Composting Part 1 — You’re Going to Do What?

This series of posts is about the process of composting from the perspective of someone who would not be considered a “natural” for it.

Initially, my mother was skeptical about my idea to purchase a compost bin with the money my parents had given me for my birthday. Birthday money is for “treating yourself” and a compost bin seemed an odd “treat.” Besides, why would I even want a one? It was highly questionable. I am kind of squeamish and I do not like handling food that is past its prime. Moreover I really, really do not like creepy crawlies and they are the denizens of a compost bin.

Produce scraps put down a garbage disposal require water and energy to process them at the water treatment plant. Or put in the garbage consume energy to move them to a new location to rot. Composting seemed like a green thing to do and I wanted to do my part. It appealed to me on another level. Composting was way outside my comfort zone and would not be easy for me to do. I would be challenged. Compared to what needs to be done in the world this would be a drop in the bucket, but it was a start, and eventually, drops do fill up a bucket.

Food Scrap Collection Pail

I am a planning sort of gal, so I researched composting on the Internet to learn what equipment I needed, what could be composted, and how to do it.

Stainless Steel Compost PailI searched for a food scrap pail. This is the item you use to collect and temporarily store produce scraps before they go to the compost bin.

A stainless steel gallon bucket seemed like a good choice.  It was small enough that it would need to be emptied frequently and thus large quantities of rotting produce would not be stored in the kitchen.

Some offered compostable liners with an odor-reducing feature. To me, that seemed counterintuitive. First, why purchase a liner that required resources and energy for production when you are trying to minimize those things. Second, if you regularly empty the compost pail then it will not smell and something to reduce odor is not needed. I passed on the liners.

A pair of rubber gloves would solve the issue of transporting compost material to the pail and later to the compost bin.

Compost Bin

Off we went to the home improvement store to buy a compost bin. There were a few models to choose from. I knew I definitely did not want the one that used worms and the cylindrical one seemed small so I purchased a rectangular model.

Some compost bins are open and you just throw stuff in and occasionally stir it. I live in a forest and did not want to attract rodents so an enclosed unit with a bottom (or screen) was essential.

Once I got the bin home, even though it said it was easy to assemble, it was not. I am what you would call “mechanically challenged” so my spouse helped me with assembly. We selected a location up the hill from our house that was fenced in for the previous owner’s dog. The fence seemed like a good deterrent against larger uninvited guests. We lugged the compost bin up the hill and placed it on a flat area.

Making Compost

Since I wanted to make sure my composting got off to a good start, I had purchased a composting starter kit which is a bag of granules that you pour in to get things started off. For future batches, I dispensed with the starter as it also takes resources and energy to produce and transport to the store.

After creating a bottom layer of brown, dry vegetation from the yard, and pouring in the composting starter, I excitedly collected produce scraps in my compost pail and then dumped it in my new compost bin. I was on my way…

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Author: Linda Poppenheimer

Linda researches and writes about environmental topics to share information and to spark conversation. Her mission is to live more lightly on Earth and to persuade everyone else to do the same.

4 thoughts on “Composting Part 1 — You’re Going to Do What?”

  1. At a girl! I don’t like any kind of bugs (although I can handle a Lady Bug) either.

  2. Thanks for looking at Linda’s Blog. I hope you will answer/respond as I’m sure you would have good comments/hints. Oregon is very good about recycling to help the environment. We have to be careful as recycling garbage for compost does get smelly and you don’t want to attract unwanted critters. The fruit and veggie scraps we collect (as well as egg shells, coffee grounds and the filters, and tea leaves/bags) go from a colander bowl in the sink into a small container with a tight fitting lid, which we keep in the garage. We can also put bones and meat scraps into it but, we don’t do that. Jerry empties the bowl while I clean up after a meal. Then once a week (or when the small garage container gets full) he dumps it on top of the big yard debris container (which also has a tight fitting lid) that of course stays outside… The garbage collecting company brings the yard debris to a central location where it is turned into compost which is then sold. The proceeds help to keep our garbage collection fees lower. You really have to have a city and garbage company that keeps tight control of the recycling and composting processes though to recycle garbage, I think.
    Perhaps as more garbage dump sites fill up more municipalities will opt for more recycling programs. Plastic and glass jars can really add up, too. I remove labels and save some of the glass and plastic jars to use as containers when I bring flowers to a hostess or friend. I put a ribbon around the neck of the jar to hide the rim and the recipient doesn’t have to go find a vase for the flowers or return the jar. Glass jars with good lids can also be used to save left over food in the refrigerator. We think food keeps fresh longer when it is stored in glass containers rather than in plastic (zip?) bags. Glass bottles (beer wine, soda) with redemption value are also collected by the garbage company in a separate small container and we bring our Aluminum cans to one of the grocery stores who donate the redemption money to the schools. The grocery store has a cute little “Red School House” (about 3 X 6 foot) out in front to collect the cans – they handle the recycling.
    Paper – catalogs, magazines, newspapers, etc. can be a whole other recycling problem/process. I don’t like my imprinted name, address, and account numbers floating around for some dumpster diver to find. It takes time to go through unsolicited catalogs to tear out private information. I know some people don’t recycle as it does takes a little extra time but we are retired and it makes us feel good that we are doing something for the environment.
    Nan & Jerry

  3. Aunt Nan sent me the link to your blog. Congrats on your new endeavor.

    Bob and I have been composting and recycling for twenty years. We have two compost bins plus use the yard debris collection from the City of Portland which now does compost all food scraps. Our garbage can is a small 20 gallon can and is only picked up every two weeks and still never full.

    We only compost veggie bits at home but all food scraps including meat and bones go into the yard debris bin for weekly pick up. I make sure I layer the bin with yard debris. I am a big gardener and generate a ton of yard debris. I also leave the lid open when it is not raining so the debris in the bin dries out. This keeps the smell way down.. it is moist rotting stuff that reeks.

    Fish or seafood shells/bones go into the freezer until yard debris pick up day. Paper or plastic that they are wrapped in from the store gets rinsed before going into the garbage.

    I was born a tree hugger, but the experience was all new to Bob but he adapted quite well a long time ago.

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