You surely don't eat 100% of the food that enters your home. What happens to the last few strawberries no one is willing to eat, the spinach that went bad waiting for you to eat it, or those chicken bones from the roasted chicken last night?
For most people, the foods' destiny is the garbage can. It will sit in the garbage until the can is put out to the curb and magically taken away by your local sanitation engineer. This is where my excess food always went until April of this year.
My husband discovered a composter called the green cone, passed the idea along to me, and then ordered one. You can buy a green cone for $160. (Save $40 if you can find a friend to get one with you.) I picked out a spot that would get enough sun during the day and yet still be far enough from the house to not attract bugs. Because you have to dig a hole 24-28 inches deep, the laws in Texas required a call before you dig (whenever you dig 16 inches or more). Then you have to wait two days before starting to dig.
Finally, I was all cleared to dig, so I did. It took a couple of days for the hole to be big enough, but could surely be done in a day by someone ambitious. I did probably 80% of the digging and then let Jay finish up the rest, because I lacked the motivation to continue digging. We installed the green cone and put the dirt back around it. We got right to putting our food scraps into the cone. So exciting!
(More photos of our green cone.)
From the green cone manual, the green cone "takes your cooked and uncooked kitchen food waste, including: meat, fish, bones, dairy products, vegetables, fruit, peelings, etc. The only exceptions are bulk amounts of food related materials that require a very long time to breakdown, namely: cooking oil/fat and the hard shells of nuts and seafood, such as oysters and crabs."
We've been using our green cone for half a year now, and I just love it!! As I'm chopping unwanted parts off veggies or eating down to the core of a piece of fruit, the food goes right into a little green bucket that is kept in our kitchen. Then, every couple of days, we dump the bucket into the cone. Just as a person who likes to live in a nice home environment, I've seen two huge improvements. First, the kitchen trash can rarely smells anymore. It only smells if someone has forgotten about the bucket and dumped some food waste into the trash can. Previously, I knew I'd have to take the trash out right away if I was cooking chicken or other meat with trimmings that get tossed. Now, it's just a quick trip to the cone, no hassle with a new trash bag or a smelling trash can out front. The second huge improvement is that the outside trash can rarely stinks anymore! In the hot Texas sun, it can get pretty nasty. With the green cone, it's no longer an issue at all. (Not only does the trash not stink, but I've never noticed the cone itself being stinky.)
The biggest plus with this composter is that after installation, it's pretty much maintenance-free. You don't need to empty it out, as the broken down nutrients go directly back into the earth. It's recommended that you place the green cone in your garden, so it can reap the greatest benefit from the nutrient-filled soil. After 6 months, I can attest that the soil has improved. We have a few "weeds" growing right next to the cone. They are little trees and growing so fast! Someday I hope to plant a small garden nearby.
There are only a couple of negative aspects. Once in awhile, especially if we've kept some food in the kitchen bucket too long, we'll see a fruit fly or two. When the cone is really active, especially after adding meat, there seem to be some uh... "icky" bugs wiggling around in the cone. It can be a little disturbing opening up the cone during these times. Those small things are just a reminder of how useful our thrown away food pieces are. They are doing a lot more good for the environment inside that cone than surrounded by plastic and chemicals and compacted many feet below the ground in a big garbage dump.
It's important to know that you can do composting in many other ways which don't require nearly as much of an upfront investment. Lots of information is available online. My inspiration for this post was to contribute to Blog Action Day.