind of like a damp sponge. It should not be oversaturated. Mix in your food materials and then top it off with some garden soil or already complete compost to add all of the essential microorganisms to the pile. This is very important. Without the garden soil or the completed compost added on top, it will be a really long time for you to get the correct amount of microorganisms to break down your food scraps.


Elyse (11:46):

And once you have your pile, you should continue to layer it with these these different layers of brown things like leaves and twigs and sticks, dried out leaves that is, and they should be broken down. They shouldn't be large. Obviously if a huge branch fell off your tree you can’t just chuck it in your compost pile. You would want to break that down before you put some of it into your compost pile and you will layer this with your scraps.


Elyse (12:19):

And you want to turn the pile at least once a month except for in winter months. Now when I say turn the pile, it means to exchange the outside of the pile with the inside of the pile to your best ability. This just gets the air flowing inside. And how do you know when your compost is ready to use? When it's dark and crumbly and none of the starting material is visible you're ready to use it in your own garden and potted plants. To really test this there are tons of ways that you can test whether your soil has the correct levels for nutrients but a nice quick way that you can test at home is to seal a bit of this in a ziplock bag for 24 to 48 hours. At the end of the 24 to 48 hours, when you open the bag, it should just smell like soil. If it has any strong smelly odors to it other than soil you might have too much nitrogen in your compost pile.


Elyse (13:24):

So that's how you can start a compost if you have access to a yard. If you do not have a yard, don't fret! You still have options. You can still get a compost bin at your local home improvement store and specifically made for indoor composting. And if you tend to them properly they will not smell. Imagine you have some potting soil sitting in your house, it doesn’t really smell unless you open it and put your face up to and take a big whiff. So the same should be the case with a well-kept compost bin indoors.


Elyse (14:03):

And additionally there may be a local composting program in your area. You can look up composting facilities in your area whether or not you have a yard at your disposal. You know I get the idea is very intimidating especially when we're talking about chemistry and things having too much ammonia in it, and of course if you're growing your own vegetables you might not want to risk the nutrients in your garden. So you can look up local composting facilities in your area, typically most cities have a ton. I found a really cool one in my area called Shadyside Worms. They actually will give you some soil to use every like once a year which is really cool and if you don't have a need for that soil they'll just donate it to charity.


Elyse (14:56):

And then obtain a bin to collect the compost in until you're ready to take it to the facility or it's ready to be picked up. I know Shadyside Worms actually gives you a bucket to use. Other important things you can do surrounding composting and food waste, is you can encourage your company or organization to start composting in the workplace. There are so many options available for commercial composting so there's a lot to choose from.


Elyse (15:24):

And another important thing you can do surrounding food waste is to, of course, reduce your food waste. This is tough but something that we can all take small steps towards doing, even myself, I will admit that! If you live in an apartment and know people in the same building that also want to compost, you can inquire with a local composting agency about picking up compost for the whole building.


Elyse (15:51):

And you can reduce your yard waste in general overall by leaving grass clippings on the lawn instead of sweeping them up. And those are all of my suggestions that I have regarding composting and how you can compost in your home, in your living situation, anywhere.


Elyse (16:10):

Before we go, let's mention the eco activity of the week. This week I began to make a small menu from all the food that I have in my pantry, fridge, and freezer. We talked so much this week about composting that it brings to light another very important question of how can we actually reduce our food waste at home. I think these two topics are so intertwined. So I will touch more on that next week and we can really break down the amount of food that we're wasting and using and consuming.


Elyse (16:43):

Thanks again for tuning into Eco Go Go this week yet again! I really mean it when I say your continued support brings me so much joy. And if you're enjoying my podcast, finding my tips useful, and have a moment or just one moment time to spare, rating and reviewing Eco Go Go would be a great help to the show. Rating and reviewing a podcast helps the podcast find its way to others who are looking for similar podcasts and it would be so great if we could get more people onboard learning about how they can be more sustainable in their home.


Elyse (17:20):

So if you're able to, I'd really appreciate just a moment of your time to rate and review Eco Go Go. I paired up with rate this podcast to help me help you make reviewing Eco Go Go much simpler. So head over to ratethispodcast.com/ecogogo to leave a review or rate Eco Go Go. If you have time, I'll provide a link to this in my episode notes and bio as well. That's all I have for you this week. Special thanks to Richie for the show tunes and Bronson for the artwork. Until next time, have a green week!