A Clear Vision Part II – The Making of a Compost Pile

CompostCenterLet’s say I live in a household of five, I’ve just read an inspiring article about composting and I want to start a compost pile. Based on our last post “A Clear Vision – How Change Happens” here’s how I would make this happen.

Established Authority – We have a leader and it is I – it’s my idea so I will be in charge.

Clear Goals – I do some research and put together a proposal.

Clear Expectations – I pitch my idea to the group, making sure they understand what’s in it for them and how I need them to help.

Cooperation – I make sure my housemates are agreeable to the project. If there’s resistance, I’ll reduce the scope of the project until everyone is comfortable.

Clear and Consistent Consequences – If any of us has a problem, say we get maggots, or the pile smells, or a myriad of other fails, we agree to meet again and reevaluate the project.

Make it Easy to do the Right thing and Hard to do the Wrong thing – Put the compost pile as close to the kitchen door as possible to encourage frequent trips and install a small container on the counter to discourage indoor stockpiling. At the pile end make it easy to add cover material at the time of composting by providing a dry source of cover material and the right tools.

Contingency Plans – Plan B – No one else wants to take the compost out or they don’t want to add the cover material so I do all the emptying of the container and covering of the pile. Plan C – The group has a problem with the container so I remove it and only compost my own stuff. Plan D – My housemates complain about the pile so I scrap the project. Plan E – I get different housemates…

Incrementalism – Start with the kitchen composting. Once everyone is composting peelings and leftovers, we move on to the bathroom where we set up a trash can that is only for tissues and other paper products. Next, add a container for dryer fluff. Add the stuff from the vacuum cleaner bag. Move on to dried leaves and other yard waste (no weed seeds!)

Measure the Results – Before beginning we take note of how much trash our household generates in one week. A week after we start composting, we check out how much less trash we are now setting aside for a trip to the landfill and how much nicer it smells.

Manage the Outcome – I keep my eye on things, praise my housemates for their efforts and coach them when they need assistance. Brag on them in front of their friends. After a month or so we downgrade our trash service and use the money we save to throw a party!

How can you go wrong? Here are a dozen examples:

1. You decide to start a compost pile but don’t communicate this to your housemates.

2. You don’t do your homework and so don’t really know how to go about making a compost pile.

3. You aren’t sure what you want to achieve with a compost pile, it just seemed like a good idea.

4. You don’t bother finding a steady source of grass clippings, leaves or wood shavings for cover material.

5. You don’t manage the compost container, the pile or the supply of cover material.

6. Someone borrows the pitchfork and forgets to return it to the compost pile.

7. You throw animal products in the compost and soon the neighborhood dogs or racoons are digging through it.

8. No one rinses out the compost container and it gets so gross you hide it when your friends come over.

9. You hope one of your house mates, that OCD guy will keep an eye on things so you won’t have to.

10. You put the compost pile too far from the house because you’re afraid it will smell and you get a big bucket for the kitchen so you won’t have to empty it every day.

11. You don’t bother measuring the results, there’s no Ka-Ching, no one really knows why you’re doing this and everyone loses interest.

12. Things aren’t going like you thought they should so you give up.

By Camille Armantrout

Camille lives with her soul mate Bob in the back woods of central North Carolina where she hikes, gardens, cooks, and writes.

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