How to start composting the easy way!
How to start your compost pile, bin, or worm bin! Welcome to this schoolhouse life episode on composting! how do I start? what do I use? where do I put it? How to start composting the easy way. Let’s get started! Just wanted to let you know real quick that this episode of the podcast was originally a webinar we did on composting, where we dive deep into it, how to compost, why to compost all the different ways to compost. If you want to check out the full episode, you can go to theschoolhouselife.com\compost, and check out the full episode, that’s theschoolhouselife.com\compost. And we’ll put a note in the show notes, so you can click on that also. But let us know what you think and share this with friends and family, and that’s it, enjoy this episode.
The beautiful thing is that you have this closed-loop, especially if you’re growing your own food, your own animals, if you can compost that, get that back into the earth and just have this nice cycle where you’re creating higher biodiversity in your soil, that just means there are lots of different organisms living in the soil, which means healthier soil.
I think for me, a lot of times I think about it. If you take it from the earth and you should give it back to the earth, right?
A landfill is never going to fully decompose. In fact, once you don’t have oxygen, it can’t decompose at all, so you’re just pumping out that landfill. That’s why we need to compost our food instead of throwing it into the garbage. I used to think, “Oh, well, we’re mixing the food waste there, and it actually helps because it decomposes there.” It actually doesn’t. So we put them in the trash bags and then we pile them on top of each other and they don’t have any access to oxygen or water, and then they never decompose. And so it’s just not balanced, right? We just need to return to the earth what came from the earth.
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Never stop learning and let your life be a schoolhouse too. So composting is the smartest thing to do. I think that one of the reasons we wanted to share about composting with everyone who is interested is that it’s one of the simplest things we can do to improve our health, the health of the land that we live on the health of the earth at large, in such a kind of obvious way. Once you start composting, you’re like, “Oh, why would you not do this? Why would you throw food waste especially into the trash can?” Right?
So for sure, we want you to live with the understanding of how to take your food waste and compost because that’s kind of the first entry-level of composting. Actually, probably entry-level is grass clippings and garden waste and that kind of thing. But if you don’t garden, that’s not an issue. If you mow, then it is. Leaf mulch is also a type of compost. And so there are all these different levels of composting, and when we know how to reuse all these materials, it builds up new nutrients in our soil and in the lives around us, so it’s just one of those things like the more you know, the better you do, but yeah, so why compost?
Tonight, we’re going to be talking about why compost, what you can compost, Lacey’s kind of gone through some of this. Lacey hasn’t seen the slide so-
Mm-mm (negative), no,
How do I start composting the easy way?
How to get started on composting, and then the various methods that I think are the good methods of compost piles, compost tumbler, and the ground box, worm, black soldier flies, and humanure. So kind of the full gamut, and you guys, if you got questions, we want this to be super interactive, so if you got questions, post them, we’ll talk about that too. We love feeling the energy, so any questions you got, don’t hesitate to throw them out there and we’ll stop and talk about that also. And so we’ll just kind of dive into it. I just wanted to tell you a little bit about who we are.
So Lacey and I, started as urban farmers, meaning we had a little quarter-acre spot in the backyard and that’s where we grew all kinds of veggies, chickens, bees, had a garden, we sold at the farmer’s market. You can see there’s our little crew of farmer helpers there on the side. And then we decided we wanted to get bigger, so we went to a larger piece of land, we have 15 acres now, and started homesteading, and then… Lacey, you want to fill in something too?
Yeah, I mean, we homeschool, so a lot of our homeschool revolves around what we do on the farm, so whether that’s gardening or rearing animals or whatever, but yeah, I mean, you can start small. I think we laugh about this a lot that we were really more productive when we were in the city than now, in terms of harvests and things like that. There’s more to pay attention to out here, we’ve got sheep, and we’ve got dogs, and we’ve got, just way more going on, on the larger property, and there are some advantages to having a small property. So anyway, that’s just where we came from.
Yeah. So I think we can do a composting, we can read the benefits of composting, help make the world better by composting, no matter where you are. I mean, really, even if you’re in an apartment, there’s potential for composting.
Yeah, if you didn’t watch yet, you should go back and watch Kiss the Ground, which is available on Netflix to watch. And we watch that here last week with some folks and it was a really, really great movie, and they talked about how in San Francisco, they actually have shifted in not only do they recycle, but they actually have compost bins as well. So folks in the inner city actually all work together to get that compost and that garden matter into one bin, so it goes and then turns back into the soil, instead of into the landfill. This is kind of something that’s growing in popularity and people are becoming more and more aware of their impact on how easy it is to compost and how satisfying. And we’ll talk kind of on large-scale a little bit, and we’ll talk about more for homeowners that maybe we don’t have a place to do large scale, but yeah. So hopefully you get the pertinent information you want.
Why compost at all? Even if it is the easy way?
So why compost? This to me was a big… If you’ve never been to the dump before, you should go out there, whatever your local dump is, it was kind of mind-blowing to us when we did go out there and see these piles, these mounds of trash, we had already been composting, but I think it was just really eye-opening to the massive amounts of trash just for a small city.
Yeah, it should be required for people, I think maybe even an elementary school once a year, or even high school, for people to go see where their trash goes because when we don’t understand the impact of having waste, you just can never put it into perspective. I think, yeah, that is one of those things that seems kind of silly, but it makes that physical connection for people.
And I found these stats, I knew it was high, I didn’t realize it was this high. So for a family of four, 1160 pounds of trash a year is produced, and this is food trash.
That’s the size of an elephant, right? I think they’re about a ton. They might be more, but anyway.
It’s a lot. So yeah. And then you can see over here, the kinds of food that are unconsumed. I mean, the good news is that 52% is produced, which is definitely compostable. And we’ll go into this a little bit more, I really think that it’s all compostable,
All of that is compostable.
Yeah. But it was just kind of interesting to see what… I mean, it makes sense, right? Lettuce and produce goes bad way quicker than meat or milk. And then just on the side ahead over here, kind of reduce why we should be composting. We can reduce the waste that’s filling up in the landfills, methane gas is another thing that is coming out, we can reduce the number of vehicles that are traveling to carry that trash all over the place. So Lacey, fill in if you want here on it. And then, producing rich soil, so I think that the beautiful thing is that you have this closed-loop, especially if you’re growing your own food, your own animals, if you can compost that and get that back into the earth and just have this nice cycle, where you’re creating higher biodiversity in your soil, that just means there are lots of different organisms living in the soil, which means healthier soil.
I think for me, a lot of times I think about it, if you take it from the earth, then you should give it back to the earth, right?
A landfill is never going to fully decompose, in fact, once you don’t have oxygen, it can’t decompose at all. So you’re just pumping out that landfill, I used to think, “Oh, we’re mixing the food waste there, and it actually helps because it decomposes there.” It actually doesn’t. So we put them in the trash bags, and then we pile them on top of each other and they don’t have any access to oxygen or water and then they never decompose. And so it’s not balanced, right? We just need to return to the earth what came from the earth and that just seems logical, right?
What things are good to put into my compost?
Okay, so the next step is, what can you compost? Both our answers are everything that’s organic matter, basically. You’re pulling your plastics out, and other than that, you can compost anything. Yeah paper, cardboard, I mean, it’s really kind of important to think about those things too, because the less we send of those to the landfill, and obviously if you’re recycling then we have a whole other talk about recycling, but when you can add that to your compost seep in, and a lot of times that makes a lot of sense because it feeds the earth the same way.
So Sarah is asking a paper, including ink. Yeah, I’m assuming you mean paper with ink on it. Most inks now are non-toxic inks, so there’s not really a… Trying to think of those glossy magazine ones are going to take a little bit to break down, but-
So, it may not be in the compost that you want to put in your garden, but I still think it’s better than putting it in a landfill. So you might want to have a separate situation for your materials that you’re composting that are not maybe 100%, not synthetic, maybe is the right word. And you can always dig into what is the ink that you’re using and is it biodegradable and all of those different things? Would you want to put it in your garden? I don’t know, but that could be something that you’re just aware of. So you can have a separate bin maybe for that, but if you’re using something, some kind of a… Oh, I forgot what the word is, a worm or a fly to digest, I feel like that’s removing the danger of using anything like that in your compost.
Because the last time I looked at magazines, newspapers, all of them now are pretty much required, thankfully to have non-toxic ink.
I think that’s kind of a rule.
And that’s in the US, I mean, I know we have people from kind of all over the world, so it could be different, but definitely, I feel like a small Google research will let you know that ink for that publication.
Yeah, or even looking at your box, ink so yeah.
So yeah, animal waste, human waste, veggies, meat, dairy, grains, paper and cardboard, grass leaves, coffee grinds, tea bags, and eggshells. One of my favorite things is cardboard, you guys know how it’s got these little ribs in it, that make the perfect worm house. So when you put that cardboard down on the ground, the worms actually go in there and they lay eggs in those little cells. It’s almost kind of like a bee honeycomb.
Yeah, like a habitat for them. So it’s a great place, instead of throwing your cardboard out, you can just make a part of your composting, you can have just a compost heap of just cardboard and you can use it to mulch your garden, that sort of thing, and that’s increasing the amount of worms in your soil, which is giving you more healthy soil.
Layers, we want layers.
Where should I put my compost?
Okay. So how do I get started? The first step is you have to have something to put your compost in and-
Hey, we’re talking about kitchen scraps.
We’re talking about kitchen scraps, right. I mean, that’s probably most people-
Again, this includes things like, okay, we don’t use them, but paper towels are a really good example of something that you should compost. And this is another reason that you should use non-toxic cleaners because then you can take anything that you’re using when you’re cleaning if you use paper towels to clean and put it in your compost bin and just think about how much better that it is for the environment, right? On so many levels. But yeah, so you can really kind of take it back, and now we’re using the loofahs to scrub our dishes and stuff, and that could easily go in the compost when they’re spent. So, and there are sponges now, that are made of hemp and things like that, that also can be composted. Cotton will break down if you have just straight unbleached cotton, there are lots of things that we use in the kitchen that we know you don’t automatically think should go in the compost bin, but they can.
Then you can start kind of becoming more aware too, like now when we have cookouts are plastic silverware, were replaced with compostable silverware.
I mean, you can step it up and just have everybody bring your own silverware or something, but we’ve found this to be a happy medium.
Yeah. And what else? I’m trying to think anything else.
Oh, I will say, just making some better decisions about things that you use too, I mean, this just made me think about it. Just thinking, okay, what I’m using will either be trash or it will return to the earth, right? And so when we buy, for example, paper plates, we get the ones that will decompose. They’re like-
Literally just paper.
Yeah, I forget, not the white ones with the rippled edges, but the ones that are… They actually are even higher ends I think.
They’re the kind that if you put a dollop of salsa on there for too long, it’s going to fall through the bottom of it.
But I mean, Hey, I think it’s worth it.
Yeah. No. And it’s a really great way to kind of just switch your mindset into how much of what I’m consuming can actually be composted in the end. But anyway, like the kitchen scraps.
Yeah, kitchen scraps compost, I laughed when I found this because we’ve had-
One of each.
Almost one of each of these. Currently we are using this one.
Well, we’re sort of. So what I actually love about that particular one and the one below the words, the black and green one is the same. And you actually can do this for any of these, but you can get compostable bags to align that, and then you take the whole compost bag out and put that in compost. So I like that because I think it makes it easier, they do eventually leaks, you have to be really consistent about emptying your compost, but I do like that system a lot. The pros and cons of some of these, so the top are first.
Yeah, we’ve had these two, are basically the same thing.
And it’s good, but it was something that a lot of times there would be a layer of gunk in the bottom that we just never would get real cleaned out, coffee grinds and such.
We’re heavy coffee drinkers, we love our coffee. So there’s a lot of coffee grinds in there and they do the gunk on the bottom. The nice thing about this other kind is it’s like that bag, he pulled the whole bag out and put it in the compost and that bag… Most of ours goes, and we’ll talk about it later, it goes to black soldier flies. That bag breaks down really, really fast.
What size container should I use to store my compost food in?
We basically just always have bowls on the counter that compost that is waiting to go out, but I do have a cuter one, I just found a vintage dish, I had it, it has a lid on it, so once the lid doesn’t sit on it anymore, it’s time to take it out. But yeah, I mean, what do we put in there? We put in banana peels, and orange peels, and we put in coffee grinds and we put it in, on a daily basis, onions and all of the things, avocados and everything that we eat that’s a veggie, eggshells, yeah, lots of stuff is put in there.
And I think the key to it is make it in a manageable size where you’re going to need to take it out every two to three days.
If not more of that.
Yeah, you don’t want this giant one because that’s when it starts getting anaerobic in the back-
Especially if you have a smaller family, so for us, we can fill a compost bin in a day or a day and a half, because there’s so many of us, we’ve got four kids eating apples and oranges and all these things constantly, so that gets filled up real quick and it’s important that you empty it pretty quickly out of your house. Now, there are some really cool things that you can do in your house though, a lot of people will have under the same worm bins, and that can be super smart, actually even smarter, I think, and it’s something I’ve always kind of wanted to set up, I mean, just haven’t gotten around to it. I’m somebody, I repurpose container for pickles, yes. I use it next to the sink, which I empty when full, into our green bin. Why would I need to purchase something, you don’t need to, right?
You absolutely don’t, but I mean that bottom right green one is pretty adorable, if you asked me.
I mean, the thing about it is, no, I think people go from these different bins and we’ve been guilty ourselves thinking that there’s one that might stop the fruit flies or one that might stop the smell, or one that’ll be easier to clean. And the reality is, if you’re not taking it out often enough, you’ll have fruit flies, if you’re not taking it out often enough, you’ll have the smell, but if you get in a rhythm where you’re getting it out before it really starts decomposing, the pickle jar works as great as one of these 50 or $60 bins.
Oh my gosh, yeah.
And you’ll probably have something in your house right now that you can use as a compost bin, so even if it’s an old Tupperware, right. Like
We use Chinese food containers, the to go containers, we use those.
Okay. So, that’s the collecting part, pick what kind of composting you’ll be doing. We’re going to talk about all the different kinds coming up your next.
So wait, when I was a kid, when we did the dishwasher, when we cleaned the table, the process was you go to the trash can, you scrape everything off of the plates into the trash can, rinse the plate, put it in the dishwasher. So, that is a big no-no in our house, no one does that, even guests, we were like, “No, hold on.” And then they just scrape it into that bowl or that container. That’s any cooked food, any meat, anything, we mix ours altogether. Now you’re going to have to make some decisions about what you’re going to compost yet or how you’re going to compost all of those things and make it work for you. You might not be putting your chicken with your coffee grinds, but that is how it works for us. So we’ll probably mainly be focusing on what we do in our house, because that’s what we know most about.
Where should I put my compost bin outside?
Yeah. Okay, so the location of the compost bin, that’s a big one. You want it far enough away, it’s going to be attracting critters and-
Like in raccoons.
Possums, I mean, If you can get it hot enough, quick enough, you can get away from a lot of those, and a lot of that has to do with our composting style. We have, like Lacey just said, food scraps in it, which go pretty quickly, but just keep in mind, if you’re putting eggshells and that kind of thing out there too, you want it a little bit away from the house, you don’t want it right up against the back of the house and then a base layer to start. So cold composting or warm composting-
Wait, let me answer that, you don’t want it so far away from your house so that you get annoyed by it, right?
So kind of keep it maybe within 50 feet of the house, is probably what I would suggest.
What if I don’t have enough space for compost?
So what if I live in a big city like Chicago? So yeah, where would you-
Where would you locate it? If you’re in a like apartment, and do you have an apartment or do you have a yard? So on our quarter acre, we just kept it along the back fence, so that was 50 feet away. And actually we kept it closer sometimes, sometimes we had it at 20 feet away, right in the garden itself. And that was a tumbler, so it does depend a little bit on what kind of process you’re using. If you’re using a tumbler that locks up really good, you don’t really need to keep it that far away.
Yeah, you could definitely keep that closer.
Yeah, and tumblers can be a really great way, especially for people in the city.
We’re going to get into those.
And yes, you can compost bones. So the bones, depending on what style of composting you’re going to go with, you can break them up some, or you can just put them in their whole and it’s going to take a little bit longer for them to compost, but eventually, that’s going to add some really good nutrients and things to the soil. So it’s great.
Yeah. If you’ve ever bought bone meal for your garden, I mean, that’s a thing that people buy and I mean, worst case scenario with bones is, I’ve heard of people instead of composting, if you’re not comfortable with composting bones, you can cook them in the oven at a high temperature for a little while and then put them in your blender and blend them up, and then you have your bone meal.
So yeah, you kind of have some choices-
Or if you’re making bone broth, then you can take those bones out, that you mash.
Yeah. They’re not even hard enough. Yeah, blend them.
I don’t know how far down the hippie trail you guys want to go, but we go pretty far down.
Yeah, how long?
Right. So in a yard with a very curious Labrador, you might want to consider something that’s a little bit more sealed up.
A tumbler is going to be more pet-friendly for sure, open pile is going to be a little trickier.
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