Earth Day 2014: DIY Composting Conquest


by: Rachael Richardson

As a whole, we are becoming more informed about the evils of factory-farmed foods, and in that countless communities and individuals have begun cultivating home and communal gardens. If you’ve already done so- keep it going/growing! If you haven’t yet started, it’s never too late to get growing! There are amazing reasons to do so:

  • Maximum freshness of your food
  • Increased nutritional value of food
  • Reduced potential contaminants, residues and toxins
  • Cost savings
  • Reduced carbon footprint
  • Connection to your food, earth and soil
  • Education tool for your kids about food and health
  • Individual action is a powerful feeling

This Earth Day 2014, whether or not you have a garden, consider beginning one new earth-friendly habit. DIY composting is the most efficient method of diverting organic wastes from our country’s solid waste stream, thereby reducing methane gas production. By composting you will also be nourishing the soil in which you grow your food, yielding more nutritionally rich food which improves your health and prevents disease. And, even if you don’t have food producing crops in your yard or around your home, enriching your nearby soil will enhance the earth’s soil which will impact the quality of your food at some level … as our earth and soil all interconnects at a core level. Truly, while it may seem trite, the movement and paradigm of home grown food and home-made compost may be the best catalyst for the eco-health revolution our planet and people need for survival. And it’s something you and I both have the power and ability to do.

With the research of Florida International University (FIU) Nutrition & Dietetics student, Juan P. Gomez, I’ve provided the steps you’ll need to make your own composting system and get your compost started.  Please feel free to comment, share links, or provide any other feedback that will help others learn and be successful in their first attempt at composting.

Here’s how to make your composting container:


  • Medium –Large Empty Coffee bin with air-tight lid
  • Charcoal filters (2-3 if small filters, 1 if large filters)
  • Scissors
  • Hammer & nail
  • Pencil  or marker
  • Hot glue gun


Step 1- Gather your materials and tools.

Steps 2– Secure the lid on the coffee bin, and use a marker to indicate where your holes will be.

  • Make sure that the holes are evenly spaced throughout the lid starting at one inch from the edge.

Step 3- Once your bin is secure in place to prevent movement, use the hammer and nail to puncture the holes on the lid.

  • WARNING: Personal injury may be caused if caution is not used when handling the hammer and the nail. If the bin is not held in place, it can move from the impact force of the hammer on the nail and cause personal injury.

Step 4- Now that your lid has holes, place one charcoal filter over the bottom of the lid to measure the sizes. At this time, plug your hot glue gun into the wall so it is ready to use in Step 6.

Step 5– If the charcoal filter fits, go to the next step. If it does not fit, cut the charcoal filter with scissors to adjust it to the size of the lid.  Adjust it as needed.

Step 6– It is now time to use your hot glue gun! Dab a couple of dots of glue on a scrap piece of paper to get the glue going. Now, using your glue gun, drag a medium-thick line of glue in a circle around the area of circles on the BOTTOM PART OF THE LID.

Step 7–  Before your glue has the chance to dry, center your charcoal filter over the lid and place it down gently (just in case you mess up!).  Make sure it covers ALL the holes!

Step 8- Once the filter is placed to your liking; apply pressure to the filter on the areas sitting over glue to secure it. The tighter the filter fits against the lid, the better.

Step 9- When the glue is dry, put the lid back on the bin.

Congratulations! You’re ready to start composting!

Now, the do’s and don’t tips for successful composting:


  • Add earth soil to your recently made bin.
  • Add compost materials in layers, alternating moist and dry. Moist ingredients are food scraps, tea bags, etc. Dry materials are things such as leaves.
  • Add any nitrogen source, this activates the compost pile and speeds the process along. (see Carbon/Nitrogen Chart Below)
  • Keep compost moist. Water occasionally, or let rain do the job.
  • Place lid to cover the bin. Covering helps retain moisture and heat, two essentials for compost. The compost should be moist, but not soaked and sodden.


  • DO NOT compost meat, bones, or any fish scraps, they will attract pests and defeat the whole purpose of composting. Perennial weeds are not to be thrown in the mixture in quantities, though they can be spread lightly within the compost. Banana peels, orange rinds, and peach peels may contain pesticide residue, and should be kept out of the compost.


Carbon/Nitrogen Chart




 table scraps


 add with dry carbon items
 fruit&vegetable scraps


 add with dry carbon items


 best when crushed


 leaves break down faster when shredded
 grass clippings


 add in thin layers so they don’t mat into clumps
 garden plants

 use disease-free plants only
 lawn& garden weeds


 only use weeds which have not gone to seed


 woodyprunings are slow to break down
 straw or hay


 straw is best; hay (with seeds) is less ideal
 green comfrey leaves


 excellent compost ‘activator’
 pine needles


 acidic; use in moderate amounts
 flowers, cuttings


 chop up any long woody stems
 seaweed and kelp


 rinse first; good source for trace minerals
 wood ash


 only use ash from clean materials; sprinkle lightly
 chicken manure


 excellent compost ‘activator’
 coffee grounds


 filters may also be included
 tea leaves


 loose or in bags


 avoid using glossy paper and colored inks
 shredded paper


 avoid using glossy paper and colored inks


 shred material to avoid matting
 corn cobs, stalks


 slow to decompose; best if chopped up
 dryer lint


 best if from natural fibers
 sawdust pellets


 high carbon levels;add in layers to avoid clumping
 wood chips / pellets


 high carbon levels;use sparingly


Carbon – Carbon rich matter gives compost its light, fluffy body(like branches, stems, dried leaves, peels, bits of wood, bark dust or sawdust pellets, shredded brown paper bags, coffee filters, conifer needles, egg shells, hay, peat moss, wood ash).

Nitrogen – Nitrogen or protein rich matter provides raw materials for making enzymes (manures, food scraps, leafy materials like lawn clippings and green leaves).


Good luck with your compost and Happy Earth Awareness.


With love & great hopes for a long future on planet Earth,

Rachael Richardson, RD, LDN

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