Harvesting the black gold from my kitchen

The nationwide lockdown in India that went on for nearly two months inspired a lot of people to explore their hobbies. While some utilized it to learn cooking, some went on to find solace in art. I, on the other hand, learned a very unique skill.

I learned to manage my kitchen waste.

It took me four lockdowns to realize that the vegetable and fruit peels that I’ve been mindlessly throwing away into the dustbin is a powerhouse of organic material. I’m grateful that this realization dawned on me sooner. Wouldn’t it be amazing if we all understood this simple concept and became a part of the grow-cook-eat cycle?

Wishful thinking, I know. Before learning to compost, I too was happy in my little ignorant coop, sending off heaps of garbage into landfills. However, in the lockdown period, my anxiety grew as I kept imagining many ‘what-ifs’ — What if the person who comes to collect our waste bags catches the virus? What if the society bans all entry/exits and we’re left to tend to our own waste? What-if the municipal corporation employees go on a strike?

The ceaseless chatter of what-ifs inside my head was put to an end when I saw a post on Instagram.

The poster was for a live session on composting, inviting people to learn the art of composting at home. I had heard of the term composting before but had never got around to trying it.

So, this time I decided to take the plunge and registered for the free online session by Vani Murthy.

When I sat down to attend the live session, my husband also joined to see what had caught my fancy. His presence gave me a hint of silent allegiance to the cause and I felt elated because having him as a partner in everything I do is truly a blessing. The thought that he didn’t shoot down the idea of composting in our small 4×8 sq. ft. balcony calmed me.

The session was amazing with step-by-step details of compositing and both of us decided to give it a try. We somehow managed to score an old paint bucket, punched small holes in it using a hammer and screwdriver, and collected the fallen dry leaves from a nearby park in a gunny sack.

The next morning, both of us were as excited as we would have been on the day of our wedding. As soon as we had some vegetable peels, we prepared our first batch and put it in the compost bin along with lots of dry leaves. Ever since that day, composting has become our morning ritual. To me, going to my balcony to compost my daily waste has become synonymous with going to the temple.

Parallelly, my husband and I have also learned gardening basics. We have started sowing seeds that are readily available in the kitchen (Tomato, Coriander, Green chili, Fenugreek). At the time of writing this, we’ve successfully harvested chillis from our balcony.

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The first harvest from the balcony garden

At the beginning of 2020, my husband and I had made several resolutions. One of them was to reduce our carbon footprint and look for sustainable alternatives over fast/fashionable ones. I feel good that despite a crappy beginning of the year, we’ve achieved one of the resolutions.

I feel most happy about not sending my kitchen waste to landfills and incinerators. I have always been conscious of my choices in food, travel, and clothing, but now I feel more empowered.

Composting has also impacted my consumption choices and I am glad that I now think in terms of “can this go in my compost bin?” before buying anything. More importantly, I have finally understood how we can recycle the (supposedly) dead organic material into nutrient-rich organic fertilizer.

We recently harvested our first batch of Black Gold and used it to add manure to our plants. I remember this day vividly. I woke up to smell the earthy humus-like odor in my balcony– not from the rain, but from my labor of love.

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Our first batch of gold

As of now, we’re running four batches of compost in our small space. Now, I am living for the day when I’ll go zero waste. Taking one step at a time.

If you’re new to composting and are eager to give it a try, here’s some advice from a beginner– Composting requires a lot of patience but zero skill. If you’re hesitant about doing it, don’t worry. Just start it and you’ll learn along the way. Just do it. And I promise you, you’ll be addicted to it soon. Seeing your (perceived) waste turn into something useful is a divine feeling.

Composting is like magic. But you don’t need to be a magician to perform it.

If you’ve kids at home, composting is a great way to teach them about biodegradable and non-biodegradable waste. We owe a great deal to our children, to teach them the right things. We owe it to them because they are going to be here when we’re gone. I found some really good books that you can use to teach your kids about the kind of waste we generate– plastic v/s organic.

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The Ouch and Moo books by Dailydump compost

These books are written, illustrated, and published by an organization called Daily Dump.

I hope you find this information useful and helpful. Reach out to me for anything that you might need help with.

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