Welcome to Green Boot Camp

Welcome to Green Boot Camp blog, a 52-week program to help you become a greener you in 2008. This is the companion blog to The Lean Green Family (formerly Suddenly Frugal).

Monday, July 7, 2008

Week 25--Reduce Your Garbage

Recently, I wrote a post on The Lean Green Family about a new, "green" garbage bag that I'd discovered. It is green because it's coated with a "secret formula" to make it biodegradable (in ideal landfill conditions) and it's green because, well, it's a green bag, not a black bag.

Soon thereafter I heard from someone who was interested in this green bag but confessed that she rarely throws away any garbage, so buying garbage bags just wasn't a priority for her anymore. How the heck can she not have garbage to throw away?

I thought it was so great when we had cut our garbage output in half when we started composting last year. But not to have any garbage at all? How is that possible?

This week your goal is to reduce your garbage by at least one bag, and you can easily do this through composting. If you haven't already started composting, I want you to get started now. You can get a free or low-cost composting bin from your local state university's co-op extension program, your municipality's recycling facility or on Freecycle (like I did).

Here is a composting primer:

First, you can throw any organic matter in your compost--vegetable peels, apple cores, seeds, popcorn, coffee grounds, eggshells and more. What you can't put in the compost are three key things: no dairy, no meat, no bones. (These smell super rancid and they attract pests.)

Next, since you keep your compost bin outside, you should have a small collection bucket inside. I have a leftover sherbet bucket that I keep tucked under the sink. My mother used to keep a bucket right in the sink (we had a big sink, and I think she dumped the compost daily).

When your bucket is full, bring it outside to the compost bin. Every time that you dump "green" matter (i.e. your organic matter described above) into the compost bin, you need to cover it with a thin layer of "brown" matter. I use fallen leaves or extra dirt. Some people use mulch (though that seems to be an expensive option that could easily become cost prohibitive). I've also dumped cold fireplace ashes in the compost as my "brown" (even though they were gray).

Every week or so, you should turn your compost so that the air circulates and everything begins to break down into beautiful, dark dirt that, soon enough, you can use in your garden.

Because composting works with heat, your compost will decompose and turn to dirt faster in warm weather months (now!). During the winter, it won't look like much is happening--and it'll just seem like your food scraps are piling up--because they are. Just wait out the winter, and as soon as the weather warms again, the compost will start getting smaller.

Speaking of warmth your compost pile will do best if it's partially in the sun (to help heat things up).

You may be surprised to learn that there are ton of things around the house that you would normally throw away but which you can compost--and I mean things beyond the obvious food. Guess what else can go in the compost? Shredded paper, paper towels, coffee filters, cardboard toilet paper and paper towel rolls, dryer lint--even Sweet n Low packets.

Let me know how your garbage-reduction plan is going and how you like composting.

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