Compost: A Path to a Greener Community

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In a landscape full of potentially harmful, genetically modified foods, many health conscious people are turning toward organically grown produce, though high costs for organic products can prevent even the healthiest eaters from getting the natural fruits and vegetables they desire. However, there is hope as sustainable gardening and composting techniques have made organic foods not only delicious but also affordable.

On Nov. 3, UC Santa Cruz students Ryan Goldberg, Abigail Putnam and Lloyd Kirk showed City on a Hill Press how to create a low-cost, sustainable garden through composting.  Compost is decomposed organic matter that can be reused as natural fertilizer and is commonly used in green, sustainable farming.  The process is positive for the environment and is relatively easy and cheap to make.

Compost is commonly comprised of a layered mixture of collected food scraps, animal byproducts and straw. Most of these ingredients can be found in gardening supply stores or acquired through local authorized resellers.  Used in combination, both compost and home gardening is a fun and cheap way to get fresh produce.

 

What you will need to get started:

  • Shovel and/or pitchfork
  • Animal feces
  • Straw or hay
  • A tarp
  • Green food waste

 

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Photo by Matthew Tsuda.
Green waste (top) and animal feces in combination with water and non-animal based food scraps make the best compost. Photo by Matthew Tsuda.
Green waste (top) and animal feces in combination with water and non-animal based food scraps make the best compost. Photo by Matthew Tsuda.
Student Ryan Goldberg begins to layer his compost pile with straw. After additional layers the compost will be complete. Photo by Matt Tsuda.
Student Ryan Goldberg begins to layer his compost pile with straw. After additional layers the compost will be complete. Photo by Matthew Tsuda.
Water is an essential composting ingredient, as it helps bacteriological decomposition process and helps to prevent unwanted odors. Photo by Matthew Tsuda.
Water is an essential composting ingredient, as it helps bacteriological decomposition process and helps to prevent unwanted odors. Photo by Matthew Tsuda.
Discarded produce can be added to the layered mixture to increase the decomposition process, which creates better compost. Photo by Matthew Tsuda.
Discarded produce can be added to the layered mixture to increase the decomposition process, which creates better compost. Photo by Matthew Tsuda.
After your compost pile is at an adequate height, place a tarp over the pile to keep the heat locked in. Photo by Matthew Tsuda.
After your compost pile is at an adequate height, place a tarp over the pile to keep the heat locked in. Photo by Matthew Tsuda.
Once the compost decomposes for about a month to a month and a half, it is ready to be used as organic manure. Photo my Matthew Tsuda.
Once the compost decomposes for about a month to a month and a half, it is ready to be used as organic manure. Photo my Matthew Tsuda.
Photo by Matthew Tsuda.
Photo by Matthew Tsuda.

 

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Composting Facts

 

  • Why compost? Composting removes vegetative material from going to landfills. This can extend the longevity of landfills and significantly reduce methane emissions.
  • 17 percent of all atmospheric methane gas comes from landfills and over a span of 100 years traps 20 times more heat than carbon dioxide, the most prevalent greenhouse gas.
  • Any form of vegetative matter can be composted — composting animal proteins can not only produce lower quality compost, but can also create extra potentially harmful odors.

If you are interested in composting visit the EPA’s website: http://www2.epa.gov/recycle/composting-home

Editor’s note: this article originally ran in our print edition on Nov. 7 under a different headline and has since been changed due to potential sensitivity issues.