Waste Not, Want Not Department. . .

Just Composting

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Composting is not very glamorous, but it is at the heart of community stewardship. If you need evidence of our abuse of the prosperity God has generously given us, look at the leaves, branches, grass clippings, food, and other such useful organic items that we routinely wrap in non-decomposing plastic and send to the dump, thus interrupting the cycle of nature, which was established by God.

Why do we do this? The price for garbage removal is politicized and thus the true costs of our garbage don't show up on either our household or our community accounts -- but that doesn't make those costs any less real. Since we don't receive accurate information, and urged on by the culture of death, we've made many irresponsible decisions regarding the consumption, use, and wasteful disposal of material goods.

The civilization of love calls us to responsible stewardship and personal responsibility. As the Apostle James said, "Faith without works is dead." Like charity, stewardship begins in your own home, in your household economy, with practical things that your family do to be more responsible in your stewardship of your material goods. A good beginning is to remember the wisdom of our grandmothers: Use it up, wear it out, do without. Waste not, want not. What ya do with what ya got. Or as they say these days, Reduce, Re-use, Recycle.

Composting is an easy place to start. Building a compost pile is easy. It's simply a matter of piling up alternating layers of "wet and green" and "dry and brown", with dirt between each layer. "Dry and brown" includes dry leaves, shredded newspaper (NO glossy papers or colored inks), shredded branches, sticks and twigs, dry grass clippings. "Wet and green" includes kitchen scraps (no meats or fats), green grass clippings, flowers, green leaves.

Select a spot in your back yard, and dig the ground up a bit. Put a layer of twigs, small branches, and dried leaves on the ground ("dry & brown"), sprinkle with water (so it glistens) and add a couple of shovels of dirt. Next put a layer of "wet and green" -- kitchen scraps, lawn clippings, green leaves, flowers past their prime. Cover lightly with dirt. Keep building your layers. You can do the pile all at once, or you can keep adding to it (bigger is better, at least 3'-4' tall, 3' wide, as long as you have stuff for). Put a bucket in your kitchen to collect your scraps (stop using the disposal!). Each time you add "wet and green", add some "dry and brown" and sprinkle with dirt. Keep the pile moist -- like a wrung out sponge. Adding some red fishing worms helps (a lot).

The pile will begin to heat up, this is what it's supposed to do. That's the microbes and worms and bugs and etc. converting your organic trash into useful fertilizer -- humus. After about 3 weeks, "turn it" -- use a pitchfork, and starting with the top of the pile, create a new pile so that what was outside is now inside, and everything gets mixed up. If you are in a hurry for the compost, turn it more often (but you get less compost this way). As the compost progresses, the size of the pile decreases, you end up with compost equal to about 1/3 of the size of the original pile. If the pile stinks, there's a problem -- usually too much "wet and green", or too much water. The solution is typically to add more dry and brown.

Finished compost is dark colored, crumbly, & smells fresh and clean. It takes 2 to 6 months to completely compost (depending on how often you turn it, and your own unique situation). If you don't have a garden, give your compost to friends or to community gardens (which always need compost). Composting shows good stewardship of your material goods. It sets a good example for others as you voluntarily reducing the amount of trash sent to the dump. "Lord, for us to take personal and family responsibility and 'reduce, reuse, and recycle' is just too hard to bear," we say. Jesus replies, "My yoke is easy, and my burden is light."

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