Hi, folks! We usually like to use this forum to discuss all things related to keeping a clean home but today we’re going to change things up slightly. It’s still about living in and keeping a clean home, but today we’re talking specifically about composting! We’re here with Bruno Welsh who’s going to answer a few of our questions regarding composting and the concerns some people may have. We’re all familiar with the word “compost,” but maybe the finer details of the process –and how to get started– could use a little more light?
First, Bruno, what can you tell us about Compost RVA?
Compost RVA started out of a long journey of addressing the food waste we all produce, and finding that bridge of education and philanthropic business practices to make the connection. I currently pick-up for businesses, teach classes to children and adults, donate time to gardens, and work with various organizations in creating a consciousness of how to mitigate our waste stream.
For people new to composting, is it ok to keep a crock of kitchen scraps in or around the house before putting it in with the compost?
Go for it! I would recommend keeping it in the freezer if you can to keep down smells, and also speed up the decomposition process when you put it into your pile or bin. If you have it outdoors, make sure it is latched shut, or else you will make friends with local critters.
What do you think is the SIMPLEST way for somebody to get their own pile started?
Step out of your door, look for a small space in your garden that you want to plant in sometime in the near future, and throw down some coffee grounds! Remember, composting, just like recycling, is a big leap into changing how you see the lifespan of an object. So don’t make the education for yourself heavy and stressful. You’ll appreciate the results more, and save yourself from the nervous sweats.
What can they/what can’t they compost?
If you are vermicomposting (using worms) stay away from dairy, large amounts of citrus more than a handful, breads, and meats. But do use pretty much everything else. If you are doing a pile, I prefer using everything, and figuring out how to keep out the wildlife as much as possible. But that also means making sure your pile is hot upwards of 100 F at least. Easier to do than you may think, just remember: lots of leaves, lots of carbon in general, the smaller in consistency the better. In general stay away from any “99.99%” [antibacterial] products or things that have been wiped with them going into your compost — because, after all, you are trying to grow colonies of helpful bacteria. Also, keep out plastics, unless you know that not only are they compostable, but they are certified to be so. There are many false compostable products that are either labeled “biodegradable” or some on the market that say they are “compostable,” however, they don’t have certification. Like I said, it is a lifestyle change; research and accountability on our part is key!
Do you think there is a major concern for critters popping up around the site of composting?
I think lots of people have concens about critters. I have had them from time-to-time. There are ways to cover scents through lots of carbon, lots of coffee grounds, and working your compost so that it is hot. Remember though, that some of these critters include birds, bees, and the like, which leads to your garden space being a more ecologically diverse space. There are many pros and cons to critters.
What are the advantages of composting?
Food waste is mitigated, carbon dioxide and methane production are mitigated as well, and the very process of working with the bacteria in and around the soil has been linked to being a stress reducer. Plus, through composting, you can create spaces hospitable for planting that may not have been previously.
Do you have a short n’ sweet “composting story” for our readers? Whether it was something crazy that popped up in a pile or something that happened at a pickup site — we love a good story!
Yes! It was the early days of my composting when I worked at 1 N. Belmont Restaurant. I had a wire frame bin in my parents’ backyard. It was around 2008-ish after a heavy snow fall in Va. I went to work on the bin one very cold night that was dimly lit by the moonlight. As I approached the bin, with pitchfork in hand with snow falling around me, I stepped on some twigs near the bin. Suddenly, the bin moved, a cat leaped from the top of the bin, and a huge plume of steam came from the pile. This was my introduction to hot compost, the possibilities of harnessing the energy from composting for other purposes, and made a grumpy chore that night into something that still makes me laugh today.
The bin story with the cat, and also that bin which I affectionately called “Grandpa,” because it was created when I found out my grandfather had just died, showed me the meditative benefits of working toward making a living thing through composting to benefit the soil. I still get “a-ha!” moments where things I didn’t quite get, come together through experience, or questions I get in my classes. It’s those moments where the train of thought is moving, and suddenly another car attaches expanding your vocabulary to answer the “why” questions I often get.
Thanks for joining us, Bruno! And thank you to our readers as well! We hope that this discussion is the first step in many peoples’ foray into the exciting world of home composting. You can find Compost RVA’s website at http://www.compostrva.com/.