Friday, May 04, 2007

Prepping for the Compost Revolution

On Wednesday, Mary and I went to the free composting seminar hosted by Rick Glassman, Environmental Education Coordinator of St. Joseph County Soil and Water Conservation.

The first item on the agenda was called "Landfills and the Law." Rick informed us that technically speaking, compostable items can't be thrown into landfills. Well, that's news to me!

I also learned there's a delicate chemical balance that must occur for optimal decomposition. To achieve a stink-free and happy compost, carbon and nitrogen levels must be in harmony. (It's a 30:1 carbon-nitrogen ratio.)

I like how Rick characterized this ratio: Think browns for carbon, and greens for nitrogen**.

He gave us some examples, too:

  • Greens: food wastes, grass clippings, egg shells, coffee grounds, chicken/horse/cow poo
  • Browns: leaves, straw, bark, paper (newspaper, too), fruit wastes

And here are a couple of no-no's:

  • No dog or cat poo*, meat or oils

This carbon-nitrogen balance is important because we need as many critters as possible to eat the compost pile. And those critters like to eat carbon (for energy) and nitrogen (for protein)!

Ok, I think I'm mentally prepared for this new lifestyle change. A friend of mine is giving me his old composting bin tomorrow, so that's when I'll officially join the compost revolution! :0)

*In case you're wondering why horse poo is ok, but dog poo is not, Rick informed us that dogs & cats lack a pathogen system, which is a compost problem because the temperature of the pile (90-140F) isn't hot enough to kill those pathogens. (Pathogens are killed at 160F.)

**This post was edited on 5-14-07 for accuracy. (Thanks P~)


P~ said...

Michelle, I don't mean to pick, but I think you got the greens and browns descriptions reversed didn't you?

Michelle Verges, Project Director said...

Good call, P~. Thanks for noticing that mix-up.

I usually don't do this, but I'll go ahead and edit this post so that future readers don't get confused by my blunder.

Thanks for your keen observation!