International Composting Week
It's International Composting Week! Started in Canada in 1995, this international celebration raises awareness about the importance and benefits of composting as more people, businesses, towns, schools, and companies recognize the long-term benefits of recycling organics.
The goal of the International Composting Week is to raise public awareness of the benefits of using compost to improve or maintain high quality soil, grow healthy plants, reduce the use of fertilizer and pesticides, improve water quality, and protect the environment.
What is Composting?
Compost is organic material that can be added to soil to help plants grow. Food scraps and yard waste together currently make up about 30% of what we throw away, and this waste can be recycled in several ways that benefit the environment. Creating compost keeps these materials out of landfills where they take up space and release methane, a potent greenhouse gas.
A good compost recipe includes three types of ingredients:
Dead plant material from the garden, including dry leaves, twigs and sticks.
Household waste, including vegetable scraps, shredded newspaper, tea bags, coffee grounds, eggshells, etc. Don’t use meat, fat or dairy products, or pet waste.
A layer of soil adds earthworms and microorganisms that are necessary to break down the other materials.
Brown materials provide carbon for your compost, green materials provide nitrogen, and the addition of water provides moisture to help break down the organic matter.
As your compost biodegrades it will create the ideal, nutrient-rich organic fertilizer for your garden and plants!
The Benefits of Composting
There are many benefits to composting, both for the environment and for your yard and garden! Some of the most important benefits to composting include:
Reduces Landfill Waste - Yard and food scraps comprise between 25-50% of what we throw away. The EPA estimates that one fourth of waste in our landfills could have been composted. Composting not only removes content from our landfills but recycles this waste in many useful ways.
Creates Nutrient Rich Soil - Composting increases the quality of soil by increasing the amount of organic materials and micro-nutrients. Gardens and farms thrive with the addition of compost!
Reduces Gross Greenhouse Gas Emissions - Landfills are one of the biggest contributors of greenhouse gases, specifically methane. Composting reduces the organic materials in our waste, and this decrease in methane emissions reduces harm created by greenhouse gases.
Averts Garden Pests - Composting not only decreases our dependence on chemical pesticides, the micro-nutrients in compost repel some of the most stubborn garden pests!
Increases Biodiversity - Composting attracts many kinds of worms, bacteria, birds, fungi, and insects that are beneficial to the growing process.
Teaching Kids About Composting
Composting with kids educates them about the benefits of composting, the importance of preserving the environment, and creates new generations of composters! Explain to kids what happens to garbage that isn’t composted, and how our landfills are filling up at an alarming rate. Talk to them about how they can be part of the solution through their own composting activities.
Below is a simple composting activity kids will love!
How to Create a Composting Worm Farm
Kids love worms! Building your own worm bin is a simple project that they can make into an ongoing contribution to in the family home (or in the school community). It’s an excellent way for kids to develop responsibility, take ownership, build confidence, and hopefully develop a love for composting and growing their own plants and food.
You will need two plastic stacking containers and one lid, and it works best if these containers are at least 12 inches wide and 12 inches tall. Drill several small holes in the top, sides, and bottom of the top container.
Dampen 2 or 3 sheets of newspaper and line the bottom of of container #1. Stack container #1 inside container #2, which will collect excess fluid that drains through. This fluid is high in nutrients and can be used to fertilize indoor and outdoor plants!
Add at least an inch of bedding into the top container. A combination of peat, soil, and shredded newspaper works well.
Add worms found in your backyard to the bedding, and (carefully) aerate this mixture with a fork.
Add one final layer of dampened newspaper and secure the lid of the top container. Give your worms a few days to adjust to their new environment.
After a few days your child can start feeding the worms! Egg shells, fruit/veggie scraps, coffee grounds, and any organic table scraps work best. NOTE: do not feed worms meat waste, bones, citrus, dairy waste, or onions.
You will need to change the top layer of dampened newspaper every few days. In addition to newspaper, shredded egg cartons and cardboard also work.
In 10-12 weeks you will have ideal compost/fertilizer! This is known as 'vermicompost' as the excrement created by the worms (it looks like coffee grounds when it's ready) creates a perfect nutrient-rich fertilizer for your plants!
This educational activity informs children about the importance of recycling waste materials, preserving our environment, and caring for creatures, Plus, it's a lot of fun!
Do you compost? Add some of your composting ideas in the comments below!