On Thursday, February 18, Keep Knoxville Beautiful, a local organization focused on preserving the local environment, hosted Home Composting, the first webinar in their new Thursday Talks series.
Kat McDearis, founder of Green Heron Compost Services, and her wife, Regan Wagner, who is currently doing her PhD in Soil Microbiology at UT, spoke at the webinar about how to make your own compost and what services Green Heron Compost Services can help with to help the compost journey.
McDearis opened the webinar talking about the amount of food waste being thrown away and how it is a missed opportunity to return the nutrients to the soil where they could be used to grow more food.
“About a third of your household waste consists of food waste that can be composted. The standard number we get is that a third can be composted, a third just traditional recycling: your plastics, your glass, your whatever, and then another third is actual landfill, ”said McDearis.
McDearis and Wagner point to composting to break down these nutrients and return them to the soil so that more crops can be grown in the future.
“Composting would happen whether you wanted it or not. When you put something on a pile, it starts to break down, because that’s how nature works. The parts of the composting process that are important are carbon, nitrogen, water and air, ”said Wagner.
When it comes to the items that can be composted, “the general rule is … if it grows, it goes. If it is or was a plant, it can end up in your compost. When you think about what a vegetarian can eat, anything that doesn’t have meat, so most vegetarian foods but no dairy, ”said McDearis.
Outside of food waste, paper products, lint, dust, and garden waste can also end up in your compost heap. Things that shouldn’t get into your compost include meat, dairy products, oil, and detergents.
When it comes to making your own compost heap, McDearis and Wagner suggest one that is roughly the size of a cubic meter, receives partial sunlight, is in a shallow area away from the waterways, and encourages the ingestion of a variety of compostable waste.
“How to build it. We always say to make a lasagna so layer it up. You want to stratify the nitrogen-carbon matter your so your greens and your browns. So it’s a 1: 3 ratio. Nitrogen is your green waste, your food waste. Carbons are more garbage in the garden, ”said McDearis.
Not everyone has a garden, but that doesn’t mean they can’t compost. Green Heron works as a collection of compostable waste from Knox County. This can be done from both apartments and houses since only a 5 gallon bucket with a lid needs to be used. The collected composting agents are delivered to local farms for composting.