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Composting: How to Protect the Environment from Home


Image by Kelly

Reducing the Impact of Wasted Food

While stuck at home due to quarantine, many families are consuming more food due to stress, boredom, and stockpiling. Food becomes quickly discarded without a second thought. Many forget the negative effects of trashing food in landfills. So what can be done?

Here’s a short message about my inspiration for this project and what you’ll find below:

My short intro video!

Compost on Your Mind?

Although most people have heard about composting and many choose to compost at their school or workplace, relatively few people actually understand the benefits of doing so. You can test your knowledge on composting here:

. . .

THE BASICS

What is Composting?

Composting is the process of decomposing organic material into a soil amendment (a.k.a compost!). The recycling of excess materials, such as leaves and food scraps, transforms them into this nutrient-rich fertilizer. Three basic ingredients are required to effectively compost: browns, greens, and water. “Brown” materials include dead leaves, branches, and twigs, which provide carbon to the compost. “Green” substances are grass, vegetable scraps, and coffee grounds, and provide nitrogen. Water provides moisture to break down the organic matter. Oftentimes, decomposers – such as worms or fungi – are lured to speed up the process of decomposing. Compost is often used in gardening, landscaping, and farming.

Benefits

  • reduces methane emissions from landfills
  • lowers the carbon footprint
  • a natural alternative to toxic chemical fertilizers
  • improves soil quality
  • decreases the amount of carbon dioxide

What Can I Compost?

I have listed specific types of brown and green material that can be composted above, but many people like to compost a variety of items to reduce waste. Generally, the rule is anything that was once living and/or is made from organic material is compostable. Here are some common items that can also be composted:

Debunking Myths

When bringing the idea of composting to my community, many of my peers were hesitant to start. Here are some common myths that I have heard, and the truth behind these misconceptions.

“Compost bins smell bad”.

Ephraim Bennett, IL

Compost bins look and smell like one thing: dirt.  A properly managed bin will not attract pests or rodents and will not smell bad. If a compost bin smells, try reducing the green material and/or moisture.

“Composting is expensive”.

Misha Weiner, TX

Almost all the materials required for composting can be found in your backyard. A simple bin (which could be a cardboard box, trash can, or a pile of leaves), green material, brown material, and water can all be easily found. All it takes is some mixing, and you’re set!

“Composting won’t make a difference”.

Michelle Rubin, FL

Collective composting is one of the biggest steps we can take to protect our environment. The US Composting Council reports that the amount of compostable food waste currently landfills is enough to fill 7.8 million passenger cars. That’s 31 million pounds of compost!

. . .

THE PROBLEM

Compostable Trash

These common myths discourage many families from attempting composting. While almost every human has the materials to compost, relatively few choose to do so.

If not composted, this trash ends up in landfills, adding massive amounts of carbon and methane into the environment. These gases are classified as greenhouse gases, and landfills release these gases into the atmosphere. Instead, enhance your soil by composting! Compost is a better alternative to fertilizer because it retains more water, reduces soil erosion, and provides the needed nutrients to help plants grow.

. . .

WHAT YOU CAN DO

CREATE A BIN

Composting is an effortless way to recycle food scraps and enhance your garden. This is an activity that every single person can do, and it doesn’t require a change in lifestyle. Below are two approaches to building a compost bin, depending on your location:

Backyard Composting

  1. Select a dry, shady spot for your bin.
  2. Add brown and green materials, and ensure that the larger materials are chopped into smaller pieces.
  3. Add water to the organic material. 
  4. Regularly increase the greens and browns, and add water so that the material is moist.
  5. When the material at the bottom is dark and rich, the compost is ready!

Indoor Composting

  1. Acquire a bin with a fitting lid.
  2. Add brown and green materials, and ensure that the larger materials are chopped into smaller pieces.
  3. Add water to the organic material, and place the lid over the bin to keep it moist.
  4. Regularly throw in greens and browns.
  5. Add decomposers to the compost, such as worms or fungi. (optional)
  6. The compost should be ready in two to five weeks!

SHARE YOUR BIN

Some of my friends and neighbors have been inspired by my posts and wanted to design a compost bin for themselves. Some people avoid receiving packages and practice social distancing, while others simply live too far away for me to deliver these bins. Take a look at their progress!

If you decide to make a compost bin, share it with me! I have my instagram down below, but if you prefer, my email is mengk21@greenhill.org .

ICAW 2020

International Compost Awareness Week (ICAW) is from May 3-9, and it is celebrated to build awareness on the benefits of compost.

This year’s ICAW is just two weeks away! Each year, hundreds of individuals organize different activities including composting workshops, give-aways, and facility tours. Many of these opportunities will still be available online. Visit their website to find more events, download stickers, or order their poster!

CompostNow

Not interested in composting? Have no fear, CompostNow can do that for you! Sign up for CompostNow, and they will deliver you a bin every week to dump compostable materials in. CompostNow does all the heavy lifting, but still tells you how much compost you have produced and sends you some compost back as a thank you.

Check to see if their services are available in your area. If they can reach you, that’s great! If not, take their survey to tell them you are interested.

STAY INFORMED

It’s always good to hear how people are protecting the environment and listen to their stories. Here are two good videos that I found to be particularly inspiring:

The Compost King explains his take on composting.
CompostNow explains the importance of composting.

. . .

COLLECTIVE ACTION

In addition to starting a compost bin, I have also used social media to distribute bins to community members. I hope to platforms to educate my peers on carbon emissions and climate change, spread environmental awareness, and encourage others to start composting. On Instagram, I have created @kellycomposts, where I post compost bins that my friends or I have made. I also feature my backyard, garden and dog (Toby!) to increase general awareness on environmental protection. Any local Dallas resident can DM me for a free compost bin, and all of my followers can reach out to me for advice on creating their own bin!

While platforms such as Snapchat, Twitter, and TikTok can help inform teenagers, I also wanted to spread my message to local families. I explored uncharted territory and landed upon Nextdoor, a community app where neighbors can post about local events. I, with the help of my mom, posted information about my compost bins and that people interested in composting should contact me for a bin. Within a week, twenty of my neighbors have contacted me asking for bins. So far, I’ve made 23 bins and taught 27 people how to make a compost bin.

Fighting climate change starts with local activities such as composting. Through education and awareness, these small actions transform into global movements demanding change. I have learned about the intricacies of climate change through my Global Online Academy class, Climate Change and Global Inequality. I hope that my Catalyst Conference is informative and inspires you all to start composting.

instagram: @kellycomposts

Before You Go…

Thank you so much for reading through my article! If you have any questions or cool ideas, comment down below. If you decide to make a compost bin, don’t forget to send me a picture!

Works Cited

California State, Legislature, Assembly. Benefits of Composting. Santa Barbara County Resource Recovery & Waste Management Division, lessismore.org/materials/72-benefits-of-composting/. Accessed 19 Apr. 2020.

“Composting Made Easy.” CompostNow, compostnow.org/. Accessed 20 Apr. 2020.

“ICAW 2020.” Compost Foundation, www.compostfoundation.org/ICAW/ICAW-Home. Accessed 20 Apr. 2020.

Sellew, Paul, performer. Compost King: Paul Sellew at TEDxBoston. Produced by TED Talk.

Simon, Julia. “How to Compost at Home.” NPR, 9 Apr. 2020, www.npr.org/2020/04/07/828918397/how-to-compost-at-home. Accessed 19 Apr. 2020.

Works Consulted

Composting at Home. 13 Nov. 2019. United States Environmental Protection Agency, www.epa.gov/recycle/composting-home. Accessed 18 Apr. 2020.

Gage, Deepti Bansal. “Top Reasons Why You’re Avoiding Composting.” Planet Forward, 29 Oct. 2018, www.planetforward.org/idea/compost-myths-debunk. Accessed 19 Apr. 2020.

Rhoades, Heather. “What Can You Compost and What Not to Put in Garden Compost.” Gardening Know How, 8 May 2018, www.gardeningknowhow.com/composting/ingredients/what-can-you-compost.htm. Accessed 19 Apr. 2020.

Ross, Rachel. “The Science behind Composting.” Live Science, 12 Sept. 2018. Live Science, www.livescience.com/63559-composting.html. Accessed 19 Apr. 2020.

“Turning Earth, LLC.” Composting and Climate Change, Turning Earth, turningearthllc.com/what-we-do-2/compost-and-soil-amendments/composting-and-climate-change/. Accessed 19 Apr. 2020.

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COMMENTS: 24
  1. April 22, 2020 by Ava L

    This was so informative! I’m going to try composting!

    • April 26, 2020 by kelly

      thanks for the feedback! hope the composting is going great 🙂

  2. April 22, 2020 by Kaitlyn

    I’ve been looking to start composting for a while now and on a whim decided to do another google search and found this. It all seemed daunting for a while but seeing the easy first steps really helped, and I think I might actually start soon, given how much time I now have. A great source for beginners!

    • April 26, 2020 by kelly

      so glad you found this page as a helpful resource!

  3. April 23, 2020 by Margaret Hecht

    This is fantastic! The perfect balance of introductory information and High quality research. I can tell you put a lot of effort into this, and it sure did pay off! Can’t wait to start composting during these crazy times!

    • April 26, 2020 by kelly

      [* Shield plugin marked this comment as “Pending Moderation”. Reason: Whoops. Google reCAPTCHA was not submitted. *]
      thanks so much! glad you liked it

  4. April 23, 2020 by michelle

    This effectively taught me the benefits of composting. I feel inspired to start my own composite bin and join the movement towards a more sustainable lifestyle.

    • April 26, 2020 by kelly

      that’s great to hear! let me know how the compost bin goes.

  5. April 23, 2020 by Collin Katz

    Great information and clear instructions! I had no idea what composting was before this and didn’t know how easy it was. I’m definitely going to give it a try now. Thank you for encouraging us to make our planet a better place!

    • April 26, 2020 by kelly

      glad to hear that! let me know how the try goes.

  6. April 23, 2020 by Sarah

    This was super informative! I really feel like I know how to compost now and now I think I might start doing it, given I have so much free time now. Thanks!

  7. April 23, 2020 by AJ

    I was browsing through and found this post which was really helpful! My family and I have recently been looking into more ways to help the environment while staying at home. There’s a lot of good information here! Great post, keep up the good work! 🙂

  8. April 23, 2020 by jack

    this was such an informative and entertaining presentation!

  9. April 23, 2020 by Josh

    I was browsing through these posts and stumbled upon this because I’ve been interested in helping the environment while im at home. Great post!

  10. April 23, 2020 by Tony M

    So informative and concise! I would love to see future initiatives to make bins out of recycled material or making bins biodegradable. Glad to see content like this in todays political climate and era of environmental disregard!

  11. April 23, 2020 by melu

    [* Shield plugin marked this comment as “Pending Moderation”. Reason: Whoops. Google reCAPTCHA was not submitted. *]
    Super helpful tips! I may look more into composting now thanks to your informative presentation!

  12. April 24, 2020 by Jung

    this was an awesome presentation! I am so happy to see that this project turned out well!

  13. April 24, 2020 by Raag Venkat

    Kelly, your presentation is both beautifully presented and informative. Usually how long does it take for organic material to turn into compost? Loved the TED Talk!

  14. April 25, 2020 by John Alan A.

    Really good article, I’ve tried composting before and if you can do it right then it can be really useful.

  15. April 25, 2020 by Alex

    Wow, great writing. Everything is organized well and written in a way that is easy to follow and understand. Great information throughout the article too. Good work keep it up!

  16. April 25, 2020 by Alejandra

    Hi Kelly! Congratulations on your page! The way you organized information and images on it really help me understand that the process is easier than it looks. I have never ventured into the world of composting but I am getting inspired to do so soon!

  17. April 26, 2020 by Jason Yaffe

    Kelly, Wow! This is an extensive and informative GOA catalyst project! I was initially drawn to it because my family and I have revived our compost pile during the COVID shutdown. I sure could have used your many tips when assembling our compost area. Perhaps it’s not too late. I applaud the varied ways you engage viewers of this page — the initial “test your knowledge” engagement, the visuals that help to break up your content, the TED talk, and even your own reach out to the DFW area for anyone who wants to compost. Bravo for all of the work and passion that pops off this page! Yours, Mr. Yaffe (Greenhill)

  18. April 27, 2020 by Katie

    Kelly, I love your project! It’s clear that this is a topic you really care about and everything you said was very clear (from the benefits of composting to the differences between backyard and indoor composting’s steps). I also think that using social media and neighborhood apps is a great way to start spreading the message and that it’s super inspiring that you got so many of your neighbors to make their own bins!

  19. April 27, 2020 by Elaine

    Hi Kelly! I recently started learning more about composting this year as I began helping my friend take care of the bins at our school. I think your project is a great idea because what I found was that I just know very little about all of this, and I’d say so do the majority of my peers. It really is pretty simple and also really cool (like seeing the compost change overtime), so I think you will definitely have a really big impact just by spreading awareness and increasing the use of composting.

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