Online Exclusive: A Guide to Composting

A composting primer, or a recipe for guaranteed parental agitation.

May 14, 2012

A composting primer, or a recipe for guaranteed parental agitation.

  1. Get a trash can. Preferably one that is in use. Carelessly dump out contents in middle of patio. Punch holes in the bottom and in the top of the lid of the can using your mother’s most cherished cutting utensil. This allows for oxygen to get in there — microorganisms use oxygen to break down organic matter. If oxygen doesn’t get in there, it STINKS because of byproducts from anaerobic decomposition. But, maybe you want it to stink. To irritate your parents even more.
  2. At the bottom of the trash can, add twigs, branches and all the pencils, chopsticks and wooden cooking spoons in the house — to allow for better air circulation.
  3. Next, add “browns” — or carbon-rich matter — and “greens” — nitrogen-rich matter — at a ratio of 2:1. Maintain that ratio as you add new matter.
  4. First, put a layer of “browns.” Browns are dried-up stuff like shredded paper, cardboard, wood chips, dried leaves, egg shells and straw. I suggest adding all the paper bills in both of your parents’ wallets to the pile.
  5. Then, put a layer of “greens” — which you can think of as “wet” materials — like vegetable and fruit scraps, grass clippings, coffee grounds and filters, seaweed, human and pet hair and so on. I like to swiftly pull out strands of my parents’ hair from their heads throughout the day and add it to the pile. There should be roughly half as much “greens” as “browns.”
  6. When you are done layering, moisten the pile a bit with water from a hose — or that really expensive bottle of wine your parents were saving for a special occasion.
  7. After a few weeks, turn the pile to give it oxygen. As you add new matter, make sure to maintain a 2:1 ratio for optimal breakdown (both organic and parental).
  8. Let a few months pass, and ta-da! Fresh compost to lovingly spread into your parents’ bed before they go to sleep.

Read more about Meghana Reddy’s experiences teaching her parents how to compost in Hyphen Issue 25, available at a newsstand near you.

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great article