Ethical Homebrew Hack: Start Composting!

Homebrewing is wasteful. From the water it takes to clean and sanitize to spent grain (beer) and pomace (wine) it’s an ethical issue for those of us looking to be more green in our daily lives. Luckily, there is a green practice homebrewing can help you start that will make you feel much better about yourself and your brewing. It’s composting!Composting is nature's recycling program.

What Is Composting?

Composting is a natural process that takes organic materials and turns them into a rich soil perfect for growing. It is a natural process that is similar to recycling and can be a great way to reuse your yard and kitchen waste, including food scraps.

What does this have to do with homebrewing? There are lots of leftover materials when brewing mead, cider and wine. As a blog with a focus on ethical production and consumption it’s important to not simply ignore the waste produced. Mead results in the least waste but as soon as you add fruit or herbs you’re looking at tossing organic material. If making cider from apples you’ve got lots of crush to deal with. That’s called pomace, and you will face the same issue with wine.

A Solution for Urban, Suburban & Urban Dwellers

I get the best of both worlds: I live in a loft in a converted factory with a great urban feel in a cute downtown. But I’m also in the thick of the Green Mountain National Forest. In fact, my town is a stop on the Appalachian Trail and home to some of the greatest hiking in the country. I’ve got mountains out my window, reservoirs all around but I don’t have a yard. Yay! I’m not much for yard work. I’m still able to compost, though, thanks to worm composting.

My mother, on the other hand, lives in suburban. She uses backyard composting to keep her impressive vegetable garden organic and thriving.

Worm Composting: Also called, vermiculture. This can be done in a garage or right in your house and uses a bucket and worms to turn kitchen scraps into a dark soil food. The worms are thrilled and enjoy working for scraps. You save room in landfills and, if you do it right, have an unobtrusive, smell free ecosystem in your home. Even a yardless one like mine!

Backyard Composting: This can use a bin but also works fine with a trench or pile. The material is then used in gardening.

Why Is Composting Important?

Food waste takes up significant room in landfills where it doesn’t serve a purpose. When it is turned into compost, though, it provides several benefits:

  • Composting saves water. You know me, I’m always going back to water. Considering how much water we waste brewing, composting is a great way to counteract. Rich soil that is enhanced with compost requires less water because it is naturally more moist and retains rainwater better.
  • Composting reduces the need for fertilizer. You don’t need chemicals that leech into your food and the water supply when you use compost in your garden. It’s a natural fertilizer.
  • Reduces greenhouse gas emissions. Where garbage is left in heaps in landfills, oxygen is unable to reach the material to aid in decay. Thus, methane is given off as a byproduct. By limiting what we put into landfills, we stop the production of excess methane.

But I Don’t Grow Anything!

Whether or not you garden, composting is still beneficial. Your grass will look better if you use it in your yard. If you’re an apartment dweller it will aid your potted plants.

It’s also a great excuse to try your hand at growing, even on a micro level. My neighbor, S, grows tomatoes on her windowsills and a ledge between our building and the one next to it. You can also grow plenty of things in an apartment; having a kitchen herb garden helps keep things fresh and flavorful! And, if you’re interested, you can grow veggies in an apartment.

Still not interested in growing? Offer your compost to neighbors, who will likely take you up on it if they are growing anything from flowers to farms.img_1783

How To Start Composting: Resources To Help You Start

Method 1: Worm Composting

While it’s an initial investment, I’m going to be pretty firm in my advice that you buy a kit and follow the directions exactly since you don’t want any smells or fruit flies to go along with your composting. The link I have provided is for research purposes only — you can buy online or visit a local independent gardening or hardware store to explore your options.

Method 2: Backyard Composting

I recommend picking a corner of your yard for composting or using the trench method. Both of these should be done away from where you plant to avoid root rot. Instead of planting directly in the compost, work it into the soil when planting to keep your plants happy and thriving. This is an excellent piece on trench composting that will have you digging a trench in no time.

Start Composting

That’s it! It’s easy to start composting with the odds and ends you usually throw out when making dinner. Instead, toss these into your bin, or into your trench, and watch how quickly you create a dark, rich soil nutrient sure to bring your plants (or someone else’s) to new heights.

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