Keep Knoxville Beautiful Composting

On Thursday, Feb. 18 Keep Knoxville Beautiful, a local organization that focuses on the upkeep of the local environment, hosted Home Composting, the first webinar in their new Thursday Talks series.

Kat McDearis, founder of Green Heron Compost Services, and her wife Regan Wagner, who is currently earning her PhD in soil microbiology at UT, spoke at the webinar, discussing how to make your own compost as well as the services that Green Heron Compost Services can provide to help in the compost journey.

McDearis opened the webinar speaking about the amount of food waste that gets thrown away, and how it is a missed opportunity for the nutrients to be returned to the soil where they could be used to grow more food.

“About a third of your household waste is food waste that can be composted…The standard number that we get is that a third can be composted, a third can be just traditional recycling: your plastics, your glass, your whatever and then another third is actual landfill waste,” McDearis said.

McDearis and Wagner point to composting as the way to break down these nutrients and return them to the soil to help grow more crops in the future.

“Composting would happen whether or not you wanted it to. If you put something into a pile it would start to break down because that’s just how nature works. The parts of the composting process that are important are carbon matter, nitrogen matter, water and air,” Wagner said.

When it comes to the items that can be composted, “the general rule… is if it grows it goes. If it’s a plant, or was a plant, it can go into your compost. If you think of what a vegetarian can eat, anything that doesn’t have meat, so most vegetarian foods, but not dairy,” McDearis said.

Outside of food waste, paper products, lint, dust and yard waste are also things that can go into your compost pile. The things that should not go into your compost include things like meats, dairy, oil and cleaners.

When it comes to making your own compost pile, McDearis and Wagner suggest one about the size of a cubic yard, that gets partial sunlight, is in a flat area away from waterways and encourages the inclusion of a variety of compostable waste.

“How to build it. We always say to build a lasagna, so you layer it. You want to layer the nitrogen carbon matter, those your so your greens and your browns. So, it’s a 1:3 ratio. Nitrogens are your green waste, your food waste. Carbons are more of the yard waste,” McDearis said.

Not everyone has a yard, but that doesn’t mean that they can’t compost. Green Heron works as a residential pickup of compostable waste from those in Knox county. This can be done from apartments as well as houses, as it only requires the use of a five-gallon bucket with a lid. The compostables they collect are delivered to local farms for composting.

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