Friday, December 29, 2017

REDUCING OUR TRASH--PLAN #1 FOR THE NEW YEAR: Composting at Home in Mexico

It's Not Stinky After All!

Jon Drilled Many Holes for Air Flow
       I am proud of the many ways we have simplified our lives here in México and, in so doing, have reduced our carbon footprint on our earth. But, after recently attending a meeting about the new Recycling Center in our village and the need to reduce the town’s trash production from 50 tons per day to 14 tons per day, I realized I needed to do more. A lot more! A recycling pickup program was needed in our town, obviously, but that’s a project for another day. What about composting at home to help decrease the amount of trash dumped in the landfill?
The Sayulita Nursery (Vivero Sayulita) Sells Wonderful Compost
     The Sayulita Nursery (Vivero Sayulita) has wonderful compost that I buy for my garden. Why do I need to get into the messy, time-consuming business of composting? The main reason is to reduce our trash production and the volume dumped into landfills. A second reason is that I would avoid purchasing one more product that is packaged in a plastic bag.
     I have to admit that I have come up with multiple excuses for not composting at home when we moved to México. I used a commercially built composter in Oregon, but we lived on one acre and I had plenty of room to set it up where I didn’t have to smell it. Our casita has a very small garden, so where was I going to place it so that I didn’t have to smell the stench? My online research blew that excuse out of the water. I discovered an article that stated if your compost smells, the balance is off, so add more dry material such as leaves or shredded paper, and some soil. Also, never add meat, dairy products, or animal feces. Okay, maybe I could do that…
This Rubbermaid Container Wasn't Being Used for Anything Anyway
     But what would I use for my composter? I refused to purchase anything new for it, because part of reducing our carbon footprint is to recycle and reuse, whenever possible. Purchasing new things, especially plastic items, would contribute to new items being manufactured, increasing our carbon footprint. After viewing DIY composting ideas online, I remembered that I had a large gray Rubbermaid® container with a lid that was holding nothing but air. It was just the right size for my small composting needs, and not too obtrusive sitting in the far side of the yard under the banana tree.  
Bricks Set Under the Compost Bin Allows Air Flow into the Bottom
     But it needed air holes in the sides, bottom, and top of the plastic bin in order for the composting process to work. I just needed to convince my husband, Jon, to drill the air holes. He’s a good sport, happy to give me whatever I want, so he agreed. Dragging him away from reading his Western novel was the hardest part. The best part of retirement in México is that life is simple and we have time to do whatever we want, all day, every day. We both love it. Jon would just prefer it if I didn’t come up with so many ideas for projects so I wouldn’t interrupt his reading so often.
A Wooden Crate Lined with Used Paper Set Inside the Bin
     But what about the insects? Adjusting to all the insects in this tropical area we live in has been hard enough. Do I really want to attract more bugs to our yard with a stinky composter? I reminded myself that if it smells bad, the balance is off. And adding some earth worms will help. Enough excuses. Enough "Buts". It was time to get on with this science experiment. 
A Layer of Soil (Compost from the Nursery) Was Added
A Layer of Shredded Paper Was Added to the Crate
Leaves, Mango Peel, and Used Coffee Grounds Were Added
     Don't forget to add a couple of earth worms and some soil!
Layer Dried Leaves and Flower Blossoms on Top
Rubbermaid Container's Lid in Place, Composting Begins!
Summary of the Steps I Used to Build My Simple Home Composter:
1.     Jon drilled holes in sides, top, and bottom of the Rubbermaid® bin
2.     Bricks set under the compost bin to allow air flow into the bottom
3.     A wooden crate was set inside the bin—it wedged in the Rubbermaid bin before hitting the bottom, allowing air to circulate under the crate.
4.     A layer of paper in the wooden crate keeps fine compost from falling through the bottom slats.
5.     A layer of soil (compost from the nursery) was added to the wooden crate.
6.     Leaves, mango peel, and used coffee grounds were added
7.     Layer Dried Leaves and Flower Blossoms on Top
8.     Add a little more soil and a couple of earth worms from the garden
9.     I keep a large yogurt container under the kitchen sink to put my produce scraps and coffee grounds in throughout the day, then empty it into the composter every day or two.
10.  I rinse the yogurt container and pour the water over the compost. Stir compost then layer dry leaves on top. (Some water is needed to keep the compost “cooking”.)
11.  One tip I discovered, chopping or shredding the items to be composted into smaller pieces speeds the process of decay.
12.  It’s been ten days since I first filled the composter and there has been no smell and seldom any fruit flies. The leaves and paper are decomposing. The coffee grounds seem to be the best ingredient for speeding the transition from garbage to soil. The layer of small dry bougainvillea leaves and flowers on top keeps the smell and bugs away. It’s working!

      An added bonus has been to keep the produce scraps out of the trash can in the kitchen, lessening the fruit flies and smell in the house. Why didn’t I think of this two years ago when we moved here?
      I have plenty of time now that I am retired to tweak and perfect my composting project. It’s fun to give the pile a stir and see if the worms are reproducing and whether the biological debris is looking and smelling like soil yet. I’m also glad that I have time to write about my home composting project, in hopes of helping others realize that they, too, can compost at home, reducing the amount of trash dumped in landfills.
     Read about other ways we are reducing our carbon footprint in my article: ECOLOGICAL FOOTPRINT: 10 Ways We Reduced Ours When We Retired in Mexico .

     Have you read my new book "Living in Mexico LESSONS LEARNED: Healthy Living in Mexico #3", available on Amazon worldwide? 
Now you can get all THREE books in the "Healthy Living in Mexico" series for $11.97 on Amazon.
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  1. This is awesome! I look forward to a future update where you show us your beautiful finished compost. Thank you for helping our Mother Earth!

    1. Gracias, Emily, por leer mis artículos de blog. Agradezco sus comentarios positivos. ¡Feliz Año Nuevo!