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When it comes to choosing your own composting method, you must ask four questions: How much space do I have? What types of waste do I want to compost? How much of that waste do I produce? How much work do I want to put in?
Just by answering these questions, you will narrow down your options. If you don’t have a yard, you’ll have to use a small method that won’t stink up your house. If you want to compost animal products and cooked food, you’ll need an enclosed method so your compost won’t attract critters. If you want to compost things that might be carrying diseases, you will need a “hot heap.” If you produce a lot of waste, you will need a bigger compost bin. You can buy compost bins, or you can make your own. Whatever your composting style, there is a method out there for you. I highly recommend checking out Nicky Scott’s How to Make and Use Compost, as he has a very thorough chapter detailing how various methods work, cost, where to get one, and the pros and cons.
My favorite methods of composting are variations of the New Zealand box and the Bokashi system. Having multiple open boxes or one that can be lifted off the compost and moved allows for easy layering and an easy method of letting compost mature while still collecting. You can buy the boxes or make your own. You can construct them out of wood pallets, or wire mesh. Then when full, you can transfer your compost into another box (the turning involved in this will help the process), or just lift your bin and move it to a separate area. Then let that pile mature while you fill the next one!
The reason I like the Bokashi system in addition to the previous one is that it allows you to compost everything. When it’s just an open pile in the yard, you can only compost raw plant waste. With Bokashi, you can compost cooked foods and animal products as well. There is the added cost of buying the Bokashi mix, but I think it is worth it for this easy method of composting everything. When one bucket is full, you move onto the next one and let the first bucket sit. After about two weeks, you can bury it or layer it into your larger outdoor compost system (remember that it will not be compost yet!). At this point, it will no longer be attractive to critters and you’ve just significantly reduced your food waste over if you were only composting peelings and egg shells. Plus, the liquid that you drain from the bottom can be diluted (1:100 liquid to water) to make a very good fertilizer. However, it is safe to dump down the drain, which is good, since you have to empty it regularly, it should be used soon, and you don’t need that much of it. Even if you don’t have the space to combine this with a large system, Bokashi is great for small scale, indoor composting, although you will have to find somewhere for it to finish composting. Check what kind of options there are in your community. If you want to save money, you can even make your own bucket (obviously you can use smaller buckets based on your food waste).
I’m only going to mention these two methods because they are what I am familiar with (although my college does use Green Cones). But just because these are the two methods I like, doesn’t mean there isn’t a better one out there for you! Do you own research and find one that fits your lifestyle. Next, I’ll talk about what can go in your compost.
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