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How To Compost at Home for a Sustainable Lifestyle

Learn about this eco-friendly waste treatment method with the duo behind Westside Compost.

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If watching eye-opening environmental documentaries has made you wonder what you can do to better protect and preserve our planet, one realistic change you can make is to lessen waste by starting to compost. The sustainable waste management technique is essentially the process of breaking down organic material and turning it into nutrient-rich soil. To learn more about this waste treatment method, we asked the co-founders of Los Angeles-based environmental initiative Westside Compost, Kaile Teramoto and Stacy Huynh, to share some tips for composting at home, in your garden or even your office.

A platform dedicated to educating people on the benefits of composting as well as other eco-friendly practices, Westside Compost hopes to close the food waste cycle by promoting re-soiling. While composting may seem high-maintenance and messy at first glance, according to Kaile and Stacy, it is surprisingly easy to do at home. With the co-founders’ tips and tricks shared with HYPEBAE, you’ll be able to figure out which type of composting method works best for your setting.

Continue reading to learn how you can make composting part of your routine on this Earth Day (April 22) and beyond.

What exactly does it mean to compost? 

Compost is decomposed organic material, while composting is the natural process of breaking down organic materials that turn into soil and can be re-soiled in our own yards, gardens or parts of the Earth that have been degraded by human activity. Compost can be done in any setting, and choosing the right type of composting method will depend on your living situation. Our favorite method is vermicomposting, which consists of carbons (browns/dry), macro-organisms (red wiggler worms) and nitrogen (greens/wet).

Why should I start composting?

To live a healthier lifestyle. Composting will help you become aware of what you are consuming, while promoting growing food locally and in your home. Composting also cuts back on food waste entering into the landfills, which releases greenhouse gases.

What can you compost?

  • Organic materials
  • Greens, such as fruit and veggie scraps
  • Coffee grounds
  • Teabags
  • Tofu
  • Tempeh
  • Eggshells (shells only!)
  • Green leaves
  • Grass trimmings
  • Old flowers
  • Browns, such as nuts, shells (except walnuts), mulch, wood chips, dead leaves, sawdust, twigs
  • Newspaper
  • Shredded paper and unbleached paper

What should you not compost?

  • PLA Plastics (compostable plastics)
  • Plastics
  • Non-organic materials
  • Anything inorganic
  • Glass
  • Metal
  • Dairy products
  • Treated wood
  • Cat litter
  • Feces
  • Anything coated or containing harsh chemicals
  • Stickers and labels

What materials do you need to start composting?

Composting materials can differ depending on what type of method you choose, but for a vermicomposter, you need a bin of some sort (DIY wood or plastic bin). You want to make sure there is a removable lid, holes or spout at the top and bottom so that air can enter into the bin and run-off from the compost can drain. You’ll also need a good carbon base that could consist of shredded newspaper and dried leaves, organic dirt, coconut coir and so on. Lastly, you’ll need about 200 or more red wiggler worms depending on the size of your bin and chopped food scraps. Don’t forget to add wet paper or a cardboard cover to keep it nice and dark inside. It also helps retain moisture in the bin.

 

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A post shared by Westside Compost (@westsidecompost)

What are the different types of composting?

You should choose a bin depending on your environment and what best suits your lifestyle. The options are endless in creating a composting space or bin. Get creative with what you have laying around your house – here are some examples.

The best options for limited space are the bokashi bin or vermicomposter. A cool way to reuse the liquid from your bokashi bin is to make bokashi tea, which works as great fertilizers for plants.

Will composting get messy or smelly and attract insects?

There’s no promise that it won’t. Knowing that composting is a natural process, it attracts other natural factors, including pests and insects. Having a good carbon to nitrogen ratio can help with that. Also, aerating the compost pile with a rake or fork can help. Some vermicompost bins will come with lids to keep certain pests out.

Composting Do’s and Don’ts

DO’S

  • Put your compost bins in the shade especially for worm/vermicompost bins.
  • Put your food scraps in a kitchen pail to get in the habit of separating your food waste from other waste.
  • Keep a journal on your compost journey to understand your own composting process and experiment with ways that work best for you and your home.
  • Re-soil your compost into your own garden to close the food waste cycle in your own home.
  • Don’t give up — composting is just like a science experiment. You have to keep adjusting until you figure out your own best method. It requires your attention, but it will be a very fruitful process.
  • Always have some sort of cover over your compost pile, whether it be a tarp, cardboard, lid or wiring.

DON’TS

  • Don’t compost PLA plastics.
  • Don’t compost junk food.
  • Don’t compost acidic matter in worm bins.
  • Don’t expect it to work the first time around. Be open to the process.
  • Don’t add fish, meat, dairy products, bones, fatty foods or grease to your compost pile. These food scraps do not easily decompose and may attract animals.
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