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A beginner's guide to composting

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AUDREY MCNAMARA | STAFF

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JULY 27, 2022

You might not always think about what you’re throwing away, but you should. Composting has gotten a lot of attention in recent years as a way to keep our Earth clean. It’s actually really useful.

The main problem with landfills is all the stuff in them that’s not supposed to be there — for example, that sandwich you didn’t finish. When decomposing, organic matter creates heat, which is released into the atmosphere as energy. Energy travels in a cycle, as a principle in ecology states. It takes energy to grow plants or animals (for food), and when they reach the end of their lives heat and carbon dioxide is offset as energy. 

Here’s where composting comes into play. If we keep all compostable materials out of landfills, they won’t be as big of an issue. The main reason scientists are so concerned about landfills is that when food waste gets into them, they release a lot of methane. You might have heard of cows being a large supplier of methane. You’re not wrong. Just imagine that landfills are larger versions of cows. 

While it would be pretty hard to entirely eliminate cows, it’s actually not difficult to eliminate natural waste from landfills. You just need to learn how to compost. 

This past weekend, my family and I started our compost journey. We have a pretty small kitchen and no backyard, so even though we knew the benefits of composting, we never really got around to figuring it out. If you’re in the same situation, it’s never too late to start. I’ll even give you some tips. 

The first step that needs to be covered in your compost journey is deciding what kind you’ll be doing. If you have a backyard, opting for an outdoor compost might be the way to go in terms of space, plus you’ll be able to make your own soil. 

However, for those of us who don’t have the luxury of our own outdoor space, we need options for indoor composting. College students, I’m talking to you. You can still compost in a dorm! Your university most likely already has composting facilities around campus, so all you need to do is separate your compost from your landfill before taking it out. 

Here’s one thing to remember: When materials decompose, they not only release heat and greenhouse gasses, but also emit an odor. That’s why it’s important to find a compost receptacle that you can keep indoors without the smell spreading. I’m assuming most of you will be too busy with classes and all that homework to empty your compost bin after every meal. So, I’d suggest buying a bin that has a lid. 

You can find compost containers of every shape and size, whatever fits your needs. There are ones that can live on your countertop, which include filters inside the lid to keep smells at bay. These filters and containers are dishwasher safe, and will only make your time composting easier. 

If you’re still a little concerned about fitting a new bin alongside your trash receptacle, don’t worry. You can also buy compost bins with the same odor-eliminating attributes that clip onto the side of your trash can — another great option for students with space limitations. 

At this point, composting can be for everyone. The only hard part is disciplining yourself to keep at it. In the long run, it will make a difference.

Contact Sophie Horvath at [email protected].
LAST UPDATED

JULY 27, 2022


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