Composting is the process of creating a stable, humus-like product, resulting from the biological decomposition of organic matter under controlled conditions. In other words, it’s taking organic materials, allowing them to decompose, and feeding them back into the Earth’s natural nutrient cycle.
Composting is a great way to reduce the amount of “waste” you create, while at the same time giving back to the Earth in a much-needed way.
Here we will give you some important (and interesting) information about composting, as well as suggestions for composting on the playa.
Tips & Hints: Composting on the Playa
- Bring a 5-gallon (or larger) plastic bucket with a secure lid, and fill it with compostable materials, taking them with you from the playa. Give them to a local farm, take them home for your garden, or have your municipality pick it up if they offer the service. Add some wood (e.g. cedar) chips or sawdust to reduce odors.
- Another way to reduce the amount of material you have to bring home, as well as reduce odors, is to bring one or more mesh bags to fill with compostable materials. In the arid playa air, theyíll dry and shrink very quickly and will not be stinky. At the end of the week, pack them up in a secured container and go.
- If you want to get really aggressive, bring a worm bin with you, and fill that up. Just be careful to keep it in a cool shady area so your worms donít die out there.
- While human feces are technically compostable, they are not usable for food fertilizer due to the inherent biohazard. If you’re so inclined, you can (and people certainly have) create your own potty and take that material back home with you. Traditionally, this is done with heavy compactor bags lining a 5-gallon plastic bucket with a securable lid, partially filled with either cedar chips, saw dust and/or cat litter. Clever folks will attach a toilet seat to the top of the bucket. Poop, mix, cover and go.
- It’s best to use reusable dishware and eating utensils. However, if you really need to use disposable ones for some reason, look into getting biodegradable and compostable versions, rather than using plastic or Styrofoam.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why Is Composting Important? In nature, thereís an automatic organic lifecycle, sustaining growth and life. In the simplest of terms, all of the energy and matter thatís released in the decomposition of organic materials is re-utilized by living organisms to foster new growth. And thereís no waste in the system: itís pure nutrient cycling.The continuous growth and expansion of human development has disrupted this cycle. The mass cultivation and farming techniques weíve developed to support our growing population pulls many of those natural materials from the soil without returning them Ö ultimately depleting the nutrients. In personal terms, compostable materials that humans use and send to the landfill as "waste" are being removed from the nutrient cycle. In fact, itís estimated that as much as 1/3 of todayís landfill waste is made up of compostable material. Composting is the way we can help ensure the earth, and our soil, remains vibrant, healthy, and sustainable.
What Materials are Compostable? Almost any organic material (things that were once alive) is compostable. An ideal compost system has both carbon-rich "brown" material and nitrogen-rich "green" material. Browns include leaves, wood chips, sawdust, straw and the like. Greens include materials such as grass clippings and kitchen scraps. If youíre doing all your composting yourself, a good ratio to maintain is 2/3 brown to 1/3 green. But on the playa, it doesnít matter much at all, since youíre only out there a week at most — just collect your materials for later handling.You can compost animal material (meat, bones, grease, etc.) but be aware that in the wrong situations, it can smell very bad as it decomposes, and attract pests and vermin. Not too much worry about that on playa, so go for it. Additionally, paper products are compostable, including ones that have held your food items (like paper take-out food containers, used coffee filters, and pizza boxes), so definitely add those to the mix.
- Compostguide.com has a nice explanation and how-to about composting, including a handy chart of compostable materials.
- California Integrated Waste Management Board.
- Biodegradable plates and utensils at Simply Biodegradable.
- Google It!.
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