My fascination with composting was born in college from the womb of wanting to live sustainably. At the time, I loved to garden – I loved flowers – but back then, I didn’t care about the nutrient rich product that the compost provided to a garden, I just wanted to be “sustainable.”
What did that even mean?
Back then, being sustainable meant wearing chacos, going outdoors and exploring with newly found friends, opening my arms to nature and soaking in all her blessings…
But upon consulting a dictionary that’s a far cry from the actual definition of sustainability. At the root of sustainability there is action. It doesn’t mean “being a college freshman hippy trying to find my way and fit in.”
However, I felt drawn to the people who cared about Mother Nature, about their actions and what it meant for the environment. I didn’t understand sustainability, but I certainly felt a kindred spirit to the people and the cause.
I remember when I was a freshman at Colorado Mesa University there was a group called Sustainability Council that got together weekly to make steps towards having a more sustainable campus while also educating students about sustainable practices. The group was more dynamic than that slight description, but nevertheless, it was the first group I joined on campus as a fresh-eyed 18-year-old.
At the time, they wanted to build a compost pile using the leftover food waste from the cafeteria – which I think is brilliant. The waste that came from that place was incredible, and I was guilty of adding to it. What, with the buffet style restaurant, you could get pasta and chinese food and a salad all in one evening. Often, my eyes were bigger than my stomach. And thus, waste. Waste that gets dumped into the trash, dumped into a bigger trash, and then finally finds its resting place in a bigger, the biggest, pile of trash – a landfill.
What are landfills anyways? Has anyone ever seen one in real life? I admit, to me, these such landfills exist somewhere far away, somewhere that doesn’t matter to me right here and now. But that’s the problem, and that’s what the Sustainability Council (who inspired this project so many years ago) brought to my attention.
I finally have some space. I have some space, I have time, and I have the heart of a woman who cares so much about our Mother. So I started to research. How do I build a compost and how does it work?
Essentially I used a spin-off of this compost design found here. I gathered pallets, cleaned them, and stained them with some leftover stain I found in our basement. Then, I had Christopher put it all together. Pretty simple, eh?
From my research I found that basically everything will decompose (organic materials) but there are some things you should avoid putting in the pit and other things that are encouraged to use. Example, avoid citrus peels but USE those eggshells and coffee grounds!
I’ve got the compost layered with brown materials to introduce carbon (straw and dead leafs are what I used) and green materials to introduce nitrogen (various kitchen scraps and grass/flower cuttings). I soaked it briefly with fresh water and I plan to let it sit for a week before I turn it for the first time. Soon, I will purchase some worms to aerate the pile.
Did you know that according to the EPA, composting can “reduce up to %24 of your household waste”? That’s just one of the fascinating benefits of maintaining a compost. If you’re interested in finding out more, a google search will do you good, or you can click here.
I’ve finally put up my very own composting system after being inspired so many years ago, and I hope to continue taking action to be a mindful and sustainable person in the small ways that I can. It’s not about being a hippy, wearing chacos, or just talking about the world and what we can do for it. It’s about looking around at your life and seeing what you can do. Right here. Right now.
Happy composting ya’ll!