On the Cabot Sustainability team, we love our three R’s; Reduce, Re-use, Recycle. Summer is on the way and with it comes long days punctuated by backyard BBQs, berry picking and fresh garden goodies, it’s the perfect time to talk about composting. Whether you are a gardener or simply want to divert food waste from the landfill, we wanted to share some helpful tips.Composting is easy, and a step on the road to greater #sustainability worldwide Click To Tweet
Composting 101: From your Cabot Green Team
It’s pretty simple, we promise. First, ask yourself, “Do I want to create soil for my garden?” Or, “Do I want to simply divert food scraps form the landfill?” If you answered that you want to use it in your garden, then follow steps for 6 Easy Steps to Backyard Composting. Alternatively, if you’re looking to simply divert food scraps from landfills then read Green Cone Composting.
Backyard composting doesn’t have to be the overdue, scary, intimidating item on your weekend to do list. In fact, it can be quite rewarding. Think about this, America wastes about 40% of its food (goes to landfill). That’s 133 billion pounds of food annually. This food could feed 25 million hungry people. Composting alone doesn’t solve this problem, but, it does help us think about how to reduce food waste and how to produce more food from the food that does end up as waste.
Composting is a great way to get your kids going green, too. Check out Cabot’s Small Steps Toward Sustainability educational program for activities to get you’re the whole family involved in your composting project.
6 Easy Steps to Backyard Composting
- Select an open, sun-filled spot
- Place composter on the ground (no digging necessary) or build DIY compost bins
- Collect food scraps from your kitchen and empty into composter (Greens)
- Add your Carbon such as sticks, leaves, dried grass, sawdust, wood chips, fibers (Browns)
- Stir with a stick or shovel so that compost is being aerated and brown and green materials mix
- Pull nutrient rich soil out and use in your garden!
Choosing your Composter
The Minimalist Composter: Pile in the yard compost
Don’t want to keep running to the back yard as you cook…no problem! Our friends and fellow B Corp Full Circle have an odor-free kitchen compost collector that lets you collect your compost scraps right in your kitchen for your next trip outside.
The DIY Composter Enclosed Bins: Homemade open compost bins
The Hands Off Composter: An enclosed compost bin
The Action Composter: A tumbler or spinning compost bin
Green Cone Composting Green Cone Composting
- Select a sunny spot where you can dig into the ground
- Dig according to manufacturer’s instructions to bury the bottom section of the composter
- Add greens and only greens – but all of them (yup, animal waste included)
Watch as the Green Cone safely uses solar heating to digest up to 11 pounds of food waste a week. And, because over 90% of the waste material gets absorbed as water by the soil, you only need to clean once every few years!
Carbon is Key! You NEED carbon in your compost, this is what keeps it from being a pile of rotting food. Carbon = no offensive smell, no rodents or animals, no leaky, yucky mess.
A good rule of thumb is to aim for three parts carbon to one part nitrogen.
So where does Carbon come from? Carbon is found in what composters call ‘brown’ materials – think leaves, fruit waste, corn stalks. Nitrogen comes from the ‘green’ materials – think grass clippings, veggie scraps, weeds, and other food waste like coffee grounds.
3 Common misconceptions about composting:
1. It attracts rodents/ animals
- This is only the case when there is too much moisture or too much nitrogen (green)
- Bears can be attracted to compost because of the anaerobic bacteria that’s breaking down your food scraps and turning them into soil. This is typically good, it means your brown to green ratio is working. But, to avoid problems with bears increase the amount of brown materials in the compost. Cover kitchen scraps (green material) with brown material after it is added and turn compost to allow oxygen and prevent strong odors.
2. It smells bad
- Shouldn’t smell incredibly bad, if it does there is probably too much moisture and/or lack of oxygen (it needs to be turned).
3. Exact proportions/ recipe is necessary
- Composting isn’t as complex as perceived. There really just needs to be a good mix of brown and green materials.
So what about CHEESE?! Basically all organic matter can be composted. It is commonly misunderstood that cheese and other dairy products cannot be composted; however, they can. Like making some of your favorite Cabot recipes, you just need to follow the basic composting ingredient list. You can even put meat and bones in, as long as you add enough carbon materials (browns) and aerate the pile. If you find your composter isn’t breaking down quickly enough and are worried about attracting animals, hold the meats and bones until your brown to green ratio is churning out that nice, dark, nutrient-rich soil and then re-introduce them.
Browns + Greens + Sun/Heat + Stir = Healthy Compost
Compost pile temperature, moisture content, and odor should all be monitored.
- Temperature is a reliable measurement tool used to determine whether or not the compost is decomposing.
- Temperature should increase to about 130 degrees Fahrenheit for three days in a row when composting in order to get the compost started and active.
- Turn the compost pile if the temperature is too high, turning it can cool it down.
- Low temperature may be because of high or low moisture in the pile, compaction and lack of oxygen in the pile, or an uneven ratio of carbon to nitrogen.
Another reliable tool that determines decomposition
- Your compost should be between 50-60% moisture
- When holding a handful of compost, it should not drip from hand or have water released when squeezed; however, compost contents should stay intact and be glistening with water.
- If contents crumble or fall apart there is too little moisture.
Regular Monitoring is beneficial to the compost and good for beginners because it is more likely to ensure quality compost.
And lastly, remember, 13% of all municipal waste is food scraps from homes and restaurants: that’s 30 million tons of food a year in the landfill. Backyard composting will go a long way in providing for a healthier planet.
For more information on composting, download Cabot’s Small Steps Toward Sustainability educational program for kids and adults, or go online to your state’s Department of Environmental Conservation or Agency of Natural Resources web pages. They’ll have lots of information and helpful people to point you in the right direction.
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Cabot Creamery Cooperative is the world’s first cheese maker and dairy cooperative to achieve B Corporation Certification, a validation of its attention to environmental and social impacts on stakeholders.
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This post was originally posted on 6/21/16 and updated on 4/15/19.