Each year, the EPA estimates that the average Irish household wastes €770 worth of food. This means that about 1/3 of your food shop ends up straight in the bin. This number is even higher if we only look at vegetables and fruit which accounts for 50% of all food waste. But this doesn’t have to be the case. You can turn food waste, scraps, or produce that’s gone off into compost that can be used to grow your own vegetables. In other words, you’re turning an economic loss into savings for the environment and your wallet!
What is Compost?
Compost is a nutrient-rich soil developed through a process called composting. Compost works as a conditioner for regular soil and helps your plants retain water and air better. Overall, compost is a great way to improve the quality of life in your garden.
You can purchase compost from a gardening store, or you can make your own at home! Making compost at home takes a few months, but you can end up with a lovely pile of nutrients for your garden! You can use your food scraps or leftover food and using it as the nutrient base for your compost. In doing so, you are turning what would be a negative environmental and economic situation, into a positive one. As a result, the choices you make in the supermarket go beyond helping your diet, they help create a healthy growing environment for your garden.
What is Composting?
Composting speeds up the natural process by which things decompose. It does this by breaking down organic material that would otherwise end up in the bin. Naturally, these goods would be broken down through bacteria, fungi, worms, and centipedes. These decomposers consume decaying organic material and turn it into humus – not to be mistaken with the delicious chickpea dip.
Composting is an energy efficient way to deal with leftover food or food scraps such as onion skins or cauliflower leaves rather than sending them to a landfill. Additionally, it shows us how much food we are wasting as we are physically engaging with our food waste. There are a variety of reasons to compost from home. Here are some of our favourite:
Less waste ends up in landfills
Food waste makes up 1/3 of household waste according to the EPA. When you use it to compost, you transform it from harmful to helpful to the environment. This means that 1/3 of the food households purchase is being thrown out. While there are parts of food such as certain skins, egg shells or leaves that are not typically eaten, this does not mean they need to end up in the bin. You can be proactive about your food scraps or waste by composting.
Soil enricher costs start at €10 and go up depending on how much you need. Composting from home eliminates this upfront cost and provides as many nutrients. The average cost for brown bin removal is 23 cent per KG of waste + standing charges. So this means you PAY for food at the grocery store, PAY for it to be taken away with the bins and PAY AGAIN when you buy compost for your garden. That’s paying three times for what you should only pay for once.
Healthy Garden, Happy Plants
Composting from home improves the soil structure of your garden. If your garden has heavy soil, it helps improve drainage; if your garden has sandy soil it adds organic matter and holding capacity.
How to Compost
Composting from home is an easy process as you already have all of the ingredients. While everyone’s compost will be a bit different as a result of the elements added to it, it is important to keep a good ratio between carbon-rich ‘brown’ compost materials and nitrogen-rich ‘green’ compost material; the ideal ratio being 25/30 ‘browns’ to 1 ‘green’.
Things to Avoid
|Plain Cardboard (nondyed)||Algae||Meats|
|Fruit waste||Kitchen food waste||Bones|
|Newspaper||Garden waste||Diseased plant material|
|Sawdust||Grass clippings||Coloured/dyed paper|
|Stems & twigs||Hedge clippings||Coal/charcoal|
|Weeds (that have NOT gone to seed)|
Once you have all of your ingredients together, make sure to pile them together alternately: brown, green, brown, green, brown, green, etc. You can keep them in a big bin in the back of your house or have a pile set aside in your garden. Either way, make sure to flip or spin your compost every few months to maximise airflow and compost speed. For more information on composting, check out the EPA’s FAQ.