It’s International Composting Awareness Week this week (if you missed our intro to the initiative, read here). Composting is uber important. Not only does it recycle vital nutrients that plant life (all life) depends upon, it diverts food waste away from landfill. For every tonne of food waste not sent to landfill, almost one tonne of CO2 emissions is saved.

So, how to become a composter? How do you get started? Composting is easy. We do it. If we can do it, you can do it.|

What we say about composting:

We’re seasoned composters ourselves, here at Sustainable Table. Here’s our thoughts:
Cassie lives inner city and has a paved courtyard with an Aeorbin (see below). Cassie says: Don’t procrastinate, Just Do It! Once you set up a compost bin, you’ll notice just how much waste you save. Food waste doesn’t decompose that quickly (it usually takes 4 – 6 months) so you don’t need to have a big garden to support it. If you have too much, give it to your friends and neighbours. Easy!

Maria lives in the outer burbs and has a backyard with a garden. Maria says: If in doubt as to whether you can compost something or not, ‘Google’ it. Chances are, you can. Pet hair, nail clippings, wine corks… In fact here are 147 Things You Can Compost but thought you couldn’t. Also, think about having two compost bins if you have the space, or one compost bin outside and one small one inside. This means you always have a bin to which you can add food scraps whilst the other is composting away.

Here’s how to get started:

1. Decide which compost unit suits your needs and situation.

If you have a garden, consider a typical compost bin. If you have a yard but not so much a ‘garden’, consider a green cone. If you don’t have a yard or garden, just a balcony or windowsill, consider an indoor/bench top unit or a DIY indoor compost bin. Read our intro article to check out the range of options available for a variety of home situations.

2.  Consider what you’ll do with the compost once it’s ready.

You’ll have 4 – 6 months to work it out (that’s how long a compost pile generally takes to be ready). Gardeners will delight in distributing it around their garden, but those with no garden need to think a little harder. Some councils collect compost. Some cafes collect compost. Some neighbours will love you more if you give them your compost. You can always become a guerrilla composter.

3. Get your materials together.

Unless you’re using an indoor bokashi bucket or similar, in which case you get everything you need to compost in the kit you buy, you’ll need:

  • A shovel – for occasionally turning over your pile and for distributing around the garden.
  • A small indoor compost pail – for storing food scraps from the kitchen. You can get really pretty ones, like this.
  • Carbon material – aka brown stuff: twigs, newspaper, straw, wood ash, dried leaves, egg shells, coffee grounds.
  • Nitrogen material – aka green stuff: food scraps, green manure including clover, lawn clippings etc, manure.
  • If you’re using an open compost unit, you’ll need some vermin-proofing material, like chicken wire. Lay this under and around the bin to keep rodents out (they will steal the food scraps, those ratscally swines).

4. Get the carbon:nitrogen ratio right.

Once you set up your bin, it’s just a matter of piling stuff in. For a healthy and efficient compost you should stick to a ratio of 1/3 green (nitrogen) to 2/3 brown (carbon) material. The brown stuff keeps your compost pile aerated (which keeps worms and micro-organisms happy) and keeps it from smelling. You can use the illustration above as a guide.

5. Turn your compost pile once in a while.

You can work your compost so you don’t have to turn it by adding enough carbon material. Or you can purchase a compost bin that does not need any turning whatsoever, like this Aerobin. Otherwise it’s simply a matter or sticking your shovel in and giving it a little poke around every once in a while to ensure air gets in all the nooks and crannies and the green material and brown material are mixed nicely. No big deal.

Happy Composting! If you have any specific questions, please feel free to comment below and we’ll try our darndest to be as helpful as possible.

Image via ACRD.