Many of us green New Yorkers know the importance of composting. We bring our food scraps to local drop off points, or maybe we even compost ourselves in our apartments. But how many of us actually know how to compost outdoors? Fortunately, the Lower East Side Ecology Center, provides workshops for just such an occasion. I decided to seize the opportunity of the sunny weather and learn for myself the method to the magic.

Chirping birds and sounds of traffic set the mood of springtime in the city as soon-to-be-composters gathered in the crisp late morning in La Plaza Cultural, one of NYC’s composting hot-spots (and the site of the 2010 Green City Challenge race). The turnout was impressive, with a diverse group of ages and levels of composting mastery. Some had come because they knew how to compost indoors and were curious about how outdoor composting works. Some had come because they starting composting projects of their own, and wanted to learn the ropes. And some, like me, were there to discover more about the wonders of composting and learn how to compost like a professional.

The workshop did not disappoint. Despite the nippy air, I had no trouble focusing on the workshop leader as she explained to us the science of composting and the most effective ways to combat the problems that face first-time composters.

Here are six things I did not know about composting:
1. Naturally occurring compost is called humus, it’s only once humans get involved in controlling the process that it gets to be called compost.
2. Although very light, finished compost can hold 90% of its weight in water.
3. You can compost with any kind of paper, just so long as it isn’t “shiny” (That means, no plastic or wax coating the paper)
4. Even though both “green” and “brown” materials decompose on their own, you need both in order to have a delicious, nutrient rich blend that plants love, as well as a composting pile that doesn’t stink and attract pesky flies!
5. During the composting process, the original volume of the material decreases by 40-60%
6. Best of all, if you do it right, compost piles don’t have to stink!

The best part of the workshop was getting to see composting in action, and see the compost in different stages of completion. For those visual learners out there, drop on by La Plaza Cultural to take a look at how easy composting is, and don’t forget to bring your food scraps with you!

For those well-intentioned earth lovers out there who don’t know whether an apple counts as a “green” or a “brown” Spring is the perfect time to get out there and learn how to compost. The Lower East Side Ecology Center is a great resource for composting, both indoor and out, so be sure to sign up for their next workshop!

By: Bekah Holloway