Are you interested in adopting new green habits in your household? Would you like to reduce your household garbage by one third? Composting, an age-old practice, could be just the thing.

What is compost: Compost is decomposed organic material. Plant matter is placed in a bin where it breaks down by way of micro-organisms. As your materials decompose, they become rich in nutrients and can be later used as a natural fertilizer.

This practice is once again gathering attention, as concern over landfill use and recycling have hit mainstream. Composting means that items that were once "trash" can now be turned into a natural product to reuse again.

What can you compost: The list of compostable materials is extensive, and includes a few surprising items! Here are just a few of the hundreds of items that you may compost: fall leaves, grass clippings, pet hair, human hair clippings, cardboard, newspapers, herbivore manure (cow, horse, etc), wood ash, and plant material.

What NOT to compost: You want to ensure that your compost is healthy for use later on, since what you compost may eventually become part of those plants and vegetables. Do not compost: bread products (they attract pests), cooking oil, stubborn plants (like dandelions), dog or cat feces.

Where to use compost: If you have a large yard or live in a rural area, you may find that an open compost heap is perfectly acceptable, especially if placed where you won't be bothered by smells. However, if you live on a normal city lot (or even in a townhouse or condo), you may find using a closed compost bin or tumbler is preferable.

Keep in mind that open bins may attract pests, ranging from bugs and mice to small animals. If this is a concern, be sure to choose a compost heap that is either covered, or use a bin with a lid. (Closed containers sometimes require you to add water from time to time.)

Another option, compost tumblers, can turn your waste into compost quickly, with some brands claiming to do so in as little as two weeks. You simply add the waste and give the tumbler a turn every few days.

Some homeowners take composting and make an art of it. Modern composting incorporates a carefully monitored process with specific rules for the use and addition of water, air, and nitrogen- and carbon-rich ingredients to your bin. Others simply compost natural organic material and let nature do the real work. The choice is up to you, but hopefully the next time you are throwing away organic material, you'll consider giving your dumpster a break and will instead try composting!

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