• Wendy Guzin

The Benefits of Composting

We have recently turned our attention to combating global warming through regenerating our soil which is, in essence, composting. We have learned about RegenerateLA, our city’s Green New Deal which is committed to supporting carbon sequestration, water capture, and soil regenerative practices by 2021. We also learned about the organization, Kiss the Ground, which focuses on “Regenerative Agriculture”, balancing our planet by taking carbon out of the atmosphere and transforming it into a building block for rich, fertile soil.

The Problem

The amount of trash our society produces is astounding! Over half of the trash that ends up in landfills is compostable. This waste includes food, lawn and plant trimmings, paper, and wood. Food waste alone consists of 17-18% of landfill waste in Los Angeles. Destructive methane gas, although short-lived, has a much stronger heating potential than carbon dioxide which means it is more devastating on the global climate than Co2. What can we do about it?

The Solution

Citizen support is crucial for the success of citywide soil regenerative practices. How can we as consumers participate? There are two viable choices. The first is getting involved in a community composting program. LACompost is a community-based non-profit group committed to bringing our community together by returning food to the soil for regeneration. LACompost has waste drop off and pick up services available. Another option is CompostableLA, which is a well-organized pick-up service. It has a slogan that reads, “The cleaner way to compost. Leave the dirty work to us!”

Currently the LA Sanitation Department is testing out a pilot program called Curb Your Food Waste LA. Eighteen thousand Los Angeles households were selected in 25 neighborhoods to participate. The residents in these households can use their green bins to recycle their food scraps and are learning to home compost. If Curb Your Food Waste LA is successful, this program could become available to everyone in Los Angeles. It is a great program that could offer a no-cost easy option of regenerating food scraps for Angelenos.

The second option to help solve the methane gas problem is composting at home. Many of you have done this in the past, thought about it, or are currently composting. Let us look at some different methods and aspects of composting that might help you find the best approach for your lifestyle.

Delving into Composting

First things first, there are two types of composting to consider, aerobic and anaerobic. Aerobic composting is the preferable choice as explained by CompostNow:

Aerobic composting requires the introduction of oxygen to compost piles to allow aerobic microbes to thrive. The only byproducts of aerobic composting systems are heat, water, and a small amount of carbon dioxide. While carbon dioxide is classified as a greenhouse gas, it is only 1/20 as harmful as methane, which is released during anaerobic composting. The carbon dioxide produced in aerobic composting systems is easily absorbed by surrounding vegetation – a similar process to how we release carbon dioxide during the respiration process. Anaerobic composting is the method of composting without introducing oxygen, which means the breakdown of the organic materials takes much longer and produces little heat. This lack of heat often results in the survival of many pathogens, weeds, and seeds and causes a significant amount of methane to be released into the atmosphere.”

All of the methods recommended in this article are environmentally friendly composting choices. They are as follows:

Open Air Composting: This may be done with or without a container. If you choose not to use one, place the pile against a wall or structure. If you choose containers, 2-3 bays are helpful to rotate the compost piles. To begin, layer your organic material. First, put your brown material (dry leaves, sticks, or paper) on the bottom then add equal amounts of green matter (vegetable matter, green leaves, and eggshells) and top with a layer of soil. To speed things up it is helpful to add a compost activator. Build upon these layers until your pile reaches your desired height. Moisten the compost pile every other time you add a new layer. Turn your compost pile every 2-3 days with a pitchfork for about three weeks, after that it can be turned every few weeks. The compost will be ready to spread around the garden in 3-4 months or sooner if the compost activator is used.

Trench or Direct Composting: This is an easy composting method. One way to use this method is to dig a three-foot deep trench. Place food scraps and vegetable matter in it. Cover this layer with soil and repeat until the trench is full. Wait a couple of months before planting in it. Another way to direct compost is to dig holes about 12 inches deep around the garden and add 4-6 inches of compostable material to them and then top with dirt. This method delivers nutrition to your plants in the most beneficial area, the root zone.

Tumbler Compost Method: The tumbler is a fully sealed container which requires rotation. By rotating this tumbler, heat is created, turning the food waste to compost that can be used for vegetables, fruits, and other plants. To get started, add equal parts of brown matter and green matter to the bin. In the beginning, you will need to turn the bin every other day for one month. After this month is complete turn the bin twice a week, and after another month of turning, reduce this number of spins to once a week. You may also add worms or a compost activator to speed things up. This compost should be ready after three months of turning.

Kitchen Composter: For those of you who want to compost, but don’t have much time on your hands – the Kitchen Composter! This device turns food scraps into valuable compost for your garden in days. All you need to do is collect your kitchen scraps and load them into the bin. Some popular brands are Zera and FoodCycler.

Over the summer, my daughter, Zoë, and I stumbled upon a giveaway compost tumbler. It inspired us to start our composting journey, which we had always wanted to do together but could never find the time. Our found tumbler introduced us to the joy of turning our food scraps into valuable nutrients for our vegetable garden. We are ready to use our first batch soon and cannot wait to reap the rewards. Good luck on your own composting journey!

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