"Fresh" compost at UGArden in Athens, Ga. Wednesday, June 7th, 2017 (Photo/ Justin Fountain,

We’ve all had times when our eyes were bigger than our stomach, plates heavy with food that we can’t actually eat. We throw away roughly 1,400 calories daily, leaving us to wonder if there’s anything else we can do with our waste besides tossing it in the trash.

Athens can benefit from composting as a whole. 

Composting is the solution to recycling organic material so that it can be repurposed as fertilizer. However, the process comes with caveats that everyone should know in order to create compost that is suitable for reuse. Know the do’s and don'ts of composting to keep your nutrient rich plant food from turning into unusable sludge.

The most important requirement of all compost is the organic matter itself. Fruit peels, scraps, coffee grounds and egg shells are all wonderful additions to your compost bin. Meat, dairy, and starch heavy foods are not as beneficial, since they are more likely to attract pests and cause odor problems. Balance out the food scraps (greens) you put in with material to draw away excess moisture (browns).

Once you’ve loaded your bin up, the next thing you’ll want is breathability. The microbes in the compost, just like humans, need oxygen to live and properly break down the organic matter. Covering your compost because of a fear of smells will only cause your compost to smell worse, since the aerobic bacteria that would have naturally been found in the compost will be forced to use anaerobic decomposition to break the material down. The process happens in your gut, which is why things can get smelly.

By adding the proper amount of greens, browns and oxygen to your compost, you should get a pile of nutrient rich plant food after a few weeks. You can use it for personal projects or donate it to UGArden.

If you don’t feel like starting your own compost bin, you can take your food scraps to UGArden’s compost pile or to the green compost bins located around campus. Nearly every building will have one, and they will be managed weekly by Office of Sustainability compost interns.

More people should compost, since America has gotten in the bad habit of throwing away nearly 40 percent of the food it grows. According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, farming takes up 80 percent of our freshwater, 50 percent of our land and 10 percent of our energy annually.

Not only that, but more people should compost properly, since the effort is useless if done improperly and results in smelly sludge. Composting effectively and accurately will ensure that the calories we throw away can energize the food production of tomorrow.

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