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How to Home Compost in 5 Easy Steps

Rotting food in landfill produces methane, which is 21 times more potent than carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas - and for every tonne of food waste in landfill, a tonne of CO2-e greenhouse gas is generated. Having spent a lot more time at home over the last year, our household spent a lot more time cooking, and as a result, became a lot more aware of our food waste! 

The good news is that there's a solution for your home food waste that doesn't involve land fills. 

This week is International Compost Awareness Week (ICAW), the largest and most comprehensive education initiative of the compost industry. Celebrated internationally each year during the first full week of May, you can check out their website here for events and activities to bring composting into your home and make a healthier change for the environemnt. 

So whether you're in a tiny apartment or a big suburban house, here is how to turn your food waste into beautiful earthy compost in five easy steps.

1. Select Your Scraps

Fruit and vegetable scraps are a great place to start! Banana peels, the tops of strawberries, sweet potato skins - all of these are perfect for your new home compost. You can also include things like vegetable oil, prunings and lawn clippings, tea bags and coffee grounds, vacuum dust, shredded paper and cardboard, used potting mix, egg shells, flowers - and even your Cuddlies Biodegradable Bamboo Water Wipes and Bio Bags (more on this later).

It is important to note that while some products say "compostable" on them — like "compostable bags".Those are compostable in industrial facilities, but they don't really work for home composting unless advised otherwise. 

What should you avoid? Anything that would attract rodents or pests - this includes meat and dairy products, cooked food and oily or buttery things. If you intend on using your home compost for homegrown produce that you will eat later, it is also important note that you should not include anything with fecal matter as your home compost does not have the strength to kill the bacteria - so if you use your Bamboo Wipes for changing bub, leave these for the industrial compost. 

2. Store Your Scraps

Composting requires a deliberate method for layering your scraps to speed up decomposition, so you'll need to store your scraps so you can add them bit by bit. An easy waybto avoid odors or insects in your kitchen is to store the food scraps in a bag in your freezer or the back of your fridge until they are ready to go in the pile. 

3. Choose Where To Compost

A great idea for those of you who don't have a backyard but still want a traditional composting experience is to take your scraps to a community garden or compost pile shared with neighbours. 

If you do want to do it in your own apartment, a 20L box will do for vermiculture (worm farming)!

If you have an outdoor space, your compost bin doesn't need to be complicated - use an old rubbish bin or wooden chest - whatever you have available! You can even create a "naked" pile, just make sure you don't have it against anything it could stain.

4. Make Your Compost Mix

The two main ingredients for your mix are your "greens" and your "browns"

"Greens" are typically food scraps, like fruit and vegetable peelings, coffee grounds, or, if you have a yard, grass clippings. These add nitrogen — a crucial element for microbial growth. Greens are typically wet.

"Browns" are more carbon rich — think egg cartons, newspapers, dried leaves, and pine needles. It also helps to shred up the paper products before putting them in your pile. Browns are typically dry, and important because they allow water and air to flow ("aeration") and allow the microorganisms to do their job to decompose your pile. 

When you're layering, you want the dry browns on the bottom with the wet greens on the top - the ratio can be anywhere from three to four parts brown to one part greens, but you can even go two to one. The number of layers depends on your amount of food scraps but try to keep layers to about 1-2 inches. You can also put a little bit of browns on the very top to keep away flies and odors.

5. Wait and Aerate

To keep things moving, you need to "turn" or aerate the pile to get the air flowing so that it's wet but not too soggy. Think about your pile as a fire - in a fire you need to structure the wood to get the air going, in compost you have to do a similar thing, adding spaces to give oxygen to the microbes responsible for doing the decomposition.

When you start out you might be turning the compost once every seven to 10 days. Typically the more compost you have, the faster it will go - it can take around two months in the hotter months, or if it's cold it can take six months to a year for every component to break down. 

If your compost smells bad like landfill, it means it's not decomposing and you need to readjust your rations of greens and browns, but if it smells woody, earthy and sweet and looks fluffy, it is ready to go on your garden or indoor plants!


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