Get dirty, have fun and grow more food with great gardening tips from real-life gardeners.
What if you could cut your household waste in half... before you even recycled a single can?
According to a 2013 report from the EPA, 14.6 percent of America's trash was food wastes, another 13.5 percent was yard trimmings, 6.2 percent was wood and 27 percent was composed of paper and cardboard. The remaining 38.7 percent was mostly comprised of glass, plastic, metals, and other non-biodegradable materials.
When most people think about composting, they think about pitching their coffee grounds and banana peels into a bin... yet if you really took advantage of Nature's system, you can compost a LOT more than that!
Dairy, bones, bread, ramen noodles... those sorts of things hit the trashcan, rather than the compost bin, thanks to the restrictive rules we're used to hearing from most authorities. Out of all your food scraps, you're probably only returning half to the soil. So... perhaps 7 percent of your waste?
Ridiculous! We can do a lot better than that! We can reduce waste by 50 percent!
All food wastes can be composted. In fact, my recent book Compost Everything: The Good Guide to Extreme Composting covers multiple methods for disposing of everything from fish guts to big logs—no trash service required! The Native Americans did it. Austrians have done it. The Chinese have done it. Why can't we?
What if we were to compost all of our food scraps... all of our yard trimmings... all the wood... and all the paper?
I know, you're going to tell me that stuff won't work in a bin. "What about glossy magazines with perfume samples or the little plastic envelope windows in the speeding ticket reminders I keep getting?"
Okay, you're right. We may not be able to kill all the potentially biodegradable waste... but I'll lay odds we can compost at least 50% of the waste that would normally hit the curb.
I've composted meat, paper, human waste, bones, logs and more. It's taken me a decade of practice, but we've gotten composting down to a science.
One of my favorite methods is to just dig a pit near a tree I'd like to feed or a future garden I'm going to build, then throw all the cardboard, bones, spoiled beef stew and other rough scraps into it. Nature does the rest. Keep a few bags of fall leaves on hand and you can cover the layers as you add them. If you're afraid of animals digging it up, dig a deeper pit and pile on the dirt. Tree roots will find the good stuff—and you're not contributing any of that organic matter to an over-stuffed landfill!
Even if you started making a paper and cardboard pile in a bin off to one side of your yard, you could reduce your waste by over 25 percent. That's a LOT over the course of a year!
Compost is the answer. Start to think about all the organic matter that's hitting your trash and how you can do better to reduce waste by getting extreme with your composting. I guarantee you'll find ways.
If you feel guilt over all you're throwing away, it's okay. I felt the same way—and we did something about it.
You can too!
David Goodman (AKA David The Good) is so serious about reducing waste that he wrote a book on it titled Compost Everything: The Good Guide to Extreme Composting. He's also written two other books on Florida gardening (both available on Amazon). Additionally, David is the creator of the popular 5-day-a-week gardening website The Survival Gardener. Go there and sign up for his newsletter today to get a free copy of his survival crop comic book (which stars a demented camel). David currently lives somewhere in the great state of Florida on a productive one-acre homestead covered with fruit and nut trees, garden beds, lizards, mosquitoes and children.
All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Best Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page.