If there is one thing that the pandemic taught us, the Earth does much better when we are not around to use it. During the worldwide lockdown, the environment had a break from our typical pollution rates, and it made me realize how much of an impact I had on the environment. A friend recently started making compost in her backyard, and I was intrigued by her decision to take it upon herself to collect her scraps and kitchen waste for compost. She told me that she was being more conscious of her footprint on Earth, which got me thinking about the change I could make by joining her.

Looking back, I haven’t lived a very eco-friendly life. For the most part, I only did the bare minimum, saving water where I could and trying not to litter. But because of my friend’s influence, I decided to start composting my flowers and plants in my front yard. It is pretty gratifying to think that all my kitchen waste will soon become a highly organic, nutrient-rich product that will help grow a beautiful flowerbed.

Composting is defined as the “biological process in which the organic portion of refuse is allowed to decompose under carefully controlled conditions.” Doing this helps reduce the amount of waste that needs to be processed at landfills, consequently creating a greenhouse gas called methane. A compost bin at your house seems like an insignificant change, but if your friend joins you and then their friends join, it will soon make a difference.

Composting is an excellent way to recycle your kitchen waste, as well as some scraps of cardboard and paper lying around. As mentioned, this is a process that I have just begun, so I am in the collection phase of the process. It is as simple as clearing the plates after dinner into separate plastic and keeping all the scraps of paper and cardboard that I find lying around the house.

Leading a sustainable lifestyle seems like a small price to pay for saving the Earth.

You can compost some food waste, including grains, fruits and vegetables, coffee beans, teabags, manure from herbivores, eggshells, and nuts. These, alongside some grass clippings, hay, leaves, and weeds, are called green waste. You can also mix green waste with brown waste, including cardboard, sticks, cloth, dried leaves, and wood chips.

Matter such as animal waste, poisonous or diseased plants, fish, meat, and dairy products should be kept out of your compost as they may lead to odor problems and pests.

How do you start after collecting all your materials?

  • Pick a suitable location for your compost pile or bin. Preferably a dry shady spot in an open field or a backyard.
  • Ensure that you have enough space for your pile. It would help if you started on bare ground for the best results.
  • Layer equal parts of the green waste as the brown waste but begin with the bulkier brown waste such as twigs and then add the green waste, adding the moisture.
  • While piling your material, add the manure, which will act as a fertilizer for your compost.
  • Your pile should be moist and not soggy, so if your green waste is not providing enough moisture, you may need to water your pile a little bit.
  • Your pile should measure around 1 meter high and 1.5 meters wide, anything larger may be harder to manage, and anything smaller does not heat up enough.
  • Composting is a process that takes about 2-4 weeks. Ensure that you are turning the compost every two weeks, and you will produce compost quickly.

The advantages of composting are that there is “less use of chemical fertilizers, there is an enhancement of water retention for the soil,” and it is an eco-friendly way to make use of your waste. However, the disadvantages are the foul smells if it is not well kept, an unpleasant appearance, and it may attract rats, snakes, and bugs.

Leading a sustainable lifestyle seems like a small price to pay for saving the Earth one compost pile at a time. It is an opportunity to be self-sufficient and move towards a lifestyle with little to no waste. Go on and try it!

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  • Nokuthula Msimango

    Nokuthula Msimango holds a BA Hons Journalism from the University of Johannesburg. Nokuthula loves being a part of creative projects incorporating different types of artistic expressions. She loves writing fun, relatable content.