Let’s Get Pumped to Compost!

Of all the things in life to get excited about, here’s one I never imagined I’d end up hype-woman for:: soil. Yet here I am, about to tell you all the wonderful ways you, yes YOU, can cultivate your own nutrient-rich soil using stuff you were going to throw out anyway. Oh and I don’t mean dirt. Because there is a difference. And I promise this won’t be an infomercial for some kind of contraption that will end up broken or in the back of a closet in three weeks. I’m not trying to sell you a thing. But I will sing the praises of decomposing kitchen scraps all day and night to make compost. And if that makes me a hippie or a weirdo, then I guess I’ll just go ahead and claim the titles.

Small Changes, Big Impact

First a little background into what got me into all of this. 2016-17ish I started learning more about climate change and feeling so overwhelmed. Like, this problem is SO big, and how could I ever do anything to solve it? I plummeted into paralyzing guilt for all the plastics I use, the overconsumption, the waste, all of it. I felt like I had to either up-end my life completely {impossible} or just ignore it all and do nothing. After talking with a few friends about this conundrum I realized I was doing some hardcore black and white thinking {all or nothing, that’s my enneagram one style!} and there could actually be an in-between. Doing something is better than doing nothing! What if we all engaged in just one or two earth-friendly changes that our families could get excited about?

My husband and I had been gardening for a while so composting seemed like a great place to start. It’s two birds with one stone- creating enriched soil for our garden while also chipping away at the problem of food waste in our home. If you haven’t heard about the connection between food waste and climate change- here’s a helpful link. 

We have three kids and try our best to meal plan but you know how that goes. Good intentions don’t always play out. Salad for lunch every day seemed like a great idea when I was grocery shopping- but then I got hungry for a peanut butter sandwich, what can I say? The vegetable stew I planned for dinner became drive-through Chick-fil-A last minute. You know how it is! It’s so sad when that gorgeous produce I bought on Monday unintentionally ends up wrinkled mush two weeks later in the back of the fridge. And then even sadder when it ends up in the trash, and in a landfill rather than fulfilling its life cycle and returning to the soil from where it came. Going too hippie on you because I’m emotional about the mushy salad in my fridge? Stick with me and you too may be rescuing the bendy brown celery from the back of the produce drawer…

How to Compost {it’s easy!}

I thought composting would be this complicated skill to learn, but once I ventured into it, I realized how simple the whole thing actually is. It’s an incredibly natural process that just needs a small amount of human intervention to get our uneaten food away from the garbage can and back into the earth.

The first step- get a sealed container to keep in your kitchen. This way you can easily dispose of all your scraps throughout the day into something that won’t stink. I used a sealed mason jar for a long time, but just recently I bought a cute little handled bucket specifically for composting.

Throughout the day, collect all the fruit and vegetable scraps, eggshells, and coffee grounds into your container. No meat, dairy, or oils, {or poop, just in case you were wondering!}. All of this organic stuff from inside your house is considered the “greens.”

You’ll need a balance of both “greens” and “browns” to create the compost. The “browns” are the things from outside that you add- the dry leaves, grass clippings, etc. Your compost can literally be just a pile in your backyard. You don’t need to buy a fancy tumbler or anything at all. Like I said before, this is a natural process that will happen on its own and if you pile up some leaves and start adding your kitchen scraps to it, they will eventually break down.

Enclose and Stir

The only problem with the pile approach is that it will take longer if you’re not spinning or stirring it {and your kids may inadvertently end up digging around in the old coffee grounds and eggshells. Ew.} So you may want to enclose that stuff in some kind of bin and then stir with a shovel or rake a few times a week. Or you can buy a tumbler that spins. Young House Love made their own composters from big plastic bins- here’s their super easy tutorial!

Stirring or spinning your compost causes “the magic” to happen faster, but it will happen no matter what: the “greens” {your food scraps} and “browns” {your lawn scraps} decompose happily together to create beautiful rich soil. It’s pretty incredible how it works and how that food that was once landfill-bound is now returning to the earth to become the nutrients for new plants and vegetables, and home to so many microorganisms and healthy stuff for us all!

I’ve been asked before if my compost stinks or attracts critters and the answer is no. If I can ever smell it I know I have too many greens and not enough browns. I actually keep a pile of leaves in the corner next to my tumbler and just add them as needed. Throughout the week, I’ll take my bucket of kitchen scraps out to the tumbler, give it a spin, and that’s it.

Reap the Rewards

About twice a year, when we replant our garden, we pull out this beautiful soil from our tumbler that we made!!! Okay, so maybe we didn’t make it ourselves, but we encouraged and cultivated the process. It’s so incredibly rewarding to see it happen right before your eyes and feels really great to know that you’re playing a little part in saving our beautiful planet. Even if you don’t garden, this stuff is great for your grass and your landscaping as well. Also, huge practical bonus for this family of five:: we’re not taking out the trash nearly as often because so much of what we used to throw away now goes into the compost!

Want to learn more about the importance of soil, how it impacts us, and get inspired? My kids and I loved the movie The Biggest Little Farm {streaming on Hulu}. Best wishes on your compost adventure!!

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Bethany Dufilho
Bethany, the daughter of an army chaplain and a special education teacher, grew up moving every 2-3 years. She considers herself an introvert who had to learn how to make friends quickly! She met her Houstonian husband, Paul, in college and they married in 2004. They first settled just north of Houston, where she earned her master's degree at Sam Houston State in School Psychology. After working in public education for a couple of years, she decided to stay home full time with their children, Charlie {2008}, Norah {2010}, and Will {2013}. The family moved to Katy in 2012, where they’ve been ever since. She loves decorating and even had her own small business for a while. She also loves to read, binge-watch old TV shows, talk politics and enneagram, and will not turn down a cup of strong coffee or a good conversation with a friend.


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