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Composting: A Beginner's Guide

What do worms, grass clippings and newspapers have in common? They can all be used for composting!

My experience with composting is disappointingly minimal. As an elementary student, I once learned in class what composting was and helped my classmates create our own composting bin. Yet, other than having the bin in our class for a few days, that was my only interaction with composting.

I’d like to say that as I’ve grown older I’ve become more involved with composting, but that’s not the case. Across Western Washington University’s campus there are bins available for picking up compost, as well as other bins for recycling and trash.

Whenever possible I use the bins. Yet, because I live in an off-campus apartment that doesn’t provide bins for composting, I usually find myself disposing of leftover food via garbage disposal or the kitchen garbage.

This isn’t something I’m proud of.

While I’ve always been interested in composting, I’ve never put in serious effort to make composting a reality. That is, until now.

So, what is compost?

Compost is organic material that can be added to soil to help plants grow, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. There are an abundance of materials that can be used to compost, ranging from twigs to the comic section of last Sunday’s paper. Click here to see how much different areas in the world compost.

Okay, but why should I compost?

Up to 30 percent of trash in the U.S. could be composted rather than sent to landfills, according to the EPA.

Composting at home can reduce air pollution and reduces landfill sizes. In addition, according to Washington State University, composting at home is the most cost effective way to take care of yard and compostable kitchen waste.

How can I compost?

Being a newbie to composting, I found comfort and a sense of understanding when looking through a short PBS lesson on how to compost.

Here are the basic steps to composting, according to the lesson:

  1. First, find something to put your compost in. You can use a box, a pile, a bin, whatever!
  2. Next, include food scraps and yard waste in your container.
  3. Mix the waste up! The more mixed, the better.
  4. Turn the scraps around regularly.

Here are some options that you can include in your compost pile:

  • Vegetable and fruit waste
  • Coffee grounds
  • Water
  • Eggshells
  • Shredded newspaper
  • Leaves
  • Sawdust
  • Wood chips
  • Hair and fur

For a more complete list of what you can compost, click here.

Click here for a list of 25 tips on how to compost by Planet Natural.

So, that’s pretty much everything you need to know to start composting. I hope what I’ve learned helps you out. Now, let’s venture into the world of composting to help improve Earth’s future!

~ Alyssa Evans

Alyssa is a journalism and sociology student at Western Washington University who is passionate about improving the world through spreading information and volunteering.

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