Sustainable Lifestyle Tips – Composting 101

By Guest Blogger Kelly Angell, LEED AP

Have you ever considered composting at home? To some this eco-friendly approach is a very odd concept. Go round up that shriveling food in the back of the fridge, those long forgotten grapes that are on their way to raisins, the salad that now looks like a dark green paper mache project and toss it together with the grass clippings, stir and voila! You have gourmet compost. Let it cook for three months in a breathable bin. The resulting product is a nutrient-rich growing medium.

Green CompostingWhere I grew up (mid Michigan), we composted as a way of life. I never considered composting out of the ordinary. To save on the number of times we had to drive the garbage (ourselves) into the dump, we kept a bucket on the counter that we emptied every few days into the back yard compost heap. There was no specialized technology, other than we screened it behind some trees and tiger lilies. Of course we had a few acres, so the deer loved the free handouts, and the neighbors weren't close enough to notice. My grandparents who lived in the city and had regular garbage collection also composted. They were a little more disciplined in their applications of layer and how frequently they turned it, monitoring how much water to add and the temperature it reached. They created rich soil for the yard and always had abundant flowers, tasty grapes and rhubarb. It was likely a natural extension of growing up in the middle of the great depression.

When we moved to Tucson, I never really considered how to make composting part of our lives, since we were living in an apartment. Then one day I stumbled across a program that the city of Tucson was running to support backyard composters. They offered weekend classes, and reduced-price compost bins. The message they wanted to convey, was that composting was for anyone; it's totally possible to compost in the city and manage any odors. When we moved into our first house I ran out and picked up a bin.

I brought the bin with us to California and restarted the compost. We collect most of our yard scraps and all the leftover vegetable peels and the over ripe fruit we didn't quite get around to eating.

I was excited when I recently heard San Francisco is making headway in implementing a citywide composting program. Not only is the city reducing the amount of mass that is added to landfills, but they are turning a profit on the compost. What a great way to be a change agent for green living.

I'm hopeful that San Francisco's program will spark interest statewide and nationwide. This is one of the simplest things anyone can do to reduce the bulk of waste they dispose of daily. The links below are a few how-to guides to get you started. Good luck.