Environmental awareness is really starting to take off. While many of us might not give up wasteful habits easily, more Americans are doing what they can to be more sustainable in their everyday lives. Just like new windows can help you save on energy bills, starting new environmentally-friendly habits can help reduce your environmental waste. From supplying your own reusable bags for groceries to ditching plastic water bottles for washable containers, it’s not always as difficult as it seems for families to curb their wasteful habits.
That said, there’s probably more you can do. After all, the average person generates over four pounds of trash each day. And while some of that trash could be recycled or eliminated completely, food waste is inevitable — especially when you have children. However, that waste can actually be put to good use if you’re smart. Whether you already have a green thumb or are merely looking for an easy way to do your part, you might want to consider composting with your kids.
Around 76% of American organic consumers cite health benefits of organic food as their main reason for purchasing it, but what happens to the non-edible remnants of that food once you’ve finished a meal? You can’t eat the core of an organic apple or the shell of an organic egg — and these kinds of waste products typically end up in the garbage. In fact, the EPA notes that food scraps (along with yard waste) comprises 30% of everything we throw away.
But instead of throwing a melon rind or coffee grounds into the garbage, you can compost them instead. Composting, as you might already know, allows organic material to decompose and then be introduced into the soil as an enriching element. This compost can actually keep pests away and suppress diseases that can affect plants, as well as providing additional nutrients that eliminate the need for fertilizers (which can often contain harsh chemicals).
Roughly 75% of Americans feel it’s important to spend time outside in their yards, and since compost can improve the quality of the soil and everything that grows there, this activity could really make your property shine. But it can also be an excellent learning opportunity for kids. Creating a compost bin or pile can be a great way to spend time together outside and promote scientific learning. Plus, having a direct impact on how your flowers or vegetable garden grows can instill a lifelong love of nature and stewardship.
Although some communities have composting programs available, it’s easy enough to make your own bin for home use. Select a spot in your yard that’s convenient enough to use but that won’t be in anyone’s way. Ideally, it should be close to a source of water. You can enclose the pile with wire fencing or wood or you can buy a bin from a garden center. Then, you can start composting as a family.
Keep in mind that compost should contain both brown and green elements. Brown additions can include dried plants (like leaves, pine needles, vines, twigs, or corn stalks), while green additions have higher levels of nitrogen and rot quickly (which would include food scraps, grass clippings, fresh garden debris, and other plants). Be sure not to add items like milk, bones, meat, fat, pet droppings, cheese, oils, or diseased plants. You can, however, compost sawdust, printer paper, black and white newspaper, horse manure, and cardboard. Your compost pile should be comprised mostly of brown elements — and both should be added in layers. Water should be added after each layer to ensure it’s moist (but not wet). Be sure to mix the compost every week or so to help the process along.
After a few months, you should start to see healthy compost forming. Microorganisms will get to work breaking down these waste products and insects will likely come to help. Checking on your compost pile’s progress with your kids can be a great way to examine the wonders of nature. Once the compost is finally ready, encourage your kids to help out with adding it to flower beds or using it as potting soil. This can provide a sense of real accomplishment and investment in helping living things to thrive.
If you’re trying to instill environmental values in your kids or you simply want to spend more time together, starting a family compost pile can be an effective way to help them — and your garden — grow. And if you’re interested in more kid-friendly green projects, consider donating clothing and teaching your kids how to thrift. The possibilities are endless!