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Breaking Down Composting

Get mulching

Basically, if you can, you should. It doesn’t require a large area and it will help all of your brothers and sisters and the planet by saving on landfill space. Plus, in some places you’re charged by the pound and/or by the bag for trash removal, so you might even be able to save yourself money.

If you have a garden, there’s a clear benefit for you: nutrient-rich soil that will help you grow delicious vegetables. Growing vegetables takes vitamins and minerals out of the ground. That’s great, because they end up in our bodies, making us healthier, but the soil needs to be replenished for the cycle to continue.

The fact is, there’s a problem with trash. We use landfills. When they’re full, we have to find space for another. It’s a growing issue in many towns and cities. Well, isn’t a landfill basically a big compost heap? No. And never mind all the toxic stuff that goes into landfills, let’s just look at the organic material.

When trash goes to a landfill, everything gets piled on top of everything else, so oxygen can’t get to the organic waste. When bacteria breaks down organic material with the help of oxygen, it’s aerobic decomposition. This kind of decomp doesn’t produce nearly the amount of ammonia and methane that anaerobic (without oxygen) decomposition produces. Methane is a major contributor to global warming, and ammonia is extremely toxic to aquatic animals, though humans and other mammals can deal with the diluted┬ásmall amounts that might be found in compost.

Composting doesn’t solve the problem all by itself, but it certainly helps. We have a duty to engage ourselves and our children in environmental stewardship, and this is a clear step in the right direction. Plus, if you do have children, composting can be a great learning tool for some pretty cool science stuff. What kid doesn’t want to know where dirt comes from?

Composting also requires very little effort, even for the initial setup. Some people build their own compost containers, but it’s not necessary. You can buy a simple container or just use chicken wire. It’s also possible to just have a pile, though it doesn’t look very nice. Here’s a simple guide from wikiHow that can get you started.

What to do with all this compost?

If you don’t have your own garden, you might be able to give it to people who can use it. Donate it to the community garden. Put a sign out front that you have free mulch. Go to your local farmer’s market and let people know that all they have to do is come get it.

Make sure you compost responsibly. If you’re offering this prized possession to others, let them know you take pride in your work. There are certain things that shouldn’t go into a compost pile because they can negatively effect the gardens that are ultimately grown from the compost. Chemicals, for example. You can compost paper towels, but don’t throw dyed paper in there. The chemicals from the dye will be in your beloved soil.

Check out this list of things never to put into your compost pile (damn, I really thought bread was okay.) Some of them are to protect you from unwanted “varmints” while others are to protect the health and vitality of the plants that will one day spring from this soil and could end up on your dinner plate.

The rest is simple. Keep a compost bucket somewhere out of sight in your kitchen and dump it on the compost pile every few days. Every once in a while, take a rake or pitchfork or shovel and turn the pile over, to aerate the mulch and keep the decomposition process going. Throw your grass clippings, broken branches, and dead leaves in there, too. You can buy worms to help the process along, but it’s not necessary, especially if your compost container has an open bottom – the worms will come to you.

You don’t have to go it alone

Here’s an idea for those of you who live in an apartment or housing complex and don’t have the space: how about a community compost? Is there anywhere near you that could be used? Do you have neighbors that would engage in this project? Talk to people and find out.

Reduce, reuse, recycle – composting is all three rolled into one. ┬áThere’s so much for you and your community to benefit from, and what is there to lose? A square yard or 2 of lawn space?

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