Composting

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Composting

Description
Relevancy
Getting Started
Going Further
Advanced Steps
Resources
Glossary

What It Is

Composting is the controlled biodegradation of organic materials like yard and food wastes.  It involves storing these wastes in a pile, where bacteria, fungi, and yeasts can break them down.  This process turns the waste into nutrient-rich fertilizer called “humus” (not to be confused with “hummus,” the chickpea dip), which can help your lawn, plants, and flowers thrive.

People generally keep compost piles outside, although some indoor composting methods (e.g., vermicomposting) exist too.  Composting requires four important ingredients to work successfully:

  1. Carbon for energy
  2. Nitrogen to grow and produce more oxidizing organisms
  3. Oxygen for oxidizing the carbon
  4. Water to maintain activity without causing anaerobic conditions

Why It Matters

Not only will composting reduce the amount of waste you make, but it will reduce the amount of money you spend on waste disposal.

Composting also creates nutrient-rich, organic humus, which you can use to fertilize your property.  If you don’t need fertilizer, there are likely many local farms or gardening centers that do.

Getting Started

  • Research the different methods of composting, as well as what types of materials you can compost (See the “Resources” section below).

Going Further

  • Start your own compost pile.  If you don’t know much about composting, consider starting with general outdoor composting or vermicomposting, two of the most basic composting methods.

Advanced Steps

  • Compost most or all materials that you can throughout the entire year, despite weather and seasonal changes.  To do this, you may need to alternate between indoor and outdoor composting depending on the weather.
  • Use the resulting soil from your compost pile or give it to those who can use it, like gardeners or local farmers.

Resources

  • This link is EPA’s Guide to Composting.  This is essentially everything a business needs to know in order to compost.
  • This link is a How-To-Guide on vermicomposting, or indoor composting, which is particularly useful in the winter months.
  • This link provides a simple How-To-Guide on composting.  While this is a home composting guide, you could easily use it at work.
  • This link provides an easy 5 Step Tutorial to Composting.
  • This link offers a great overview of composting, its benefits, and the different materials that you can compost.

Glossary

Biodegradable: Describes a material that microorganisms can break down into water, biomass, and carbon dioxide.

Compostable: Describes a material that substantially biodegrades only under specific composting conditions.  It means that microorganisms can break down the material, converting it into humus.

Composting: This is the controlled breakdown of organic waste into a useful product that can be further used as mulch or fertilizer.

Humus: Mature, nutrient-rich compost.  Not to be confused with “hummus,” the chickpea dip.

Vermicomposting: The process of using worms and micro-organisms to turn kitchen wastes into nutrient-rich soil.

VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds): Organic liquids, including many common solvents, that readily evaporate at temperatures normally found at ground surface and at shallow depths. For more information on VOCs, visit this link.

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