Don’t think you can compost? This series, You Can Make Dirt, will hopefully prove that just about anyone can make space and find a system to turn their food scraps into nutrient-rich compost to enrich our soil, feed our food cycle, and limit the food waste that ends up in landfills.
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!
This series highlights families in various circumstances who have all found a way that composting works for their lifestyle. Hopefully, you can be inspired to give it a go and help our planet stay a little healthier.
I didn’t think composting could get easier, but Lori Tharps and her family compost at their home in a way that is so darn easy! If you have a bit of space in your yard, her method is easy peasy.
I first met Lori at a local Philadelphia blogger meet-up. Among other things, she told me that she was starting a podcast all about celebrating diversity in parenting and pop culture. I listened to the first episode and have been hooked ever since then.
It turns out she also loves diversity in her dirt, and I don’t blame her. A compost pile is nothing without diversity.
While I highly recommend you check out the My American Meltingpot podcast, I also think you’ll be surprised at just how easy Lori has made composting for her family. I’ll let her share all the details.
Can you tell us a bit about yourself, where you live, your family, etc.. the Lori 101?
My name is Lori Tharps. I’m a professor, author, podcast host and blogger. I am the mother of three kids ranging in age from 17 – 7, and I have a labradoodle named Baldwin. He’s enormous. Our family of five lives in Mt. Airy.
Tell us a little bit about why you decided to start composting?
I have always thought of myself as environmentally conscious but didn’t necessarily do anything above and beyond recycling in my daily life. Still, I always tried to do the environmentally correct thing if I was faced with a decision to make.
When we decided we wanted to plant a garden in our back alley (yes, we used our tiny piece of green in an alley to build a garden in two raised beds) I knew I wanted to make compost for my plants. Plus, with three kids, I felt we were always throwing away so many fruit and vegetable scraps and that just felt wrong.
I decided we should start composting, for our new garden and to reduce the waste we were creating. Plus, secretly, the little kid in me was intrigued by the science of making dirt out of food scraps and leaves.
What methods of composting do you use or have you used?
Let me just say, I don’t like to waste money and the idea of composting seemed to be connected to being not wasteful, so I didn’t see the purpose of buying any special equipment. Even though my neighbor had a spiffy compost bin, I consulted
Any methods that didn’t work for you?
Filling a garbage can wasn’t the best for us because trying to turn it was too hard. We couldn’t get the actual dirt off the bottom. When we moved two years ago, to a house with a yard, we created an open-air compost pile in the back away from the house. We started with a little pile of dirt and scraps, covered it with leaves and continue to add to the pile. Sometimes my kids find worms and toss those in there as well.
How do you store the scraps until they are taken to your compost pile?
LOL! My mother hates that I just use a flower pot to collect the scraps. When it’s full, usually after one day, someone takes it outside. It doesn’t smell at all because we don’t let it sit too long. My mother finds it so unsightly but again, I’m not spending extra money for something to put food scraps in. That just seems wasteful.
Do you have any special tools, containers, or products that help make composting easier or more accessible for you?
No. Once we went to the big pile method, things are pretty easy. And that’s the point, I didn’t want to make it too annoying or difficult. My seven-year-old can dump things on the pile. Then she or I can rake the leaves over everythin. If it’s not something the whole family can do, then it becomes somebody’s burden and I don’t want that.
Do you have any other supplies that you store until you need to add them to your compost pile?
We seem to have an endless supply of leaves, so we’ve never run out of brown materials. But when we started our other pile at our old house, we used brown paper bags for brown material.
How does your family feel about composting?
My husband thinks of himself as a nature lover, so he’s happy I started the compost pile. He thinks it’s great and likes to find worms to add to the pile. My 7-year old daughter also likes composting. My two teen boys don’t really have an opinion about composting, but I usually make them take the scraps out and they’re fine with it. It’s like one of their daily chores.
Have you experienced any benefits from composting, especially ones that might have surprised you?
LOL! Yes. O
Anything else you’d like to share with readers about your composting practices, especially to help beginners gain confidence that they too can compost?
This may sound crazy, but as a writer who often writes about race and diversity, composting appeals to my inner diversity warrior. I love the idea that by throwing random bits of odds and ends together you create this amazing new product that will help bring new life into the world. I’m not an expert gardener or composter, but I’m so dedicated to the idea of minimizing waste and creating something new and useful with leftovers.
Where else can we find you and learn more about what you’re up to?
P.S. If you haven’t listened to Lori’s podcast, I highly recommend it. It’s one of my very favorites, and I get excited each time I see a new episode drop. So go subscribe!