Green continues to be the trendy, talked about color.. and if you’ve gone green, you’ve probably implemented some environmentally friendly practices like composting. Composting is considered the responsible approach to discarding organic matter that would otherwise end up in landfills. A recent survey ranked San Francisco #1 for its efforts, due to its successful promotion of the practice as a city– offering a public area for composting– along with supporting residents who choose to compost on an individual basis.
Yet, knowing the increasing “coolness” associated with composting, a University of Maryland study still finds 75 percent of materials landing in landfills– could be composted. Unfortunately, the sustainability pioneers who practice composting point to one simple, but smelly problem.. the unfavorable odor of compost.
Here’s where another form of composting, known as bokashi, may offer a benefit. Bokashi is already widely practiced in Japan with its origins tracing back to Korea. Still relatively unknown in the United States, it offers a quick and less foul option for composting food scraps and may be just the option eco-conscious urban dwellers have been missing.
Bokashi means “fermented organic matter” in Japanese. It relies on a specific group of microorganisms to break down food waste in anaerobic conditions. The byproducts of this microbe community are amino acids and alcohol, rather than the ammonia and hydrogen sulfide responsible for the traditional compost stench. Bokashi began centuries ago when Japanese farmers covered their food scraps in rich soils full of microorganisms to ferment the food waste. They’d bury the waste weeks later, and soon enough, had soil rich in organic matter.
Practicing bokashi as a composting option
Here’s how it works in today’s world: kitchen waste is placed inside an air-tight container and introduced to a substance like wheat bran, sawdust, or molasses that has been inoculated with the necessary bacteria and yeast. This microbe community ferments and breaks down organic matter, including heavier items like meat, fish, and cheese.
Once the fermentation process is complete, usually in less than two weeks, the scraps can be added to a worm bin or buried directly in the soil. Those leftovers once destined for the landfill– are now fully integrated into the soil. Also, the compost liquid can be drained once or twice per week and used as a plant fertilizer, or disposed down the drain during fermentation.
If you’d like to try your hand at this ancient practice, you’ll need to track down the necessary microorganisms. A product called Effective Microorganisms (EM1) is being distributed by the Texas-based company TeraGanix, who assures potential customers it will provide the right microorganisms capable of fermenting table scraps effectively. I heart Soil isn’t endorsing this product, so if you’re interested, you can read more by clicking on this link: http://www.teraganix.com/Effective-Microorganisms-History-and-Availability-s/194.htm
Meantime, the EPA indicates on its website, yard trimmings and food residuals together, still constitute 27 percent of the US municipal solid waste stream.
So, smelly or not– why send it to the landfill when you could compost and turn your garbage into the perfect soil conditioner– a move I heart Soil fully endorses!