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Would you like to know about Black Gold?
A sustainable lifestyle brings its own set of rewards in the form of better health and environment. But it also brings specific gifts as well like this special BLACK GOLD. Really, Black Gold? Well, it is not the usual black gold (Oil or petroleum). It is a special black gold that enriches the land we live on and eat from.  But how does this relate to waste management? After you start segregating waste into four broad categories- wet, dry, e-waste, and hazardous ( some cities and countries do it in multiple types, so let’s stick to four broad ones at this stage), the second simple step is to handle the wet waste at our homes.  So what is to be done? Keep segregating your waste and composting your wet waste.  What is composting?  In simple terms, it’s a process that converts food and plant scraps back to soil.  It’s an effective recycling of your fruits, vegetables, and yard trimmings into a nutrient-rich soil fertilizer that helps your garden grow while reducing waste to the landfill.   Any relation between composting and with 3Rs of sustainable living? The original 3Rs were Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle which have now expanded to 5R with recycling of food scraps now dealt with under a separate sub-category which is ROT.  These food scraps are quite valuable if they rot in the right condition. When that happens what gets created as the output is “black gold” ie nutrient-rich soil equivalent.    How does composting contribute to sustainability?
  • It creates black gold and supports better and more productive food and vegetable gardens.
  • It lowers the release of methane gas in landfills when these food scraps instead of reaching there get handled and composted.
  • Emissions related to fertilizer production get reduced with natural nutrients back in the soil. Not only this it also preserves the health of soil and food items with reduced chemical exposure.
Did you know Methane is a potent greenhouse gas that traps more than 25 times more heat in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide?  What all can be composted? All that we eat, drink and which grows. Common six are :  
  • Fruits and vegetable scraps – Almost anything that comes from the ground and more. ( Pro-Tip: Before you put them for final recycling i.e. composting, you can reuse most of these scraps for making bio-enzymes. Join our course “Waste to Natural Cleaners” and start making it in 2 minutes).
  • Coffee grounds and filters
  • Eggshells  Pro-Tip: You can also dry and crush them in small quantities and use them in the kitchen garden for calcium intake of plants).
  • Nutshells
  • Grass clippings, Leaves, houseplants.
  • Sawdust,  Wood chips.
Is anything specific to be avoided during composting
  1. Pet waste
  2. Diseased plants
  3. Fat/grease/oils
  4. Cooked food and animal products can be composted but it’s advised to avoid them when you are starting as they take longer to break down. 
So, how to get started composting kitchen waste in an apartment?  
  • Use any old earthen pot with a lid or old bucket with a lid and holes for drainage at the bottom and aeration on top. 
  • Start putting your food scraps (greens) which are rich in nitrogen with browns or items rich in carbon (paper, cardboard, dry leaves). Around 1:2-3 proportion is the best mix i.e. 2-3 portions of browns for 1 portion of food scrap. 
  • You can pour a little curd as an activator to start the process.
  • Keep on mixing and rotating/ turning the mixture at least once a week. Stop adding more once the pot/bucket/bin is full.
  • The liquid that will get discharged from the bottom of the container can be diluted and used in plants or you may discard it if you don’t have plants. 
  • The quantity of the mixture you added will keep on reducing with the majority of the food being decomposed and discharged in the form of liquid from the holes at the bottom.
  • Once the entire matter turns dark and smells like soil with the majority of food items not recognizable compost is ready. This takes between 3-6 months depending on the container, weather conditions, nature of greens and browns taken. 
  • Dry it for a couple of days in a wide container before using it for plants.
Now, where should I keep this compost bin/container? 
  • It can be on your balcony, in dry areas behind the bathroom, garage, or under your kitchen counters.
  • If you decide to keep it outside, be sure to protect it from the sun, rain, or cold temperatures.
Won’t it stink and smell? One major hurdle before composting is the fear of odor. If you are keeping it covered and follow the right mix of greens ( uncooked fruit and vegetable waste which provide nitrogen) and browns ( dry leaves, paper, sawdust, soil, etc which provide oxygen); then you need not worry about it. In general, a ratio of 1 of Green and 2-3 of brown is suggested for good composting as well as no odor. What if I want to compost cooked food or dairy items as well? You can compost cooked food but better to avoid it in your first compost pile. In case you decide to put cooked food leftovers make sure to strain the liquids if any and in case of oily food,  pass it through water and then strain. Dairy items are better avoided in the above-specified simple composting method.  What if I don’t stay in an apartment and have open space available?  You can compost there as well in the open garden space or open green space with you. 
  • You can dig a space and can have your backyard composting without the need for any composting container. 
  • Start burying your greens under the space dug there and cover with browns.
  • Here you don’t need to collect any discharged liquid, nor is weekly rotating of the mixture needed. The only thing that you need to focus on here is that you put enough brown or the soil that you have dug out to cover properly to avoid any rodents. 
  • These will get directly absorbed in the soil. You may choose to grow plants in that area after a couple of months or dig this new layer of soil and spread it to the roots of your other plants.  
Alternatively, you can practice the apartment composting method if the open space is made of concrete. What is different in other methods of composting – vermicompost/bokashi? 
  • Vermicomposting involves using worms to be put in the compost bin. 
  • Bokashi Composting specifically requires  Bokashi bran i.e. fermented bran that you will layer between your food scrap layers. 
  • Compost Tumbler needs more space but has the benefit of composting your household waste faster.
So what do we finally get as the output of composting This is what is the result of whichever method you use the simpler one or the advanced one- the #BLACKGOLD, better and sustainable tomorrow. Last thing, how do we use it? You can spread it as a layer on the soil of already growing plants, you can mix it in your potting mix or you can directly grow some plants in it. In case you do not have space for growing plants you can share it with anyone in your building growing plants or give it to society gardeners.   So are you ready to start making this black gold?

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