Do you know how much food waste ends up in our landfills? And did you know that food waste doesn’t decompose properly in landfills and produces methane gas, a contributor to climate change? While limiting waste can be hard, reducing food waste is one of the easiest, most affordable and and very effective ways we can combat climate change in our own lives.
Composting is a really easy component of food waste management that not only prevents food waste from heading to landfills, but also turns food scraps into nutrient-rich soil. Instead of contributing to climate change by sending food scraps to the trash, we can make and use compost to grow new food, nourish flowers and plants in and around our homes, and ultimately reduce climate change.
For many, composting sounds intimidating. Isn’t composting hard? It’s kind of gross, right? And isn’t it for hippies and treehuggers? Nope. Nope. And Nope!
Welcome to the You Can Make Dirt (a.k.a Everyone Can Compost) series.
If you think composting isn’t for you, I know you’ll find a family in this series that proves otherwise. Through this series, you’ll discover stories of everyday families that compost their food scraps in really simple ways. You can compost in an apartment or a house, a city, suburban or rural area, and in any type of climate. Composting works for busy families, big and small families, and for people with all types of professions.
If you’re on the fence about how to handle your food scraps, read on and check out more of the series as we dive in.
First up in our crew of families breaking the composting stereotype barrier, Tami from the suburbs of Philadelphia. I like Tami’s approach to keep composting simple and not something she loathes. She doesn’t always compost, but she uses the bin when it works for her life. Every bit helps!
Tell us a little bit about yourself, your family, where you live, etc… What is the Tami 101?
I live in Ambler, Pennsylvania, a suburb of Philadelphia, in a typical suburban neighborhood. I have my own business, Rise Gatherings, a retreat company that creates get away experiences for women to take care of their mind, body and spirit. I’m looking forward to our next event coming up in just a few weeks in the Poconos.
I am 47 years old and my career has included being a school counselor, yoga teacher, non-profit educator and more. I have two teenagers, a husband, and an adorable dog!
Why did you start a compost bin?
While I have been composting for many years, I am not much of a gardener or anything like that! I just wanted to reduce our waste and do my part to slow down climate change.
When we moved into our house 15 years ago, there was an old compost bin. I started using it after reading about composting online. The bin was a simple container that required me to stick a shovel into it from time to time to mix up the contents. After doing that for five years, I treated myself to a $100 rotary compost bin that I bought on line. It’s really easy to use and turn the compost! Life changing!
Can you tell us a bit about how you started your compost bin and how you maintain this?
I start by collecting food scraps in a container on my counter, and then a few times a week I walk them out to the compost bin and dump them in. From time to time I add leaves (just by picking up a few handfuls of dead ones from my yard), and once or twice a year I add a compost aid that I buy at a local gardening store. It’s that easy!
I’m amazed by how quickly I accumulate a full container of scraps. Tea bags, coffee grounds, dead flowers from a vase, carrot and potato peels, banana peels, apple cores…it all goes in the compost container.
I’ve tried using a compost crock on the counter, but don’t like how I always have to wash it out. Now I just use a plastic bowl or empty recyclable container, like a salad greens package, and I like this even better.
In the winter I neglect my compost bin. It’s too cold to carry out scraps regularly and scraps doesn’t break down in the winter temperatures. I feel guilty throwing out scraps I would normally compost, but I look forward to the spring when I can start composting again!
How do your neighbors feel about you having a compost bin?
I keep it in an inconspicuous spot in my yard, not far from my house, and most don’t even know I have one! It’s on the side of my house, so you can’t really see it. I have a neighbor who knows about it, and sometimes she’ll put her scraps in my compost bin, which I love.
How does your family feel about composting? Do they participate or leave it up to you to manage it?
Every morning my two teenagers fight over who will take out the compost scraps. That’s of course after they’ve woken up early to tidy their room, take out the trash and unload the dishwasher. Just kidding! Just a fantasy.
I’d be lying if I said my two teenagers or even my husband takes out the compost scraps. If I ask them to do it maybe they will, but this job falls in my domain. I don’t really mind. It gets me outside, and I know I need more of that in my life. I often take it out in the morning or when I take out the trash.
Does it attract pests or animals? Does it smell? Or have you had any issues with it?
In the heat of the summer, sometimes I see fruit flies inside the bin but not flying around it. Because it’s raised off the ground, animals can’t get to it.
I have had old seeds drop out of it and vegetables randomly start growing underneath it. That was a fun surprise!
Do you bring food scraps out “real time” when you create them or do you store them in your kitchen somewhere and bring them out periodically?
I’ve spent money over the years on pretty crocks and compostable bags. However, I find that re-purposing a bag or container that I planned to throw out anyway as a compost collector works best for me. I collect the scraps in the container and take it out every couple of days or so, and then I throw away or recycle the container. This eliminates having to wash a compost container and gives something that I would have thrown out an extra life!
How do you use your nutrient-rich, homemade dirt?
You can use compost anywhere! I don’t have a garden, so I mix it in my flower pots and throw it in my flower beds before mulching.
I only use it once a year in the spring. After decomposing for a year, I dump all the beautiful rich compost from the compost bin and spread it around. It’s easy to get it out of the compost bin. I place a plastic tarp under the bin I have, open the latch door, and let it dump out. Then I can use it easily.
Anything else you’d like to share with readers about your composting practices, especially to help beginners gain confidence that they too can compost?
Anyone can compost!!! Unlike a lot of things in life, you can totally ignore your compost bin for days or even weeks. It’s all good and just waits for you to return! You really can’t mess it up.
If it’s not looking like compost, then I add more leaves and turn it a few times. If it’s dried out, I add some water. It’s no fail; I’m just creating dirt and I find it really cool!
It helps me be more aware of how much food scraps we create every day because I set them aside for the compost bin. Even if I’m not cooking much, there’s still coffee grounds, banana and orange peels, egg shells, etc…
I have “compost guilt” when I’m out and throw out banana peels or tea bags and think, “this should be in a composter!” If more families composted we would eliminate TONS of trash that can’t decompose in trash heaps, and actually can become nature’s natural fertilizer, eliminating the need for toxic ones!
I am not a hippie chick, and I don’t really even like to get dirty. I promise that if I can do this, anyone can do this. It’s easy, free, and is one step towards a healthier planet.
Where else can we find you?
Creating and leading women’s retreats! The annual Rise Gatherings retreat is in just a few weeks, so I’m currently planning the final details and can’t wait for the big event. If you’re interested, be sure to check it out. I would love to see you there.
Thanks so much Tami for sharing all the details about how you make dirt in your everyday life. Composting is something we can all do and make a big difference for our planet.
Tell Me How You Make Dirt
Do you compost? If so, contact me and let me know. I’m always on the hunt for more great composters creating dirt in their everyday lives to encourage and remind others just how easy it can be for all types of lifestyles. You definitely don’t have to be a blogger or have any online presence.
Now Go Make Your Fancy Dirt!