Suburban Pioneers

The Adventures and Misadventures of Homesteading in 21st-Century America

Sarah: What NOT to Compost November 1, 2012

I keep this container in my kitchen to hold kitchen compost. What’s in your compost?

A blog about suburban homesteading wouldn’t be able to hold its head up without at least one or two entries on compost.  This is my second post on compost (the previous one was about building the compost bin itself), and I never imagined that I would have so much to say about rotting organic matter.

I’d like to start this post by explaining why compost is so important.  It’s a pretty basic way to be environmentally conscious, and it doesn’t take a lot of effort.  You probably know that, according to the EPA, organic waste and yard trimmings account for 27% of landfill waste.  Furthermore, when organic waste is composted in landfills, it can’t properly decompose, so it creates methane instead of breaking down properly (thereby contributing to greenhouse gasses).  Also, you end up having to buy fertilizer (because what we need is more chemicals?) for your beds and gardens instead of having cheap, easy, self-generated compost.

Okay…so I haven’t personally tried composting all of these, but I will be trying them now! According to others, it can be done…

Composting is pretty simple: dump organic matter into a pile to return it from whence it came.  We did this for several years and it always worked.  However, my recent research has revealed that they key to composting quickly is ratios: 2/3 brown matter like leaves, coffee grounds, sawdust, egg shells, wood shavings, paper, etc. and 1/3 green matter like veggies, fruits, grass clippings, etc.  Basically, dump your kitchen stuff in a pile and cover it over with crunched up leaves every now and then.

As I have been researching compost, I have also compiled a rather lengthy list of things you can compost.  There are some surprises on it (Fingernail clippings? Do people take the time to do that?  Should I?).  For more about things you can compost, look here, here, or here.  However, there are things you shouldn’t compost, as I discovered.

Our Little Bear was a little under three months old when my guilt over using plastic/chemical-filled disposable diapers finally triumphed over my exhaustion and overwhelmed-ness (since we had moved and remodeled a house this summer, I allowed myself a little environmental slack at first regarding the diaper issue…after all, we didn’t even have a changing table set up for a time).

Coincidentally, right about the time my guilt had grown to a size impossible to ignore, a friend gave us a large stash of g-Diapers.  The g-Diaper is a hybrid between disposables and cloth–the inner liner is disposable, and the outer cover is washable.  “Perfect!” I thought. “This will be a great transition for us.”

I was delighted to see advertised on the front of the package: “Biodegradable Liners” and “Flush” or “Compost” as options for disposal.  When Keith came home for lunch and took Little Bear upstairs to change her, I called up after him, “Save that diaper–I’m going to just toss it in the compost pile.”

“It’s a poopy one,” he called back.  “I don’t think we should compost it.”

“Of course we should.  The package said so.”

“Can’t you, like, get diseases from that?” he asked.

“She’s a baby!  She’s only had milk!  What diseases could we get?  Besides, it said compost,” I replied.

“I’m just not sure about this,” he said.  I’m not proud of what happened next.

“You keep shooting down all my ideas lately,” I wailed.  I think I might even have had tears in my eyes.  I won’t describe how the conversation devolved at this point.

Suffice it to say that we argued about compostable diapers for, yes, a full 30 minutes until Keith finally got the bright idea of looking at the package.

“Wet ones, Sarah.  It says you can compost wet ones.”  It did, indeed, say “Wet gRefills only.”

“Oh.”  Apparently, sleep deprivation turns normal, rational human beings into whiny, stubborn fools.  We later agreed to not mention this sad incident to anyone except all of our closest internet friends via this blog.

We’ve been composting only wet gRefills since then, washing our other cloth diapers (more on cloth diapering later), and flushing the poopy liners.  So far, my guilt has been mostly assuaged.  So far, our toilet and septic system have held up.  So far the gRefills seem to be composting in the bin.

I’ll keep you (com)posted on how this all turns out.

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