Wednesday, May 6, 2009

The compost bin.

A few weeks ago, I mentioned that I had purchased a compost bin for our family. I got a lot of flak from Kirk, thinking I had wasted a ton of money and reminding me I would have to twist his arm (and the arms of 3 children) to actually make use of the thing. Well, it's been up and running for over a week so I am here to report on it's initial use.

Firstly, why get a compost bin? I started researching them after my cousin got one and decided we could try it out, too. The question of 'can we really turn our garbage back into dirt?' is intriguing! I decided on getting a tumbler bin and ended up purchasing The Envirocycle. It is smaller, less expensive (although not cheap by any means...the price I pay for experimentation) and simple enough that the kids can easily help as we go.

So, The Envirocycle. It comes assembled and you literally lift it straight out of the box and plunk in down in your yard. It has two parts - the drum which is where you dump the garbage, and a base that has wheels on which the drum rotates. The base also is an empty vessel that collects "compost tea" - basically the liquid that drains off and is a natural liquid fertilizer.

My method so far - I have been collecting kitchen scraps (fruits/veggies, coffee grounds + filters, egg shells, and other food waste but NOT meat or dairy) and I place them in a bowl on the counter. I then cover the bowl with a plate to keep garbage out of site. There is no smell (I empty the bowl daily), and yet I will probably not do this long term. You can buy crocks and various containers (prettier than a bowl and plate) that are made for this job, but even they are kinda pricey. Another alternative (and what I plan to try next) is to keep a container in the freezer and empty it when it's full. Supposedly the freezer helps the waste start to break down a little before it even enters the compost bin.

The other stuff that can be composted is virtually any non-glossy paper (shredded is best), cardboard boxes, paper napkins, used kleenex (gross, but true!) and even drier lint. Of course yard waste is also compostable, from grass clippings to leaves. Best to leave out weeds and sticks, unless the sticks/wood are chipped.

The downside to the bin? It's small, so we will not be able to compost all of our grass clippings (we get 2 full trash cans a week in the summer) and once it's 3/4 full, we will have to stop adding more and keep it turning for a few weeks (months?) until it is all turned into compost.

But the upside? It's a great learning tool for the kids. We have frequent conversations about what can be turned into dirt, what can be recycled, and what happens to the regular trash. It is also helping me become mindful of what I used to blindly throw away (or down the disposal) and how it's really not hard to separate a few things here and there. We do that anyway by recycling, so this is just taking it one small step further.

Will we get compost? I hope so. I will keep you informed of our progress as the season progresses!

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