C O M M U N I T Y
Hi! We’re the North Carolina Composting Council, a state chapter of the US Composting Council. We are a volunteer-run organization dedicated to the development, expansion, and promotion of the composting industry based upon sound science, principles of sustainability, and economic viability. We conduct hands-on training programs, host educational events, exhibit at industry tradeshows, and offer grants to help grow composting programs in North Carolina. On our website, carolinacompost.com, you can learn everything from why you should compost, to how to get started, to where you can find bulk compost.
Check out COMPOST USE for a quick guide to using compost,
Hello from your favorite Trashy Women, Karin Mills and Linda Bourne, (https://www.facebook.com/karinandlindagogreen/).
We’re the former owners of Carrboro’s Spotted Dog, where we diverted waste from the landfill for almost 20 years through composting, waste reduction, and recycling. The Trashy Women now work with multiple Triangle faith organizations, neighborhood associations, CCRCs, Life Plan Communities, and individuals to encourage and teach folks how to reduce their environmental impact through better waste management, specifically composting. We’ve implemented a full-campus compost collection program at our home church, Binkley in Chapel Hill, where we’ve diverted over 50 Tons of organics from the landfill in just over three years and received national recognition (https://youtu.be/LQQw3rGDi_E).
Karin & Linda
America has a huge food waste problem.
Did You Know?
Worldwide-Almost 8 percent of all global greenhouse gases come from food waste—that’s 4.4 Gigatons of greenhouse gas emissions each year!! Food waste is a major source of greenhouse gases, mostly in the form of methane, a pollutant almost 28 times more potent than carbon dioxide.
Composting as Community Building
Composting is a simple and effective way to reduce food waste in our trash and improve soil quality.
My husband and I have been composting our food scraps for over 20 years using a covered bin near the sink. We put all of our produce scraps in it and have been able to keep hundreds of pounds of food waste out of the trash stream while returning essential nutrients to our garden soil. I encourage anyone who thinks composting is "too much effort" to learn the simple steps to home composting offered through the Orange County Compost-a-thon. It's an easy, rewarding habit that helps keep methane out of our landfills and will help you to participate actively in the battle against climate change.
Road to Composting and Gardening
October 2020, it had been seven months since the lockdown started in March. In the middle of an unprecedented pandemic, people were scared, angry, frustrated, depressed, and anxious about the situation. I, although incredibly grateful for being able to work remotely, felt the same. But what do people say about the crisis? “Crisis is an opportunity in disguise”.
Standing on my deck looking at our backyard with a large poorly-grown grass lawn, I was thinking “maybe I can turn this area into a flower garden, since I now have so much free time at home”. I didn’t waste any minute, instead, I started the project right away: digging, breaking down soil, cleaning up the grass. I worked a couple of hours in the morning before work and a couple of hours after work, hence a night owl became an early bird. I started gardening and started my road to composting.
Shortly after I dug a few inches of topsoil off the lawn, the layer underneath the shallow topsoil got exposed and it was all clay soil, the sticky, heavy, compact and dense clay. I quickly realized I would not be able to grow plants well with this type of soil. Even with zero experience with gardening, I knew that leaves and grass could easily decompose if we pile it together and I thought: maybe I could make use of the pine needles, tree leaves, and grass accumulated in the far end of our yard over the years. So I wheeled them all to the potential flower beds I dugged, covered them with clay soil and gave it some water, hoping they could magically turn into rich and fertilized soil, in a few weeks.
I checked the status almost every day and was hoping to see some amazing results. Three weeks went by, under the two big dirt/clay/leaves/grass piles nothing seemed to happen though. I was more or less disappointed and frustrated. My dream was ambitious but was it even possible or achievable? How long was it going to take to turn the piles into good soil? The soil wasn’t good, the beds weren’t ready, and I couldn’t do anything. I was stuck.
In mid-December, my son came back home from college and was interested to hear my ideas about the flower beds. As an Eagle Scout who made vermicomposting bins for his eagle project, he examined two compost piles I had and gave me a basic lesson of composting: all composting requires three basic ingredients: greens, browns and water. Greens, such as grass clippings, vegetable waste, fruit scapes and coffee grounds, contain high levels of nitrogen; browns, such as fall leaves, twigs, pine needles, papers, straws etc., contain a good level of carbons. A balanced ratio of greens and browns is essential for decomposition. He suggested that I collect kitchen scraps, papers, cardboard etc., add them to the pile; keep compost moist but not soak; turn compost every week or two to let oxygen facilitate the process.
Having this lesson from my son was a turning point of my composting endeavor. It helped transform me from an intuitive beginner to a motivated learner, someone who would always go online to find resources and learn new things about gardening and composting. I also realized composting takes time! Give it a 2~3 months’ time frame, we control the input and let the time and nature control the output.
After my tirelessly searching online for composting knowledge, online videos about effective and productive composting started to flow into our YouTube channels. Encouraged by the ideas in those resources, I started to collect every single compostable item: vegetable waste, kitchen scraps, fruit peels, eggshells, peanut shells, fermented soy beans, soybean pulp, grass clippings, garden waste etc.. I was able to collect a big jar of scapes every day or two which was then added to the compost piles. I was so amazed how much waste we human beings produce every day and how much of it could actually be turned into good things if we utilize it well!
In March 2021, when Spring was finally here after back-and-forth cold weather, I was anxious to dig the compost piles and was thrilled by what I saw. Those food scraps, fruit peels, grains, grass clippings, cardboards, paper, pine needles have all been decomposed, and they have turned into fine, rich, fertilized compost, just as good as the compost we buy from stores. Most importantly, there were so many worms in the compost! These little cute creatures crawled in the piles, ate food scraps which became nutrient-rich compost as they passed through the worms’ bodies. This process is actually called vermicomposting, which was exactly what my son did for his Eagle Project. I have to admit while I was certainly proud of him for accomplishing a creative Eagle Project three years ago, I did not fully understand its implications and benefits, until today.
Having good soil and nutrient-rich compost laid a solid foundation for my project. After adding bricks around the beds and planting a few roses, they turned into two beautiful flower beds. My roses were happy and produced beautiful flowers for me, for a newbie who knew nothing about gardening just six months ago.
The first success gave me such joy and motivation. I became passionate about home-composting and it has now become my daily routine. In addition to collecting regular compost items, I have also learned a few things:
1. Fruit peels are perfect materials to make fruit enzymes, which can be used as an organic fertilizer for flowers and vegetables. Making enzymes is extremely easy - you can simply cut fruit peels into small pieces, put them in a container, add water and sugar, depending on the weather and temperature, it would be ready for use after 2-3 months. This is a great way for organic and sustainable gardening and a perfect replacement for chemical fertilizer.
2. Eggshells help add calcium to the makeup of final compost which helps plants build cell walls. But it would take a pretty long time for eggshells to decompose completely if adding them into the compost pile directly. A better way to utilize them is to crush eggshells into fine small pieces to speed up composting. As a result I collect eggshells separately and use them in a separate compost bin for a quick turnout.
3. Banana peels have high levels of calcium, magnesium, phosphate and potassium, which will add important nutrients to the compost. I collect banana peels separately, chop them up into small pieces, and add them into the bin with eggshells, coffee grounds and topsoil, which would turn into a “golden” fertilizer in a short period of time.
Together with my husband, we arranged to cut and trim some unneeded trees, expanded our gardens, and planted more vegetables. We have also bought two large rainwater tanks to collect rainwater from the gutters so we wouldn’t need to use the precious tap water for our gardens.
Organic gardening through composing has been a remarkable personal journey for me. I have learned and grown so much in the past ten months. I have been multitasking and listening to my favorite audiobooks and podcasts while gardening: listening to classical literature such as Gone With the Wind, The Godfather, The Old Man and Sea, To Kill a Mockingbird etc. has given me incredible joy, enjoyment, appreciation, reflection and thinking. I’m physically healthier, mentally stronger and genuinely happier. I’ve learned that sustainable work and effort, blood, sweat and tears would not go nowhere, rather, mother nature will take care of you and return you with tremendously rewarding outcomes. So is true with our lives, our career, our relationship with family and friends; so is true with our society and communities.
Shared by Lijun Chen, Chapel Hill
Carolyn Guan, Student, Chapel Hill
Art can be made from anything.
Walking in my parent’s restaurant, I pass by employees tolling away at cutting up various vegetables. Carrots, broccoli, zucchini. This is the norm of the food industry, yet when I visualize the collective amount of waste, I can only sigh. Although I can not envision a world where the food industry will finally prioritize efficiency to sustainability, I can add my twist in helping lessen the produced food waste -from my kitchen. This is why making these coasters, to remind ourselves that the “useless” carrot heads and scrapes we decide to just chuck can still have a use, is essential, as there is always a way to make any material into art.