Introduction to Composting

Whenever I imagine composting, I envision a Martha Stewart-looking character effortlessly turning over a neat pile of pine needles with a pitch fork revealing black, rich soil.

This has green-waste-513609_640never been my truth.
I’ve had to abandon many grandiose plans of composting because it ended up smelling or looking unsightly. I know it’s important, so I plan on researching various methods
and giving it another shot.

Why Compost?

It can slow the growth rate of landfills

According to the U.S. EPA, about 24 percent of our waste is made up of compostable, organic material. That means, on average, Americans throw away an average of 1.3 pounds of food per day or 475 LBS PER YEAR.Composting is an important component to reducing landfill waste.

It can decrease the amount of methane gas pollution

I know what you’re thinking. Won’t the food scraps just create methane gas when they decompose in your yard? Nope. In landfills, the food scraps are covered with other trash and decompose without oxygen. This leads to a different kind of bacteria breaking down the food, leading to the byproduct of methane, a greenhouse gas that’s worse than carbon dioxide.

It’s a natural fertilizer…and FREE

It’s nice when you can turn garbage into something useful. Compost is rich in nutrients and can help feed your flowers, fruits, vegetables and grass. You could buy bagged or bulk compost for cheap, but when you make it, it costs you nothing!

Start Composting in Winter

It is the dead of winter in Ohio and the ground is frozen, yet I’m thinking about the “how to’s” of composting. I decided to start by storing my food scraps in the garage in 5 gallon buckets with lids. This buys me some time to figure out which composting method will work best for us. In the upcoming weeks, we will walk through some of the different composting techniques.

Discover which compost method is right for you!

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bucketSide Story about the 5 Gallon Buckets… FREE  BUCKETS

I am very much guilty of jumping first and getting details later. This has led to quite a few learning experiences in my life. So when a neighbor posted that he was giving away FREE 5 GALLON PICKLING BUCKETS I jumped at the opportunity without reading further.

Fast forward a week. I went to pick them up and they. were. nasty. They were coated in a mystery black sludge and reeked of a scent that I can never unsmell. I dry-heaved the whole way home. I took the 3 cleanest buckets upstairs and let them soak in our bathtub. When I went to clean them I realized that the smell of the buckets was not of pickles (as advertised) but of oil. Worried that I probably shouldn’t be washing these in the family bath-tub, I decided to reach out to the neighbor who posted them. That’s when I saw it, there in the comments “buckets used for kitchen oil waste.” I then decided to finish cleaning the 3 that I had already put some elbow grease into and toss the rest. I felt slightly guilty, but I tried, right?

How Much Garbage Does an Average American Family Produce?

1-26-17_trashaverageThe average American individual creates 30.8 LBS. of waste per
WEEK or 1,606 LBS. of trash per year. That’s about the size of a cow.

The average American family creates 121.8 LBS. of garbage per WEEK or 6,351 LBS. of garbage per year. That’s about the size of an elephant.

*Stats: https://www.saveonenergy.com/land-of-waste/

How Does Our Family Compare?

Bag #1 | 12 Lbs (Wednesday – Friday Night) – Contained a whole head of cauliflower and ½ a pound of potatoes that went bad

Bag #2 | 5 Lbs   (Friday – Sunday Night) – Bags and containers from Boston Market and Wendy’s. Tossed leftovers in fridge.

Bag #3 | 12.4 LBS (Sunday Night – Tuesday) – Tossed leftovers, grocery shopped so tossed old, rotten unused vegetables

Bag #4 | 9 LBS (Tuesday – Thursday Morning*Garbage Day) -Various

Total Trash for our 5 Person Family : 38.4 LBS / 4 Bags / 18 LBS Recycle

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HEY! That’s a lot of garbage!

Not terrible! We are definitely way below the national average, but there’s always room for improvement, so it’s not time to pat ourselves on the back just yet.

If we kept up this way of living, our family’s garbage over ONE YEAR would be 1966.2 LBS.

That’s about the weight of a draft horse per year.

Reducing Garbage: Our Family’s Plan

  1. Learn How to Compost: Americans throw away 480 LBS of food scraps annually (per The Good Human.com). I am going go get over my fear of composting and start saving everything that is plant derived, coffee grounds and egg shells. Specific details to follow.
  2. Reduce Prepared Food Waste: I have 3 picky eaters and a family that hates leftovers. If I want to reduce our family’s garbage, I’m going to have to start paying attention to what they eat and what we are throwing away. Are my portion sizes realistic? Are there foods that my family consistently doesn’t eat? Can I incorporate leftovers into other meals?
  3. Packaging: When shopping at the grocery store, I plan on purchasing items that have limited packaging. If they are packaged, I will favor the items with recyclable packaging. This also means we need to reduce our fast food consumption. Everything is individually packaged at fast food restaurants. The waste this creates is significant
  4. Learn More About Recycling: So far our family recycles all of the usual suspects: milk jugs, cans, glass jars, plastic jugs, cardboard and paper products. According to Utah Recycles, half of the garbage Americans throw out could be recycled. This amount of recyclables could fill up a football stadium from top to bottom everyday
  5. Smart Trash Packing: I totally made that term up. This has nothing to do with reducing quantity but more to do with reducing the space our trash takes up in a landfill. This involves being cognizant of how I am filling up our trash can.

Who’s with me?

Talking Trash: Reducing Garbage

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I didn’t want to look like a weirdo taking pictures of my garbage in daylight, so I decided to do a drive-by picture from my car window. Totally normal!

My Starting Point: TRASH

So sure you want to reduce your global footprint. Great! Decide what that means for you. For me, it means doing everything in my power to leave a better world to my kids. I’m not naïve, I know I’m only one person. But our reality is derived from the collective decisions of millions of individuals. I believe my decisions matter. All of our decisions can change the world.

There are probably a thousand things you can do to make a difference. One thing that bugs me is how much trash our 5-person family makes. Garbage will be our family’s starting point.

Reducing Trash: Step One

I’m busy. I lose motivation easily. If I’m not making a dent in my goal, I tend to get bored and move on. That’s why it’s important for me to SEE my starting point. This means I have to somehow figure out how much garbage our family makes on a weekly basis. If I wanted a precise, accurate number I would have been measuring our weekly garbage over several months and then taking an average, but I’m impatient…plus it feels wasteful to delay action just so I can get a more accurate average.

So here’s how I’m going to do it.

Live Normally for a Week…

Our garbage days are on Thursday and recycling is biweekly. Today is both a recycling day and a garbage day. After the above pickup, I am going to live exactly how I have been living for a week. We already recycle glass, cardboard and milk jugs. For a week, we are going to continue on, business as usual.

Measure

Next Wednesday, the night before Garbage Day Reckoning Day, I am going to measure my net garbage and figure out how much of that I am recycling.

I will be measuring in Weight and Space. I think that both are important to track for different reasons. Landfills charge by weight, but we also have to be cognizant that when we are throwing stuff away, it goes somewhere. Our trash has a final resting place where it might stay for hundreds of years.

Take Action

After I know my starting point, I’m going to put a plan in place to reduce our family’s trash. I would love to shoot for 1 bag per week. I would love to hear your goals too! Wish us luck!

 

The Cause for this Movement

I wanted to end Birthday Season with a bang (all 3 of my sons have birthdays in December & January). Unfortunately, Birthday Season overlaps with Christmas Season. This ends with my middle son’s birthday in mid-January. At that point, I am already scrambling, trying to find “new homes” for all of the new toys the boys took in over the season.

Well when it was time to open presents, my newly turned 4-year-old began ripping through all of his gifts and tossing them aside quicker than I could clean up the mess. Sure he’s 4 and that’s how 4 year old’s act, but the reaction ate away at me. Why wasn’t he appreciative? Why did he not give me the reaction I was hoping for? I wanted to see his eyes light up. I wanted him to beam with surprise and excitement. Instead he tossed it all aside and played with some other crap that we already owned.

My first reaction was to get angry and blame my son “He doesn’t appreciate anything. He’s spoiled and has too much stuff. He’s ungrateful.” And as we always see ourselves in a better-than-though light, I pondered where he learned such ingratitude. I knew action needed to be taken and I wasn’t sure what the first step would be. Model the Behavior was the first thing to come to mind. Of course I don’t see myself as ungrateful, but did I appreciate the “things” I owned?

The Thought Process Behind Wastefulness

I’m a pretty average, middle class American, I frequent Wal-Mart and Target weekly (maybe more) and when something breaks, I throw it away and buy it again. It’s okay to throw it away because it’s all disposable crap. I didn’t pay much for it, so there’s no value lost when I throw it out. With a mentality like that, there’s no wonder my son had such an underwhelming reaction to all of the stuff we just bought him. I apparently had the same thought process.

The things I was tossing out and choosing to purchase might not have had a high monetary value, but there was a cost. By choosing cheap, I was choosing cheap materials, I was choosing cheap labor, I was choosing items that were manufactured in a country with sketchy environmental policies and labor practices. I was choosing products that would sit in a landfill long after my lifetime. Is this the type of legacy I want to leave? What if we all decided to raise our standards? What if we all decided to stop looking at purchases as disposable?

I hate declaring a “New Years Resolution” but this year, I’m doing it. This year, my goal is to create No New Demand out there for myself. My goal is to love what I have and find new uses for things that I no longer need. I’m going to recycle more. I’m going to buy used. I’m going to share with others. I’m going to try fixing things when they break. I’m going to take a good, hard look at the way I do things and ask “is this excessive?” This is my journey. Hopefully you’ll join me!