Exciting things are taking shape over at 24th Street Elementary! Not only do we now have a new and improved compost system as of our last workday (thank you volunteers!), but, we are happy to announce the introduction of GSF's Cafeteria- to- Compost program!
Since March 17th, with only 5 days of composting lunch food waste, we have already composted over 125 pounds of food waste!! Mind you, this is just the beginning as this is only the waste from two classes. We will gradually be adding more and more classes until all of the lunch food waste from the whole school can be composted. Pretty exciting stuff!!
We are thrilled about this development for two reasons: not only will our in-school composting program take GSF’s garden lessons full circle (healthy veggies growing-> nutritious food -> scraps composted -> nutrient rich soil -> healthy veggies growing), it will also decrease the school’s environmental footprint, divert tens of thousands of pounds of food waste from landfills, and make nutritious soil for our garden. Talk about bragging rights!
Still not sure what composting is? Feel free to come by 24th Street and see our compost system in action for yourself! Or continue reading for great information on how to start up your own composting program.
Composting is the breakdown of organic materials where the result is nutrient rich soil. Fungus, bacteria, and insects are crucial to the breakdown process as are these four ingredients:
- Carbon: high carbon materials tend to be brown and dry
- Nitrogen: high nitrogen materials tend to be green (or colorful fruits and veggies) and wet
- Oxygen: for oxidizing the carbon and making sure the pile is aerated so the organisms essential to the decomposition process can survive
- Water: ideal compost piles are the consistency of a wrung out sponge, which helps maintain activity in the pile without causing anaerobic conditions
If you have the greens and browns in the correct ratio, fungus, bacteria, and insects will find their way to your compost pile and happily stick around to provide you with healthy soil.
How long does it take, you ask? Well, that depends on a number of factors, including how much you aerate your soil. Aerating the soil more frequently, by mixing the pile with a pitchfork and turning the material at the bottom to the top, will break the pile down faster. In general, items can be fully decomposed within just 6-8 weeks!
It’s pretty amazing to see paper plates turn into soil and apple cores into Roly-Poly food. Give composting a try yourself!
Here are couple pictures of how our compost bin looks. Yes, our compost bin is really big, but remember, we’re composting scraps from the whole school and our 1 acre garden! Your bin can be as large or as small as you need.
At this point you might be wondering: "What CAN I compost?"
Well, anything that came from the earth, can go back to the earth. Think about how things are made and you have a perfect key to know what to throw into your compost pile.
Great things to compost would be vegetables, fruit, bread, tea bags, newspaper (comes from a tree and is printed with soy ink!), cardboard, napkins, plain cotton shirts, and paper towels.
Things to avoid: animal products such as cheese, milk, yogurt, meat, etc. Keep in mind: animal products will break down in a compost pile, but tend to have a strong smell that attracts unwanted pests, so it’s best to generally avoid composting them.
If your compost pile is breaking down too slowly, you may have too many carbon sources, like cardboard or newspaper. If it's smelly (it shouldn't be smelly!), that means you don't have enough carbon in your bin. Carbon lessons the smell and the nitrogen sources attract the good fungus, bacteria, and insects (garden FBI!). With ideal ratios, the garden FBI will live happily in your pile and make soil for you.
Don’t have the space but interested in composting? You can get started in a 5-gallon bucket with holes in it. It’s so fun experimenting with kid, and adult scientists!
Good luck with composting and feel free to visit us in the garden to learn more!
We'd like to especially thank Clarkie Photography for the great pictures of our composting process here at 24th Street Elementary.