Photo: Day 2: Garbage is such a strong word

My compost bin complete with potato plant (Credit: Lindsay Coulter)

Foodprint: Saving the planet from your kitchen table

Choices about what you eat can make as big a difference for the environment as how you get around. Before reaching for your favorite comfort food this Thanksgiving, join the David Suzuki Foundation for our 11-day challenge, Foodprint: Saving the planet from your kitchen table. Starting Oct. 5th, you could win an awesome prize just by sharing your story on Facebook. Plus you'll get helpful eco-advice from me, the Queen of Green.

Answer the daily Facebook question by adding your comment. Don't have a comment to share? Check out the others and vote for your favourite. We're giving out fabulous prizes for the comment with the most "Likes".

The planet doesn't need another fad diet. But how much do you know about where your food comes and the type of impact it's having on the planet? What are you doing to eat more sustainably?

Day 2 of Foodprint: Saving the planet from your kitchen table

Composting is easy. If you eat, and especially if you've ever purchased a bag of dirt, you have a vested interest in composting. It's black gold! And who wouldn't want to take out fewer stinky garbage bags?

Here are seven super reasons to start composting, including cut your household garbage by about half. Depending on where you are along the compost spectrum, here are some compost tips from my kitchen table to yours:

Tip for the first-timer: Location, location, location

People often assume (and you know what they say about assumptions) that compost stinks. As a result, too many locate their bin in the farthest corner of the yard. No matter where you live — whether it's a cold winter day in Edmonton or raining in Vancouver — this common mistake makes composting less enjoyable (yes, I'm suggesting it's enjoyable.)

Make your compost bin accessible. This way you're more likely to use it. Place it close to the door where you have a short path, allowing you to dash out at any time of year unscathed!

Tip for the veteran: Fruit flies are not the enemy

Too many fruit flies in your compost bin are only a symptom (see my handy Composting Do's and Don'ts factsheet with more troubleshooting advice.) If fruit flies are a smidge overabundant, it means you have too many exposed food scraps. You need more browns to cover your greens! It's that simple.

My compost suffers from this very problem — too many greens because I don't own a blade of grass. All summer long I eyeball my neighbour's lawn clippings, too chicken to ask if I can "borrow" them. Instead, I resort to tearing up the inside cylinders of my empty toilet paper rolls, any brown paper bags I can get my hands on, and even resorting to cutting up my weekly newspaper column in the Metro.

A few weeks ago I noticed I wasn't the only one aware of my fruit fly nursery. To protect his identity (from those who hate arachnids), I'll call him Spider. He weaves a web ever so carefully, attaching it between my compost bin and the fence. I think you know where this is going.

Each day as I dump in fair trade banana peels and eggs shells from happy chickens eggs, I look for Spider. As I unlock the lid he moves to the centre of his web, and then I watch in awe as the carnage unfolds!

The flies flee straight into the spider's web as he zigs, he zags and chomps his fair share. Moral of the story? I have a renewed love for composting, appreciating how quickly nature (Spider and a dozen of his friends) have come to my rescue!

Tell us why you started composting and you could win a David Suzuki T-shirt or a copy of the book Better Being by Ann Barnes.

Why did you start composting?

Lindsay Coulter, Queen of Green

October 6, 2010

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Oct 14, 2010
7:03 PM

Great tips, but what should people do about unpleasant odors from a municipal compost? In New York City, the Sanitation Department has a compost program, but then it placed a compost near a highly populated housing development in the Bronx. Some residents appreciated the rich compost for use in their community gardens, but many others complained of the smell. See my blog on the issue here:

Oct 08, 2010
5:21 AM

I started composting for multiple reasons all of which added up to complete and transparent sustainability. In other words its an act that equals more benefits than the sum of its parts which is to put unwanted food items into a designated area (roughly 5 minutes worth of work per day).

It makes awesome compost/food for veggie garden or ornamental garden It costs nothing- where I live I have to pay for trash so composting reduces my trash bill. It provides food for worms and a whole bunch of other critters I haven’t researched yet-but knowing that makes me happy (I look at it as the equivalent of providing food & shelter for stray microorganisms :)) It reduces volume that ends up in a landfill + all the other negatives of landfills. It creates a mini ecosystem right in my backyard & doesn’t require much space. It teaches my child about science, civil/social, and philosophical issues (the biological aspects of decomposition, social responsibility of caring for our environment, and the cycle of life/what happens to our bodies when we die-we become part of the earth & thus create new life with the remains, etc). Its fun to watch our dog sniffing around the compost pile & watching him trying to sneak out just one little morsel (even though he can never really get anything) as he becomes really engrossed but always forgets he won’t succeed- he’s a lab and is obsessed with food.
Oct 07, 2010
1:04 PM

I thought I had posted this on Wed, but I don’t see it anywhere, so here’s my contribution: I’m 60 years old, and I have my FIRST garden in progress (a Monarch butterfly way station). I always lived in apartments or rented homes before. I was looking for information online to assist my garden as the earth is mostly clay, when I came upon a group called Compost Canada. The fella that runs the site is a huge enthusiast and uses red wigglers to help his composting efforts. I dug an outdoor trench 28” deep and 4 feet long and filled it with bedding and food for the wigglers who were added last. Within two weeks every trace of whatever I have put in the trench is totally gone, yeah wigglers! They’re making next years compost as well as enriching my vegetable garden where the trench is. Apparently if I cover the system very deeply in bedding they will live until next year. Just in case I’m going to start an indoor compost system as well. Fascinating process, love not wasting anything anymore, love that my garden is being helped organically, love those wigglers! And next year when everything has grown huge and colourful I will enjoy the Monarchs and other wildlife while I munch on berries.

Oct 06, 2010
7:12 PM

I am a gardener, foodie, mother, advocate for using gas guzzling vehicles less and lover of nature. For all of these reasons I compost. When I can give back compost to my garden I often am rewarded with more abundant veggies and fruits which in turn saves me from a trip to the store. Less fuel being used to get produce to the stores, less fuel getting the produce to my house and less fuel being used to take away my “garbage”.

Oct 06, 2010
5:24 PM

Creates an enviroment where this is no need for pesticides, and fertilizers, thus a wonderland for all species.Composting is giving back to the earth what the earth gives us.

Oct 06, 2010
5:24 PM

I so much enjoy the art of layering food scraps which will eventually turn into another art form. It’s Zen, AND is exciting! Most of all I love the feel of warm composted soil in my hands and the thrill of seeing all the wiggly happy worms… and patiently awaiting the exotic end result…”it’s GOLD, Jerry! “:o)

Oct 06, 2010
2:45 PM

I started a collective compost project with my boyfriend in a green alley behind our apartment. We wanted to reduce our footprint and reuse the compost for guerrilla gardening and wanted to make this action possible to all. Turns out, around 30-40 people in my neighborhood and other neighborhoods are now participating, and the number keeps going up. It’s been almost 2 years now. This means educating people into composting, developing ways to reach everyone in case of adjustment needs, having volunteers (us) taking care of the compost. We were often confronted with problems but after a while, you end up developing techniques and an expertise to deal with them. With time, it gets easier. On the good side, we are getting to know our neighbors, responding to existing needs, educating people into it and, above all, putting in place an infrastructure that ends up reducing all these people about 40% of their garbage bags! Great stuff!

Oct 06, 2010
1:55 PM

I started composting so I could make more soil for Planet Earth.

Oct 06, 2010
12:48 PM

We started composting after learning about it at our Elementary School’s “Green Team” meeting. At one of the monthly meetings, the “Green Team” leaders showed all the kids how to build a compost and explained the importance of having a compost. We are Canadians living in Florida and had a compost when we lived up north but hadn’t started one here until we were encouraged by the school. That day the school also built a large compost for all the students to use for their lunch waste, the school has almost 800 students, so the students really feel they are making a real difference. We are surprised at how quickly the compost produces soil in the hot Florida sun and we are surprised at how many interesting snakes and lizards like to hang out in our compost. Something we didn’t see in our Canadian compost.

Oct 06, 2010
12:45 PM

i started composting cuz i want to do my part for the environment..i have a garden so its nessasary for me to have a compost and not put it in the size of shirt is xl…thanks..

Oct 06, 2010
12:37 PM

I started composting because it is very good for the environment and it makes wonderful soil for my garden after a period of time!

Oct 06, 2010
12:10 PM

It was sort of an obvious choice. I had as organic garden that needed organic compost* and I like to toss as little as possible for weekly garbage pick-up. :)

I’m sure your neighbour would LOVE to let you have her grass clipping, Lindsay :) I troll the neighbourhood in the fall and spring for bagged leaves from yards that I know aren’t sprayed and in a variety of tree-types (hauled three massive bags of balsam poplar leaves just this morning) for my brown piles. I’ve also made arrangements with a neighbour for ME to come and rake HIS elm leaves each fall so that I can take them home with me. We haven’t many trees in our own yard -not that are very large, anyway, we’ve been strategically placing ones that have self-seeded around the yard, so in a few years we’ll be set :D

*While I think it is so awesome for many municipalities to be starting their own yard waste composting programs, I won’t use it in my garden. They’re collecting tree trimmings, grass clippings and garden waste from anyone -including those who are determined to use grotey chemicals in the name of yard control.

Oct 06, 2010
11:38 AM

Many years ago in Toronto, I just wanted to stop putting the kitchen waste into the garbage bags that went to the landfill. I got a compost bin from Canadian Tire and began putting it in there. The impact was mmediate. Instead of putting out one or two garbage bags for pickup every week, it became one bag every two or three weeks. The bin never stank, even though I had no idea about brown vs green materials or about aeration. All I knew was that we were helping to slow down the filling up of Toronto’s landfill. It was only the third spring after starting that my wife asked whether there was anything that could go on the garden. What a marvel! Beautiful food for the plants!

Oct 06, 2010
11:35 AM

I started composting for a number of reasons but the biggest, simplest reason is “return to Mother Earth what she gave us…”

Oct 06, 2010
11:14 AM

I started to compost for a couple of reasons. Firstly I’m an avid gardener, and know that composted materials are an awesome supplement to good garden soil. Secondly, I don’t like the smell of refuse in my garbage, as it attracts flies, and other varments such as raccoons and skunks. Thirdly It also reduces the amount of garbage I take to the curb every week, and therefore less gets put into the landfill site. I just use a small compost pail under my kitchen sink, and put in all fruit and veggie peels and egg shells, teabags, and coffee grinds. When its full I take it out to my composter at the edge of my garden, not too far from the house, but far away enough to keep the varments away from my house. I even can access it during the winter, when I still collect it from my kitchen.

Oct 06, 2010
10:58 AM

Je composte depuis 1990 et à l’époque nous étions marginaux et pourtant 20 ans plus tard je peux vous dire que c’est vraiment intégré. Quand je me retrouve chez des amis qui ne compostent pas, je suis toujours estomaqué de voir du vivant aller à la poubelle. C’est toujours une opportunité de mettre de l’avant la philosophie de Terre Maman des Amérindiens. En espérant que les citadins pourront avoir au bac brun d’ici peu de temps. Il est moins 1… Plaisir, Jean-Louis

Oct 06, 2010
10:44 AM

We started composting when a friend suggested vermicomposting. We lived in an apartment at the time and had nowhere to put an outdoor bin. Those little worms were amazing!! They could eat everything we gave to them, all of our organic food scraps, and produced the best compost, which we gave away to our friends who were lucky enough to have a garden. A few years later, our growing family has moved into a house and produces more organic waste than our worms can keep up with. My husband built a composting bin in the yard right by our garden. Now we have the best vegetables every year with the worms’ compost and our bin compost combined into the garden soil. The plants love the natural fertilizer and flourish before our eyes! Our daughters love to help in the garden and I love that we can eat right from the garden without worrying about what might be on our veggies. The best part is that our garbage output is surprisingly small for a family of four. We’re trying to keep our footprint as small as possible and composting is a fun, rewarding way to accomplish that!

Oct 06, 2010
10:37 AM

I started composting because my dad told me to when I was little and he was told to by David Suzuki (It’s actually true).

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