On this “National Learn About Composting Day”, Betterbin and EatStreet are as excited as ever about the idea of rotting food waste and week-old takeout leftovers. No, really! We traditionally think about the earth as feeding us, but when you compost your food scraps and leftovers, you feed the soil with an incredible source of nourishment that fuels the very plants that feed us.
Too much tree-hugger talk? Don’t feel overwhelmed, let’s take some baby steps and imagine you want to start composting at home. We’ll dig into the realities of home composting with five lesser-known facts/tips that will help you integrate composting into your lifestyle.
1. It doesn’t smell up your house. In fact, storing your food scraps for a few days at a time in a sealed indoor container can actually reduce unwanted odors that you would normally get from putting the food scraps in your indoor trash can.
2. To get an estimate of how much food waste you produce, try saving your scraps and uneaten leftovers for one week. One week is all it will take to see the shocking amount of food you end up tossing in the trash each week.
3. Home composting requires some foresight and effort. Food and other organic materials don’t magically biodegrade. You will need a small, sealable indoor container and either an outdoor compost barrel or a designated outdoor compost pile. You may also need a household member willing to take on the chore of putting food scraps in the compost bin. It can take some time to learn to get the right mix of “green” (food scraps) and “brown” (wood chips, leaves, cardboard, etc.) to help the materials biodegrade properly.
4. Be careful with products marketed as “compostable” or “biodegradable.” It’s a big misnomer that these words mean the material will easily break down in your backyard composting operation. More often than not, most non-food products and packaging that claim to be “compostable” or “biodegradable” do not biodegrade quickly, or at all, in backyard composting operations. These types of products and packaging are meant for commercial composting facilities – a few of which exist across the U.S.
5. Feeling unsure about composting at home? Private and public drop-off and home pick-up compost programs are popping up all over the country. Madison, WI, for example, has a free, April-October program that offers three locations for Madison residents to drop off food scraps (check out Madison’s food scrap program app, Betterbin!). Compost Crusader (Milwaukee, WI), Compost Collective (Kansas City, MO), and The Compost Ninja are all examples of privately-operated companies that offer monthly and annual subscriptions for home pick-up of your food scraps. The Iowa City Residential Curbside Composting Program is another example of a publicly-operated compost program. All of these programs give you the option of diverting food waste from your local landfill without the time and energy required to manage the composting process at home.
Regardless of whether home composting is for you, just becoming more aware of your household’s food scraps and meal leftovers is the first step toward responsibly managing your household food waste footprint. When you start smiling at the smell of your week-old Thai takeout and banana peels, you will know you’re on the right track.