Over the past few years, reducing waste has been a big priority in my life. This is one of the reasons why composting has become important in our home; the other reasons are that it helps our garden and we save money on soil.
The City of Newton is very supportive with this important practice and encourages composting. You can even purchase a compost bin through the city at a reasonable cost. If you’re handy, you can also build your own compost bin; StopWaste.org has instructions on making different kinds of compost bins.
If you’re new to composting, you might be surprised at how much you can compost. Once you start composting, your garbage cans will be practically empty by the end of the week.
Some common household items that you can compost:
- Yard waste (e.g. leaves, twigs, grass clippings, pine needles)
- Hair and pet fur
- Food scraps such as apple cores, eggshells, tea bags, coffee grinds, moldy or stale bread, banana peels)
- Pencil shavings
- Shredded newspaper, cardboard, paper towels, tissues and napkins
Some common household items that should not be composted:
- Any meat products
- Wood that has been painted or stained
- Colored, coated or wax paper
- Invasive weeds (you can get rid of these via Newton’s curbside yard waste collection)
- Large branches
- Pet waste and kitty litter. (You can compost chicken waste, however; keeping chickens is legal in Newton.)
Composting is easier if you have a small indoor container in your kitchen that you can dump out in your compost bin. You can use something simple like a coffee can, or a small kitchen compost container with a carbon filter to help cut down on odors. We have this one from Gaiam and it works great; our kitchen never smells from the compost and we dump it in the outdoor compost bin whenever it’s full. This is particularly nice in the winter so that you don’t need to make regular treks to the compost bin. And yes, you can compost in the winter! It won’t break down as quickly, but you can still add to the pile.
Once your compost is in the pile, it’s very low maintenance, but one thing you should do is aerate the pile. This means you need to introduce air to your compost pile, which is done by turning the pile with a shovel or a compost aerator tool.
Before aerating your compost, check the moisture. The pile should have the moisture of a sponge that has been wrung out, meaning damp but not dripping. If it feels too wet, try mixing in “brown” materials like leaves. If it doesn’t feel damp enough, spray water in it until it feels like a damp sponge.
For those of you who live in apartments without any yard space, you can still compost! Worm composting, or vermicomposting, can be done indoors. Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection offers lots of information on vermicomposting.