Go Green: Compost more than just leaves

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In this column, staff at the Center for EcoTechnology offer advice on easy ways for people — and businesses — to introduce green changes in their daily lives.

Q: So, I read your article a few weeks ago about spring yard work. I'd like to compost the dead leaves I'm pulling off my lawn, but need more material to feed a successful compost pile. What else can I use?

A: Thanks for asking. You can compost so many things you use in your day-to-day life. Yard clipping are just a small piece of the puzzle. With a few exceptions (stay away from meat, fat, oils, bones, and dairy, which attract pests and cause smells), you can compost almost any formerly living matter. Things like fruit and vegetable peels, salad scraps, leaves, grass clippings and nut shells are pretty straight-forward, but there are so many excellent candidates for composting around your house that you may not even think of.

Let's start with breakfast. Whether you drink coffee or tea, you can compost coffee grounds, filters and tea bags. Did you enjoy some eggs this morning? Crush up the shells and compost those (and the carton), too. Once you've finished with the morning paper, it can also go into the pile.

Are you doing a little indoor spring cleaning? Pretty much any kind of clean, untreated paper can be composted. Tissues, paper towels, toilet paper rolls, even old bills (make sure you shred them first) can be added to your compost, but stay away from things like magazines.

Dryer lint and pet hair can also be composted, so make sure to empty the lint trap and give your dog a good brushing.

If you've still got a Christmas tree or pumpkin from Halloween, they can be composted too, although if you've still got a pumpkin at this point, it might be composting on its own.

Finally, you can compost pizza boxes. Unlike other cardboard, pizza boxes generally cannot be recycled, so tear them up and compost away. If you were looking for another excuse to order pizza, here it is!

We've already written about compost, but here's a quick reminder about why it's important: organic material in landfills decays and gives off methane, a greenhouse gas that is 25 times better at trapping heat than carbon dioxide. Organic material that is composted instead gives of carbon dioxide, so by composting, you're doing your part to reduce carbon emissions. In addition, the finished product will be a great additive to soil and a great benefit to your lawn and garden.

For more on composting, check out the Center for EcoTechnology's composting page, www.cetonline.org/gogreen/composting.

Look for this column every two weeks, and send Go Green questions to GoGreen@cetonline.org.


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