The 12 Days of Composting

The holiday season brings joy to many, but it also creates a lot of waste. We’ve compiled a list of 12 ways you can reduce waste and have a more sustainable holiday.

Day 1: Reuse, Recycle, or Compost Shipping and Gift Boxes 

With so many people relying on online shopping this year, the cardboard boxes can start to pile up, and you may not know what to do with them. Instead of throwing cardboard in the trash, find ways to reuse or recycle them.

You can reuse these boxes to wrap gifts or pack up holiday decorations. If you don’t have a way to reuse them, recycle or compost them. You can also compost uncoated (not shiny) gift boxes. Be sure to discard any plastic and rip or shred the cardboard before adding them to your GEOBIN Composter.

Day 2: Reduce Gift Wrap Waste

Each year, Americans use 4.6 million pounds of wrapping paper, half of which ends up in landfills across the country. Just because it’s paper doesn’t mean it can be recycled or composted. In general, wrapping papers that are glossy or have a plastic, waxy, or metallic coating cannot be recycled or composted.

Instead, you can use plain brown paper bags or craft paper, which can be made more festive by adding custom designs or non-toxic embellishments. Be sure to avoid anything that may contain heavy metals. You could also wrap your gifts with newspaper, as most inks used today are soy-based. Avoid composting glossy inserts or magazine pages, though.

If you receive gifts wrapped in decorative wrapping paper, resist the urge to rip them open and try to preserve the wrapping paper to reuse next year.

sustainable gift wrap

Day 3: Compost Newspaper Ads

If you still enjoy print publications but dislike the waste from endless newspaper ads around the holidays, turn them into nutrient-dense compost! Most printers use soy-based ink, which is perfectly safe to compost. Just be sure to avoid composting glossy flyers as they can contain plastic—recycle those instead.

Day 4: Reduce Food Waste

According to the EPA, “Over 70 billion pounds of food waste reaches our landfills every year, contributing to methane emissions and wasting energy and resources across the food supply chain.”

This year you can help reduce food waste by being mindful about what you purchase and prepare for your holiday meals. You can also compost scraps and leftovers.

  • Clean & organize your pantry and refrigerator: This will help reduce stress while preparing your meal and allow you to take inventory of the ingredients you already have so you don’t purchase more than you need.
  • Use a food planning calculator to create your shopping list.
  • Repurpose leftovers.
  • Compost scraps and leftovers.

Day 6: Give the Gift of Composting

The GEOBIN® Composter makes a great gift for friends and family members interested in composting but intimated by the idea. Give the gift of composting to a loved one (or yourself).

Day 7: Compost Popcorn & Cranberry Garland

Before holiday decorations and ornaments were mass-produced, people would adorn their trees with fruits and other household items. Popcorn became popular in the 19th and 20th centuries because it was relatively inexpensive and seen as a festive and fun treat. People began adding cranberries for a pop of color.

If you’re opting for a thrifty and eco-friendly holiday, pop some corn this weekend and create your own popcorn & cranberry garland. When the holidays have passed, add the popcorn and berries to your compost.

Day 8: Compost Poinsettias

More than 35 million potted poinsettias are sold every year in the U.S., accounting for almost one-quarter of the potted plants sold. Instead of throwing your holiday plant in the trash, compost it instead.

Day 9: Compost Pine Cones

As pine cones break down, they release nutrients that can be beneficial to your compost. Pine cones might take a while to break down, but you can chop them up to facilitate decomposition.

Day 10: Compost Your Christmas Tree

Keep your tree out of the landfill by composting it. Cut your tree into smaller pieces before adding it to your compost bin to help speed up decomposition.

Day 11: Compost Wood Ash 

It’s the perfect time of year to enjoy the warmth of a wood-burning fireplace. Wood ash is a great addition to your compost pile. It’s alkaline, so applying it to compost heaps helps to balance the tendency of compost to be more acidic.

Day 12: Compost Natural Potpourri 

Homemade natural potpourri is a wonderful way to make your home smell warm and inviting this holiday season. You can make it with things you may already have on hand, like citrus fruit, cinnamon sticks, cranberries, cloves, and rosemary. When you’re finished with the potpourri, you can compost the fruit and spices.

natural potpourri

How to make natural potpourri:

Ingredients

  • 1 orange sliced or quartered
  • 1 cup cranberries
  • 2-3 cinnamon sticks
  • 2 tsp. cloves
  • 2-3 sprigs rosemary

Add your ingredients to a saucepan with 4-6 cups of water. Bring to a simmer on low heat and enjoy!

5 Tips for Winter Composting

After the last of the leaves have fallen and temperatures begin to drop, you probably find yourself retreating to the warmth of your house, not giving much thought to composting or gardening. But despite the frigid weather and your desire to stay cozy, you should consider the benefits of maintaining your compost beyond the fall season. Composting through the winter months means you’ll be reducing food waste and giving your garden and soil a head-start come spring.

Living in a region with cold, snowy winters doesn’t mean you can’t or shouldn’t continue to compost during these months. While decomposition slows down as temperatures drop, it quickly resumes as temperatures begin to rise. When freezing temperatures set in, your compost will slow down and sometimes lie dormant because most of the microorganisms responsible for decomposition cannot withstand these conditions. Don’t let this discourage you, as the freeze-thaw cycle will help to facilitate decomposition, and things will really get cooking when warmer spring weather arrives.

If you’ve decided you’re willing to brave the elements to do your part to divert waste from landfills and create a nutrient-dense soil amendment for your garden, read our five tips for winter composting below.

1. Shred brown material before adding to compost.

If you read our blog Guide to Fall Composting, then you should have a reserve of carbon-rich autumn leaves to add to your compost during months when these materials are scarce. To speed up decomposition, shred this material before adding it to your compost bin. By increasing the surface area of the compostable material, you’ll make it more accessible for microbes to access and do their job.

2. Keep adding kitchen waste, but bury your food scraps to avoid rodents in your compost bin. 

Your compost will still need food scraps and other nitrogen-rich material in winter. These “greens” provide body-building proteins for the microorganisms that break down organic material.

You should always bury food scraps and layer them with carbon-rich material, but this is critical in winter if you want to avoid rodents. Just like people, rats and mice seek refuge from the harsh winter weather, and they will gladly nest in a location with an endless food supply. Avoid these unwelcome pests by hiding the food waste and masking the smell that attracts them.  

3. Place your GEOBIN® Composter in a sunnier part of the yard. 

If possible, set up your GEOBIN Composter in an area that gets plenty of sunlight. Direct sunlight will provide much-needed heat for your compost and help to break down organic material more quickly.

4. Insulate your GEOBIN Composter.

Protect your compost from the elements by insulating it with straw, cardboard, or dry leaves. Insulating your compost bin will help it retain heat, facilitating decomposition even when it’s colder.

5. Monitor the moisture levels of your compost. 

Depending on the amount of precipitation in your region, you may need to regulate the moisture level of your compost. Ideally, your compost will have the moisture content of a wrung-out sponge. If it’s too dry, you’ll notice it lacks the heat necessary to break down organic material. A dry compost pile will also be attractive to the rodents we talked about earlier. If it’s too wet, it can get slimy and begin to smell bad, but you can remedy this by adding some sawdust, straw, newspaper, or dry leaves.

With composting comes troubleshooting. No matter the time of year, you may encounter challenges when it comes to maintaining a healthy, balanced compost pile. If you find something isn’t working, it’s easy to make a few adjustments to reach a more desirable outcome. For more information on composting with the GEOBIN® Composter, check out our Guide to Backyard Composting.

Simple Ways to Have a More Sustainable Thanksgiving

On the fourth Thursday of November, families across the United States will come together to give thanks and enjoy copious amounts of turkey, stuffing, football, and pumpkin pie. For many, Thanksgiving can be a time of overindulgence, but it’s essential to keep this in check by working toward reducing waste and having an all-around more sustainable holiday. It’s possible to have a bountiful holiday celebration without throwing food in the trash.

Clean and Organize Your Refrigerator and Pantry

Not only will cleaning out your fridge and pantry help to reduce stress while preparing a large meal, but it will allow you to take inventory of your ingredients. This will help you avoid purchasing items you don’t need, ultimately reducing unnecessary waste.

Use a Food Planning Calculator to Create Your Shopping List

This year, many people anticipate having a smaller Thanksgiving celebration, so it’s important that you plan for the number of guests you expect to have at the dinner table. It can be tricky to determine how much of what to buy, but you can use this food planning calculator to help you.

Repurpose Leftovers

Some may argue that leftovers are the best part of Thanksgiving but make sure to plan for how you would like to use them.

Before disposing of turkey bones and leftover vegetables, you can use them to make homemade stock. You can use this nutrient-dense stock later to make soups or sauces.

You can also freeze leftovers to enjoy later. Store your leftover turkey, stuffing, cranberries, mashed potatoes, and gravy in freezer bags to avoid food waste. 

Compost Scraps and Leftovers

When you can’t find a use for scraps or leftovers, compost them. It’s helpful to have separate containers during meal prep so you can easily sort compostable material from non-compostable material. Toss your vegetable and fruit scraps, eggshells, and gourds into a container to add your GEOBIN® Composter. By composting this organic material, you’ll be diverting waste from landfills and providing your compost with valuable nitrogen-rich material. You can also compost unbleached paper products, which are a good source of carbon.

What You Should Compost


What You Shouldn’t Compost


Compost With Caution

Vegetable & fruit scraps like potato and carrot peels, winter squash shells, lettuce, onions, citrus peels, apples, and tomatoes



Meat and bones: Difficult to break down and attract unwanted pests



Cooked vegetables: This is okay in moderation, but generally only if they were not cooked in fat.

Unbleached paper products



Fats, grease, lard, or oils: Attract unwanted pests


Cooked starches: Attract unwanted pests


Eggshells


Dairy: Attracts unwanted pests

According to the EPA, food waste accounts for 20% of what goes into landfills. With a little extra planning and mindfulness about your holiday meal, you can help to reduce the amount of organic matter that ends up in landfills.

How to Reduce Waste and Use the Whole Pumpkin This Halloween

This Halloween, treat your compost and the environment by reducing waste created from carving pumpkins. Each year, 1 billion pounds of pumpkins get thrown away and end up in America’s landfills. By finding ways to use the whole pumpkin, then composting your jack-o’-lanterns, you can divert some of this organic material from landfills, which will help lower methane emissions and reduce your impact on the environment.

Pumpkins are great for more than just Thanksgiving pie—they also boast some impressive health benefits. Pumpkins are rich in Vitamin A, Vitamin C, antioxidants, potassium, and fiber, making them a relatively inexpensive superfood. From the seeds to the guts, here are some tricks to reduce landfill waste and make the most of your gourd this fall.

Roast the Pumpkin Seeds

When you’re focused on carving your pumpkins, it’s easy to overlook the seeds and end up tossing them in the trash. It’s worth the time to separate the pumpkin seeds from the stringy flesh and roast for a healthy snack, salads, muffins, trail mix, and more.

  1. Separate the seeds from the stringy pumpkin flesh.
  2. Rinse the seeds.
  3. Toss the seeds with olive oil and the seasoning of your choice. You can make them salty, spicy, or sweet.
  4. Bake at 350 degrees for 10 to 15 minutes, giving the seeds a toss about halfway through.

Make Pumpkin Purée

Skip the canned stuff, and roast the flesh from the cut-out portions of your jack-o’-lantern to make a homemade pumpkin purée. You can use your purée for things like pie, cookies, bread, and soup.

Bake a Loaf of Pumpkin Guts Bread

Most people probably discard the stringy pumpkin guts, not realizing that this part is perfectly edible and great for baking. This is a simple way to use parts of the pumpkin that are typically less desirable. Once you removed the seeds, turn those guts into a loaf of delicious pumpkin bread.

Compost Your Jack-o’-Lanterns

Once your jack-o’-lantern has been sitting out, there’s not much you can do with it, but that doesn’t make it trash. Instead of throwing away your expired jack-o’-lanterns, compost them instead! Be sure to smash your pumpkin up into smaller pieces to facilitate decomposition. Remove any non-organic decorations, like metal and plastic, before putting your carved pumpkin into your compost bin. Incorporating pumpkins into your compost will help produce a nutrient-dense soil amendment for your garden next spring.

For more tricks on how to treat your compost, check out our Guide to Fall Composting.

The Benefits of Composting Fall Leaves

You know it’s officially fall when you begin to hear the crunch of dry leaves as you walk outside. That’s also the sound of opportunity as these dry leaves provide myriad benefits to your compost pile. Autumn leaves are a great source of carbon and contain several nutrients that can be returned to the soil through compost.

Composting dry leaves not only benefits your compost, but it also helps the environment. The breakdown of yard debris in landfill conditions creates methane gas emissions and acidic leachate.

Instead of throwing your dry leaves in the trash, incorporate them into your compost to ensure a healthy, balanced compost pile while diverting organic material from the landfill.

Tips for Composting Fall Leaves

🍂 Living green leaves are considered “green” nitrogen-rich material, whereas dead, dry leaves are considered to be “brown” carbon-rich material. To give your compost pile a boost of carbon, wait until the leaves are dry and brown, then add them to your compost.

🍂 Composting is all about balance, so try not to load up on too many browns just because they are readily available. For the GEOBIN® Composter, we recommend a carbon to nitrogen ratio of 3:1.

🍂 Store excess fall leaves to use throughout the year when carbon-rich materials are more difficult to source. Dry leaves can easily be stored in a yard waste bag to use throughout the year.

Read the Guide to Fall Composting to learn more about maintaining a healthy, balanced compost pile this fall.

Check Out the GEOBIN® Composter in Action: Photos & Videos from the GEOBIN Photo Contest

Earlier this month, we launched the GEOBIN Photo Contest, and we asked you to share your photos and videos with us for a chance to win a new GEOBIN Composter. We were so impressed with the response that we selected not one, but TWO winners.

Thank you to everyone who submitted photos and videos!


Guide to Fall Composting

fall composting guide

The key to successful composting is maintaining a healthy balance of nitrogen-rich “green” material and carbon-rich “brown” material. For the GEOBIN® Composter, we recommend a carbon to nitrogen ratio of 3:1. During the winter, spring, and summer months, many people find themselves with plenty of “green” material, like food scraps and grass clippings, but they do not have enough “brown” material. Carbon is the energy source for the compost pile and gives the composting microorganisms life inside the compost bin. Without the presence of carbon to facilitate decomposition, food waste rots, causing smelly compost and unwelcome pests.

Fall is a great time to compost because there’s an abundance of both green and brown material to add to your bin. Between fall garden clean up and dry leaves, you’ll have plenty of carbon-rich organic material to keep your compost balanced.

Why You Should Compost

When food waste ends up in landfills, the lack of air in the environment causes the decaying matter to produce methane gas—a greenhouse gas roughly 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide as a heat-trapping gas.

In addition to carbon and nitrogen, a successful compost pile requires moisture and air. When you compost at home, you’re creating an ideal environment for organic waste to properly decompose. Composting helps the environment and provides you with nutrient-rich fertilizer for your garden. Here are some tips to help guide you through your fall composting journey.

Fall Composting Tips

1. Compost Fall Leaves

As the days grow shorter and temperatures begin to drop, so will the leaves from deciduous trees. While it can be an unpopular chore to rake and collect fallen leaves, it helps to know that your compost will love them. Wait until they’re brown and dry, then layer them into your pile. Dry leaves are an excellent source of carbon for your compost. To avoid matting, add thin layers of grass clippings to your compost.

2. Store Dry Leaves to Add to Compost Later

It’s helpful to have a reserve of dry leaves to add to your compost during the months when it’s more difficult to source carbon-rich materials. You can store leaves in a dedicated bin and draw from it as needed. Like any organic matter, leaves will eventually start to break down, but this will take a long time without the presence of nitrogen.

3. A Healthy Garden Starts with Healthy Soil

As the growing season comes to an end, you’ll want to clean up your garden and get it ready for next year. Remove healthy plant material and add it to your compost bin. You should shred or break up the plant material into smaller pieces to facilitate decomposition. Unless you’re hot composting, you’ll want to avoid adding diseased plants to your bin. Those plants should be thrown away or burned, depending on what’s permitted where you live.

If you have finished or partially decomposed compost, add it to your empty garden bed before the ground freezes. We recommend using a garden fork to break up the soil, then adding a 3 to 4-inch layer of compost.

4. Monitor Moisture Levels of Your Compost

Increased rainfall during the fall months can cause your compost to get too wet. You want your compost pile to be moist, like a squeezed-out sponge. If it gets too wet, it will lack the aeration required to properly decompose the organic material and start to smell like rotten eggs. You can remedy this by mixing in more brown material to soak up excess moisture. We recommend dry leaves, cardboard, or sawdust.

5. Turn Jack-O’-Lanterns into Great Compost

Every year, 1 billion pounds of pumpkins get thrown away and end up in America’s landfills. Like other food waste, pumpkins left to rot in landfills will produce methane gas. Pumpkins are a great addition to your compost pile, so instead of tossing them in the trash, smash them up and incorporate them into your pile.

For more composting tips and tricks, check out our Guide to Backyard Composting.

Share Your Photos For a Chance to Win a New GEOBIN® Composter!

 

We’re launching a new website, and we need your help! We’re looking for photos of the GEOBIN® Composter to feature on our website and in our print and digital marketing promotions.

Each photo you submit will earn you one (1) entry, and each video will earn you five (5) entries. You can submit as many photos and videos as you would like, but there will be a maximum of 10 qualifying entries per person. One (1) winner will be randomly drawn from all qualifying entries.

The contest runs through Tuesday, Sept. 15.

General Requirements:

  • Photos and videos must include the GEOBIN Composter. We’re looking for photos of you actively using the GEOBIN; e.g. adding kitchen scraps/yard waste, turning the GEOBIN. We’d also love photos or video of you setting up the GEOBIN Composter.
  • Photos should be as large as possible (without enlarging) and can be either landscape and portrait orientation.
  • Photos should be JPEG or PNG.
  • Videos should be shot in landscape mode.
  • Please avoid including any other brand names or logos in the photo.

The Contest is subject to all applicable federal, state, and local laws and regulations. Void where prohibited. Read the full Official Contest Rules.

The Benefits of Adding Urine to Your Compost

sprinkler watering garden

 

While not as taboo as composting bodies, adding urine to compost seems to be a divisive topic. We’ve recently received some questions from people asking whether it’s okay if their dog urinates on their compost, so we thought we’d delve into this topic a bit further. The only real difference between human urine and canine urine is that they come out of different species, so this information mostly applies to both.

First, let’s talk about the components of urine. Urine is an aqueous solution comprised of more than 95% water. Other constituents of normal urine include urea, chloride, potassium, sodium, creatinine and other dissolved ions, and inorganic and organic compounds. Urea—which is a waste product of metabolism that is excreted by the kidneys in urine—consists of carbon, nitrogen, and oxygen.

What Makes Urine Good for Compost?

If you’re adding urine directly to plants, it could be harmful to them due to the high levels of nitrogen. If you’re a pet owner, you may have experienced this when your dog urinates on the lawn—it can often kill the grass in that spot if it’s not diluted with water soon after.

However, incorporating it into your compost will help avoid this direct contact and potential damage to plants. Because of its nitrogen content, the addition of undiluted urine to your compost bin reduces the time it takes for carbons to break down, resulting in finished composter sooner. It also increases the level of nutrients in the completed compost, which is beneficial to your garden. In addition to aiding decomposition and providing beneficial nutrients, urine can help you regulate moisture levels since it’s mostly water.

Composting Urine Helps the Environment

Every time you flush the toilet, you’re using a large amount of water to pull the waste away. Older toilets can use an average of three to five gallons of water per flush. Not only is this extremely wasteful, but it can be expensive, too.

In addition to using a lot of water, flushing urine into the sewer system doesn’t make it magically disappear. A lot of this wastewater goes untreated and introduced back into the environment where it can disrupt ecosystems.

If you can get past the stigma—and you have a practical collection system—composting urine can be very advantageous. Keep in mind, while urine is sterile, the human body can introduce undesirable bacteria into it. If you have a bladder infection or other illness, you may want to forego the “liquid gold” and stick to kitchen waste for your nitrogen needs.

Why You Have Smelly Compost & How to Fix It

 

We get this question from GEOBIN customers frequently: Should my compost bin smell bad? The answer is no—compost should smell earthy, like dirt, even when it’s actively decomposing food and other organic material.

Why Does My Compost Smell Bad?

Composting is all about maintaining a healthy balance of organic material and proper ventilation. When that balance gets thrown off or there’s not enough oxygen circulating, the contents of your bin will rot rather than properly break down into compost. When this happens, your compost pile may begin to smell unpleasant. The good news is there are ways to combat these offensive odors.

Why Your Compost Smells Like Ammonia

To effectively heat up and decompose, compost needs the right ratio of brown (carbon) and green (nitrogen) materials. For the GEOBIN Composter, we recommend a 3:1 ratio of browns to greens. Sources of carbon include dried leaves, twigs, cardboard, and sawdust, while nitrogen-rich materials include food scraps, grass clippings, and coffee grounds.

If you notice the smell of ammonia coming from your compost bin, it could mean that there’s too much green material. Balance your compost pile by adding some carbon-rich material. Carbon is the energy source for your compost—without it, your food waste will improperly decompose and release excess nitrogen in the form of ammonia

Reasons Your Compost Smells Like Rotten Eggs or Garbage

  • Your compost pile is too compacted or lacking oxygen: Composting is an aerobic process, which means it requires the presence of oxygen. If your compost pile becomes compacted, airflow will be restricted. You can correct this by mixing up the pile and adding some “fluffy” material, such as dried leaves. This will create air pockets throughout your compost pile which will provide the microorganisms with the oxygen required to break down the organic material.
  • Your compost is too moist: This is common in spring and fall when there’s an increase in rainfall. When your compost is too wet, it will lack the aeration required to properly decompose the organic material, causing the smell of sulfur or rotten eggs. Introducing more brown material will help soak up excess moisture and eradicate these bad smells.
  • Your compost pile is not layered properly: When layering your organic material, sometimes the greens can become isolated from the browns. If this happens, the green material will begin to rot and emit a foul smell. You can fix this by mixing up your pile so the browns and green work in unison to produce nutrient-rich fertilizer.
  • You added meat, fat, or dairy to your compost: These materials release putrid odors as they break down. They also attract unwanted pests, like rats and flies, so it’s best to avoid adding these to your composter.

If you follow these simple steps to maintain your compost pile, your garden and the environment will thank you.

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