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Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The New Look of Compost

In many realms of life, being eco-conscious can be achieved without a lot of hassle. We can make a big difference by buying organic or locally grown food, driving fuel-efficient vehicles, and even wearing eco-chic clothing and jewelry. Until recently, whether or not to compost would not have been considered an easy environmentally aware decision. This is changing, however, as several companies are producing new receptacles and devises that make it possible for even the most finicky of us to compost with ease.
The Basics
Compost describes the process that occurs when nitrogen and carbon rich materials, such as vegetable scraps and paper products, come together and decompose. Humus (not to be confused with the lovely chick-pea spread of a similar name) is the final product of this process and looks like dark, moist soil. It is very rich in nutrients and can be used as a fabulous fertilizer. Composting is a great way to create homemade garden fertilizer as well as to divert waste that would end up in a landfill. The Old Way Many households and even municipalities in the United States are currently composting. This typically becomes an activity akin to gardening. The nitrogen-rich food scraps are collected in the kitchen and periodically placed into an outdoor bin. In this bin, the scraps are mixed with carbon rich materials such as dried leaves or paper products. Eventually, the contents of this compost bin will completely decompose leaving the valuable humus. The unfortunate part of this process is that you are essentially creating a bin of decomposing or rotting waste that you must monitor and add to. It can take up to a year for the compost to be ready, and when it is, you must “harvest” the final product by essentially digging through the bin to sort out pieces which did not decompose and then collecting the humus to be used in your garden. This procedure involves buckets, shovels, and a willingness to get dirty at the very least. The New Way While digging around in outdoor compost bins might sound like a lot of fun to some, for those of us who are looking for a cleaner way or who may not have the time or outdoor space to dedicate to a compost bin, there are some alternatives. First, when it comes to collecting food scraps, there are many products now that make this an attractive and easy thing to do on any kitchen counter. The Kitchen Compost Crock, available online, is a ceramic container which not only can be an attractive addition to any kitchen, but also comes with features such as a carbon filter to absorb odors. Once the food scraps are collected and stored in this or a similar container, there are now options for creating the final product right in your kitchen. Bokashi, which is originally a Japanese method of food scrap fermentation, combines an air-tight container with a Bokashi mix, containing many micro-organism, to produce a garden supplement in days, not months. Airtight bins and the Bokashi mix are available online and are a great way to divert your food waste quickly, easily, and without all the mess. For those of you who are ready to take the next step beyond eco-conscious purchases and recycling, compost is a great way to reduce your carbon footprint as well as create a product which is useful for your garden, as a gift to a friend, or even as a donation to a local public garden to help curb their use of chemical fertilizers. Image Credits: Spikes Sanctuary, Gardeners.com, Cleantechnica.com

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