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Want to save the planet? Get composting!

Society Sustainablity

As more and more awareness spreads about climate change, insect collapse, rising sea levels, disappearing rainforests and other disasters many of us are increasingly keen to contribute to a healthier environment and to build better habits that support rather than destroy nature. The good news is that it may be easier to create positive change than you think and composting can help us get there.

In the Gulf, as in much of the world we have two serious environmental issues we can address through composting. Firstly, we produce massive amounts of waste that end up in landfills. Especially kitchen and other organic waste constitute a big problem because the organic waste produces methane, a greenhouse gas, when it decomposes. Secondly, we are losing topsoil at an unprecedented speed. Soil, the mother of all terrestrial life on this planet, is disappearing at a rate of X and if we don’t reverse this trend we will run out of it within 100 years. Without soil no plants.  Without plants, no food and no oxygen. It’s not a pretty picture.

So: composting to the rescue!

Why should I compost?

Composting is nature’s way of recycling. Yard waste and food scraps are broken down and become food for plants. Nature’s FBI (that’s fungi, bacteria and invertebrates) breaks down organic waste into compost.

Some good reasons for composting are:

  • Waste reduction  – By not throwing your organic waste into your regular household garbage bin you save scarce and valuable landfill space (depending where you live organic waste makes up between 35-75% of household trash!)
  • Climate change – Organic waste in landfills has the potential to release methane gas into the atmosphere – a greenhouse gas that is up to 25 times more powerful than CO2 in regards to climate change.
  • Awesome soil – Compost adds carbon, nitrogen and many valuable nutrients to your soil.

Types of composting:

  • Aerobic Composting:
    This is your typical
  • composting pile or bin in the garden.
    Ingredients: 3 parts browns (carbon sources), 2 parts greens, (nitrogen sources) water to keep the compost moist, oxygen (so the FBI can breathe).
    KEEP OUT: Dairy products, fats and oils, meat, pet wastes, anything treated with chemicals or pesticides, stickers from fruits and vegetables, roots of perennial weeds, coal, glass, metals, plastics.
  • Vermicomposting:
  • Vermicomposting uses worms to consume organic waste, ideally small amounts of non-fatty food scraps. Worms eat their weight in organic material each day and then produce a finished compost product called castings. It requires less space than other composting methods, and is ideal for indoor areas. Also recommended for high-density urban areas with little yard waste and space. Uses a covered container with a bedding of newspaper or leaves. Fruit and vegetable scraps are added as food for the worms. Over time, the food and bedding will be replaced with castings, a rich brown matter that is an excellent natural plant food. Use the formula: one square foot of surface area per pound of food scraps produced per week. A 4 square feet bin is perfect for 4 pounds of food scraps produced per week. You need 2 pounds of worms to every one pound of food scraps produced per day.
    KEEP OUT: Meat and bones, dairy products, oils and fat, and woody yard waste. 

  •  Bokashi Bin:
    This is a type of anaerobic composting. It works really well inside small spaces. Essentially, you have a special bin, in which you layer your kitchen waste. This is layered with a sprinkling of Bokashi bran. Because of the oxygen deprived environment and added microbes from the bran the waste ferments but does not read down or putrefy. During the fermentation process inside the bucket, the waste reduces in volume due to the water content of the waste draining to the base of the bucket where it can be tapped out. This juice is full of nutrients and alive with microorganisms. It can be used in the garden and around the home. To complete the composting process the waste is transferred outside and buried beneath the soil or added to your compost pile/bin. With oxygen, the microorganisms accelerate the breakdown of the waste, supplying the soil with nutrients and life. Bokashi significantly accelerates the composting process. The complete breakdown of the waste occurs once it is buried in the soil.
    KEEP OUT: Excessively large bones and excessive amounts of liquid.
  • Hot Composting:
    a method in which microbial activity within the compost pile is optimized, resulting in finished compost in a much shorter period of time. It requires some special equipment, as well as time and diligence.
    The two keys to success with hot composting are monitoring soil temperature and moisture and turning regularly. The optimal temperature for microbial activity is 57C to 70C. You can measure this with a soil/compost thermometer, or by simply sticking your hand into the pile. If it’s uncomfortably hot, it’s at the right temperature. At this temperature microbes are breaking down organic matter and reproducing at high rates. This temperature is also hot enough to kill most weed seeds and harmful bacteria in the pile.
    No matter what you use, it is essential to chop it finely so it breaks down as quickly as possible. If possible, add a few shovelfuls of finished compost as an “activator.” Commercial activators are unnecessary. Compost happens. Mix the ingredients together, water it so the ingredients are evenly moist, and let it sit. Layering is not necessary and often makes the process take longer. Moisture is also essential. The contents of your compost pile should feel like a sponge that has been wrung out well. Too dry, and microbial activity will be diminished. Too wet, and the microbes that thrive in anaerobic conditions take over – this often results in bad odors in the pile and an almost complete stoppage of decomposition.
    If you find that your pile is too dry, give it a watering with the hose, even digging down a bit into the pile to ensure that you’re moistening it all the way through. If it’s too wet, turn it, adding shredded newspaper or another high-carbon material as you do so to help soak up excess moisture. Cover with a tarp if rain is keeping the pile waterlogged. After three weeks or so of this routine (depending on the air temperature and other environmental conditions, such as precipitation), you will have beautiful, dark brown, crumbly compost to add to your gardens or lawn.

What to do with your composting:
Whether aerobic, anaerobic or vermicomposting, you will be left with digested organic material –  finished compost! You can work your finished compost into the soil or simply leave it on the surface above plant roots. Applied compost will increase nutrient levels, permeability, water retention of your soil, and much more!

Programmes and initiatives

If you produce more compost than you can use (if you live in an apartment for example and only have a few containers you can grow plants in) share it with your neighbours, community initiatives, your school and others, or simply scatter it around plants in your neighbourhood.

We can also bring the community together by running composting workshops, creating a community compost and more.

If you don’t feel like you’re ready to take on composting on your own just yet you can also contribute to the composts in your community if you know anyone who already does composting. You can also join Make Soil as a soil maker (if you have a compost that can accept other people’s contributions) or a contributor (if you would like to contribute to a compost in your community).

Finally, creating  compost in schools and running workshops there for students as well as parents is another excellent way to  spread knowledge.

Tell us by tagging us on social media if you started doing your own compost at home!

And should you need help… We’re available, book a workshop with us.

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