Making change means getting your hands dirty. Just ask Pashon Murray, the woman behind Detroit Dirt (detroitdirt.org), a non-profit that collects food and grain waste from restaurants and breweries, and manure from the Detroit Zoo, and turns it all into high-quality compost for gardens and farms. “Going to the landfill as a child, that place never made sense to me,” says Murray, whose dad worked in waste management when she was growing up in Grand Rapids, MI. Witnessing piles of garbage made an impact on her (as did spending summers on her family’s farm in Mississippi), and she’s dedicated her life to reducing trash. Since its start in 2010, Detroit Dirt has redirected more than 900,000 pounds of waste away from landfills, while educating people about growing their own food and the effects of our throwaway culture on climate change. “Stop looking at it like waste and start looking at it as a resource,” Murray says. “If we don’t have healthy soil, we don’t have a way to sustain humanity.” Here are her tips for composting at home so we can all be part of the revolution.
Lay the (coffee) groundwork.
You can start composting at home with a receptacle, available at stores like Home Depot, for around $20. If you make coffee in the morning, start by throwing your grounds and filters in there every day.
Add your fruits, veggies, and weeds (which break down easily compared to scraps of meat and cheese). If you have a yard, start a compost pile outside, transferring the food waste from your kitchen once the receptacle is full. If you don’t, give your food waste to an urban farm or garden—ask your city planning department or visit county or state agricultural websites to find one.
Turn, baby, turn.
If you’re composting outside, you can use a tumbler (available at Home Depot for around $100), rake, or shovel to turn the pile. “There isn’t a specific time and date; you have to manage it and look at how the material is breaking down,” Murray says. (Tip: Adding live worms to the middle of the compost—aka “vermicomposting”—can help break down waste. You can even buy worms online!)
Trust your instincts.
“You’ll be able to learn and look at how it’s decomposing and turning back into a natural form,” Murray says. “If your material is getting dry, add a bit of water or organic juice.”
By Rachael Roth
Photo: O'Malley King (pashon murray)
This article originally appeared in the June/July 2018 print edition of BUST Magazine. Subscribe today!
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