Have you ever thought about setting up a compost bin at your school or center? Composting can provide a variety of educational opportunities for children while also cutting waste removal costs and enhancing soil quality in school gardens. Another added benefit is that it takes recycling one step further and helps children learn to be more environmentally friendly. Here are a few things you need to know about setting up an outdoor compost bin:
To start composting, you have to establish the size of your composting program, receive approval from school administration, and determine the location of the composting bin. You also need to make sure that other staff members know about your composting program. Once all of this is done, you can pick out the type of compost bin you want to use and start setting it up. The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommends that you use closed-top bins for composting when you want to incorporate food waste. This will help keep animals out of your compost pile.
Brown materials (leaves, wood chips, hay, egg shells, etc.) and green materials (grass clippings, hair, fruits and vegetables, bread and grains, etc.) are required for making compost. In Backyard Composting: It's Only Natural, the EPA suggests including three parts brown to one part green. When making a compost pile, use brown and green materials in varying sizes and place them in alternating layers. Make sure you turn over the compost pile with a pitchfork or shovel (if your bin doesn't have a turner) every time you add new material to the pile. The EPA says that your compost will be ready to use when the "material at the bottom is dark and rich in color, with no remnants of your food or yard waste."
For more information about composting and setting up a compost bin, check out the following resources:
How to Build a Compost Pile (Organic Gardening)
Teachers: Composting'Recycling (EPA)
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. "Backyard Composting: It's Only Natural." October 2009. http://www.epa.gov/waste/conserve/tools/greenscapes/pubs/compost-guide.pdf.