British furniture designer, eco-expert and Houses & Gardens Columnist Sebastian Cox outlines his home renovation, one inspiring and innovative eco-friendly idea at a time. Each month, he dives deep into the ways we can all make a difference in our homes.
Next, Sebastian discusses how to make compost, food waste, and everything you need to know about home composting. It might not sound like the most glamorous theme, but it’s certainly one that will make a difference. How we treat our soil ultimately determines the quality of the food we consume, so compost – and soil in general – is an important consideration for our future health.
“May and June are such exciting times of the year when the vegetable patch and the garden grow faster. Many people have discovered such joy in growing at home in recent years. I hope they also find joy in feeding it all with a dose of homemade compost for some otherworldly satisfaction,” says Sebastian.
Here are some things to consider when looking to make a composter for your garden or outdoor space.
Garbage is our responsibility
“In Margate, it’s more seagulls than foxes that empty bins and spill the contents on the pavements. This is particularly annoying when you live by the sea, as it’s only a matter of hours before plastic can be blown into the laundry,” says Cox.
“People blame the seagulls, but I’ll jump to their defense – they’re scavengers doing what they evolved to do to survive. My answer is, why is there anything in a trash can for seagulls to eat at all? We need to take responsibility for our waste, and more important than any other category of our ‘waste’ is our food waste.”
“A staggering third of the food produced worldwide is wasted, more than enough to feed the world’s malnourished people. The production of food is environmentally responsible, so avoiding waste is, as always, a top priority.” You can even use a wormer on compost.
Composting – what is the process?
“When food rots, greenhouse gases are produced. The conditions under which this rot occurs affect its global warming potential. Broadly speaking, different types of decomposition produce either carbon dioxide or methane (a more potent greenhouse gas) in different ratios.’
“The more oxygen there is during the decomposition of organic material, the less methane is released. So when food waste ends up in a landfill, it gets compacted with other garbage, creating a less-oxygen environment for decomposition and more methane warming our planet.”
Start composting at home
“If your local authority offers food waste collection, like ours does, take advantage of it. It is broken down properly and the nutrients are recycled. Better yet, learn to compost at home and grow some plants using the compost. If you’re lucky enough to have a large yard with room for a compost pile, making one is a breeze – pallets can be used to make some sites, and mixing leaf litter with leftovers makes a compost slow for one Garden usable. ‘
What do we need to start composting?
“The two products I use after much research are a ‘Hotbin’ (opens in new tab)‘ and a ‘subpod (opens in new tab)‘. A hotbin uses microbial activity to break down food, creating a hot environment that can sterilize pathogens, allowing dog poop to get there, and meat or bones can do the same. It’s a black polystyrene container with a thermometer on top. If you keep refilling it, in 3 months it will produce usable compost that you can extract from the soil.’
A subpod mainly uses worms to break down food. It’s a plastic box buried in the ground with perforated holes that give the worms access to the soil. These wonderful creatures not only break down the organic matter, but then disperse it liberally in their droppings around your garden before returning to the subpod to munch on more food.
What must happen next?
Both need to be fed in conjunction with “dry charcoal,” so get yourself a cheap cardboard shredder and take advantage of Amazon packaging to ensure your compost isn’t a wet rot soup. Our nutrition-conscious family of four produces enough leftovers to keep both microecosystems alive and thriving, and to feed two bantams higher value scraps like bread crusts and leftovers Weetabix from our two young children. In terms of food, in our small city garden we have eliminated waste and converted our waste into valuable nutrients for cultivation.