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Going back to my roots, and composting them!

August 30, 2009

So this is my “last weekend of freedom” as so many have put it. Instead of actively trying to seek companionship from, well, anyone in this city of strangers, I decided to stay home and start a major project.

Creating a compost box.

So my mom made me keep this big plastic container. I kind of just kept it in my kitchen not knowing where to put it. Seeing how it sat there very contentedly, I decided to start my own little compost heap. Now composting indoors requires some extremely careful moves, but having spent a summer doing environmental work in the mother of the green movement, San Francisco, I am now a composting pro.

The basics to composting is that you need to compost the right things. Almost all kitchen scraps are fair game, like fruit peels, vegetable scraps, little bread crumbs, pasta that fell on the floor, anything. But the major exception is no meat or dairy. If you thought rancid milk is bad, think about keeping it in your kitchen (Oh yea, I totally drank some rancid milk today. It was horrible. I will now smell every time I consume).

Keep the goal in mind. You want to compost so that you can have beautiful, rich dirt that’s full of nutrients. So what you put in must be what you want to get out. I don’t mean put a corn husk in and get corn out, but what goes into that box is going to be a part of your future dirt. So if you want a rich, nutrient filled compost, you have to put in vegetable and fruit scraps so that the good chemicals in those are part of your dirt, and not wasted by being thrown in a landfill. But if you also throw in a cereal box, well all those chemicals from the advertising will now be in your compost, and eventually your garden, and then your fresh vegetables. So you might as well just eat the cereal box. But that’s being a bit crazy.

But look at composting as the ultimate life cycle in a microcosm. You have what you are eating. But obviously you don’t eat all of, like no one eats that weird rough skin on the outside of carrots. You could just throw it out and add to the landfill. But why not just keep it. Let it get moldy. Watch as the bacteria and fungi take over and decompose your garbage. They will thrive on the crap you don’t want. But the end result is that their waste is something you can use to make plants thrive. And if the plants we are talking about are going to end up on your plate, and eventually a compost bin, the life cycle goes on and everyone wins.

So here are some composting tips.

1. Anyone can compost.
2. YOU should compost. It’s actually really really good for the environment.
3. All you need is any large tub from like, Wal-Mart or Target. Remember, in an apartment you have to do things on a small scale because you don’t have the advantage of the outside world to take care of things, specifically the smell.
4. To start out create a base of shredded newspaper. Sounds kind of weird after everything I said, but newspaper is fully biodegradable and very easy to degrade because it isn’t bleached paper and probably comes from paper that has been recycled so thus is a little bit weak. Also, the inks are non-toxic. But stick to no colors, just to be safe.
5. Now start composting!
6. Especially good things to compost: Tea bags, coffee grounds, egg shells, fruit peels, leafy greens, lemon and lime rinds (they make the environment a little acidic and also help the smell).
7. A big part of composting is this carbon to nitrogen ratio. Most compost heaps basically don’t have enough nitrogen. The newspaper base is extremely carbon high. Most things dry will be higher in carbon. So if you stick to composting a lot of kitchen scraps, you should be good.
8. No meat or dairy!!!

I encourage you all to compost. It’s quite easy. And kind of exciting. I had a fruit spoil, so I just threw it in! Stupid dragon fruit. Not even very sweet. And it stained my cutting board! Hope you enjoy rotting in my new compost box.

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