A blog about the restoration, remodel and renovation of a 1929 Chicago-style brick bungalow

Blog Action Day: Compost for Climate Change!

I’m happy to participate in Blog Action Day for Climate Change, because here at Bungalow Chronicles, we make an effort to lower our carbon footprint (I kind of hate that term, but whatever) every day. It didn’t happen overnight — and it doesn’t have to — but once we got started it became easier and easier to incorporate more changes in our lives.

It probably started when communities like ours offered recycling in the early 1990s. We jumped on that bandwagon immediately, but it still saddens me to see others neglecting to make the effort. For me, it couldn’t be easier to throw recyclable items in a separate bin — there really is no “effort” involved!

To reduce more waste around the house, another easy thing we started doing years ago is composting. Between compost and recycling, the amount of actual garbage that goes to the landfill from our house is virtually non-existent. As we know, landfills are a significant source of greenhouse gases, so reducing organic waste in landfills will help reduce methane, one of the principal greenhouse gases that is created through human activity.

There are a lot of misconceptions about composting — probably the biggest one is it will smell and attract animals — which in our experience couldn’t be farther from the truth.

As long as you have a ratio of “brown” to “green” items, it won’t smell. A suggested ratio is about 3-4 parts brown to 1 part green, but to be honest, we’ve never thought much about it.

If you have too much green, yes, it will smell, but adding more brown items will eliminate it. If you have too much brown, the compost will break down more slowly, but you’ll still eventually make compost, and your garden will be very thankful for it.

“Green” items include grass clippings, coffee grounds, vegetable and fruit scraps, plant matter, eggshells, and animal manure (note: do not compost dog or cat feces!). Never include dairy products, oils or meat scraps — that’s what will attract the local wildlife. Even though we have skunk, opossum, squirrels, mice and other creatures roaming our suburban neighborhood, we have never seen one rummaging through our compost bin.

“Brown” items include small twigs, sawdust, newspaper, mulch, leaves (even if they’re green in color, they’re usually considered “brown” because of their high carbon content), and other wood products.

We built what I like to call the WC, or Waste Corral, to house our compost pile and recycling/garbage containers, but a loose pile in the corner of your yard will work just as well. Just pile it up, turn it over once in a while (or not), and eventually you’ll make compost!

And incidentally, a Chicago winter doesn’t prevent us from composting, either. We didn’t have a cover for the bin last year, so the heavy snowfall kind of got the best of us, but composting can continue during the cold months, just not as quickly. Insulating the sides of the bin with bales of hay and/or sheets of insulation, like rigid foam board, will help contain heat, which is needed to make your pile microbially active.

Of course there are lots of resources on composting, but here’s a brief intro for starters, or if you want a handy resource, Let it Rot!: The Gardener’s Guide to Composting was the book that helped us out in the beginning.

Wow, I didn’t intend to talk about waste for this entire post — it was just the first thing that made us more aware of some of the actions that individuals take which ultimately and collectively contributed to climate change, so I think I’ll continue with this in future posts.

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