Carbon – Also known as the “browns” in your compost pile, carbon-rich materials are things like dead leaves, straw or newspaper. Since 1960, March 17, 2020 Cold composting is as simple as collecting yard waste or taking out the organic materials in your trash (such as fruit and vegetable peels, coffee grounds and filters, and eggshells) and then corralling them in a pile or bin. While urban soils are generally stereotyped as being low quality, many urban lawns and gardens are actually very healthy, having been well tended for decades. What is the best thing I can do to increase the carbon content in my compost? Leaves (50-80:1) Leaves are generally an excellent ingredient for your compost. The Carbon Compost Co. Our charcoal retort The Exeter Retort is available to order. Compost is organic matter that has been broken down into simpler organic or inorganic matter in a process called composting. To find out what credits/debits would result from local use of compost produced locally by the county, we modeled likely rates of carbon sequestration for urban uses of compost. Sawdust: Because sawdust has an extremely high carbon to nitrogen ratio, use it sparingly in the compost pile. The compost itself is beneficial for the land in many ways, including as a soil conditioner, a fertilizer, addition of vital A very small portion of the biosolids produced (<1%) has been composted by a private company. That company is shutting down and the County is working to start its own biosolids composting facility. They’re also in abundant supply in most regions and turn into fairly decent finished compost (called leaf mold) all by themselves. Sally Brown, BioCycle’s Senior Adviser and long-time Connections columnist, is a Research Professor in the College of the Environment at the University of Washington. For biosolids, we considered the density to be equal to water and assumed a solid content of 25%. To get the latest news from the most trusted name in organics recycling delivered to your inbox every week, enter your email below. The JG Press, Inc., Sandwich an ultra-thin layer (no more than an inch) between moist grass clippings, or mix handfuls thoroughly with lots of other ingredients. If the C:N ratio is too high (excess carbon), decomposition slows down. | Browns are carbon or carbohydrate-rich materials. However, nowadays only 26.0% and 32.9% of the total amount of crop residue and manure were treated by composting, respectively ( Jia et al., 2018 ). A CarbonCycle Composter processing your daily organic waste. ... We’d love to send you exclusive offers and the latest info from Carbon Gold by email. How to identify the best carbon sources for your backyard compost bin. Sprinkling small amounts of sawdust you generate in your woodshop won’t hurt the process; dumping huge amounts from the local sawmill will shut it down. This process recycles various organic materials otherwise regarded as waste products and produces a soil conditioner. You need to add carbon materials to your compost pile to provide energy for microorganisms while they break down your organic matter. The heat generated by your compost pile is a result of microbial activity. A single CarbonCycle Community Composter can convert over 5 tons of organic matter into compost per year. Box 248 | Emmaus, PA 18049 USA, ©2020 jg press, all rights reserved | Privacy Policy | developed by altitude marketing. Environmentally, the retort releases approx. Delivery, on the other hand, is 0.005 Mg CO2/ton of compost, as each dump truck load holds 5 tons of compost. Basics. C/N Ratio. Actual carbon and nitrogen content in material varies, but typical ranges are included in the following table. Paper: Shredded paper is great for worm bin bedding. Straw: Made from the remaining dried stalks of cereal grains (wheat, oats, rye, barley) after the grain has been threshed and removed, straw is used primarily for livestock bedding. Compost Chemistry . Everything you put in your compost has a different carbon:nitrogen ratio. Within the carbon farming framework, compost application can be part of a smart, comprehensive plan to manage carbon at a whole farm level. While the comparisons for this column were done with a focus on compost use in King County, the results are applicable for other cities as well. Well, according to the USDA, the ideal carbon to nitrogen rate for optimal microbial action in a compost pile is between 20:1 and 40:1, with 24:1 being the absolute sweet spot. This article runs through the variables and the application scenarios. 10 tons of CO 2 (equivalent) avoided. Carbon is what provides the energy for the bacteria and fungi in your compost pile. However, your most loyal customer is likely the worst case for carbon storage. Using your own car is a worst-case scenario. (Pine needles also make attractive and effective mulch spread around garden beds.) With its current program, King County racks up the carbon credits. Browns = Carbon. Fork well into the top 6 inches of soil and see your plants thrive. Growing trees, particularly in a high productivity area like the Pacific Northwest, means a high rate of above ground biomass carbon storage. In the following, we describe the methodologies used to quantify these benefits. 3.1. Other paper products that are easy to shred or tear include used paper towels, envelopes, paperboard (unwaxed cereal and food boxes), paper towel and toilet tissue rolls, and newspaper. Composting relies on the right ingredients to be successful. General. Just mix the contents of the sack thoroughly and add to your garden soil. The compost pile requires a correct proportion of carbon for energy and nitrogen for protein production to achieve its optimal performance. Browns are generally hard and bulky and because they rot down slowly they tend to retain their structure for longer. Soil carbon storage and credits for fertilizer avoidance more than offset emissions from the >400 mile round trip haul. Using agricultural byproducts, predominantly manure, as compost may also be an effective way to sequester carbon, storing it in the soil instead of releasing it to the air. A local King County composting facility will reduce transport distance and so cut emissions that way. Carbon credits/debits were estimated both on a per ton of compost basis and a per ton of biosolids basis. These organisms "feed" on organic matter and use the carbon and nitrogen it contains to grow and reproduce. But what credits/debits (offsets vs. emissions) would result from local use of the compost? Using your compost to grow fruit and vegetables. Before you start piling on, recognize that there are two types of composting: cold and hot. Of the many elements required for microbial decomposition, carbon and nitrogen are the most important. A how-to video by the North Shore Recycling Program, North Vancouver, BC Canada. The role that the composting carbon nitrogen ratio (C:N) plays in the composting process is a topic that frequently comes up when discussing how to compost. Remember too that benefits of compost are not limited to carbon credits. Also, decomposers start to work on sawdust as they do every other ingredient, but because of the high carbon load, they require copious amounts of nitrogen-rich material over time to process all that carbon. I've a small compost heap (1.2m x 1.2m x 0.8m), which is mostly formed of grass clippings. Bacteria, fungi, and other microbes are the key players in composting. Even though individual driving distances are short (12 miles round trip in our scenarios) the number of cars required to carry a dry ton of compost makes these emissions add up. We estimated a 45% solids content and a wet bulk density of 470kg m3 for yard trimmings (Andrew Bary, Washington State University, personal communication). That’s more than the international “4 per 1000” initiative, which calls … Use for turf in new home construction or urban agriculture is also very carbon friendly. By volume, a compost pile will be ⅔-¾ brown materials. Carbon provides both an energy source and and the basic building block making up about 50 percent of the mass of microbial cells. However, because trees tend to live for decades, the carbon in the tree trunk and branches also counts as carbon storage. But is … King County, Washington has a great biosolids program. Here, we considered compost feedstocks to consist of a 3:1 by volume mixture of yard trimmings and municipal biosolids. In a rangeland setting, it is best to identify sites most appropriate for compost application with a professional land manager and conduct application alongside a holistic or managed grazing regime. Scientists (yes, there are compost scientists) have determined that the fastest way to produce fertile, sweet-smelling compost is to maintain a C:N ratio somewhere around 25 to 30 parts carbon to 1 part nitrogen, or 25-30:1. So, you can either build a pile and hope for the best… or, you can use our compost calculator to help make sure your compost pile has good carbon to nitrogen ratios. The soil benefits from compost may even help lessen California’s current reliance on inorganic, highly polluting fertilizers. Assuming that an equal percentage of the yard trimmings and biosolids would decompose (50%) during composting, the final compost would also be 30% biosolids. The National Gardening Association is the leading garden-based educational nonprofit organization in the United States. Cathy Cromell is a Regional Reporter for the National Gardening Association. Conversely, established lawns likely have richer soils and high carbon content, thus have lower potential for carbon storage. You can use straw in the garden as mulch; it’s safer to use than hay because it contains few weed seeds. What To Compost. Cardboard is slow to compost, and the thicker corrugated stuff is hard to tear, although it works well for soaking up excess moisture in wet ingredients. Carbon-Rich Materials for Your Compost Pile, Mix in Brown and Green Compost Ingredients, Benefits of Adding Compost to Your Garden, By Cathy Cromell, The National Gardening Association. For instance, if you add a lot of freshly cut grass (high nitrogen and moisture content) to your pile, you'll also want to add some newspaper clippings (very high carbon content and minimal moisture). Well-tended soils already have high organic matter with little room for additional carbon sequestration. Pine needles: The resinous coating on needles can take a while to break down, so use them in limited quantity. Compost stores carbon in the soil, • Nitrogen contained in compost is an organic fertiliser, • Compost can be applied instead of peat or straw as a soil conditioner in order to improve the soil structure, thus avoiding fossil emissions from the use of peat. The use of carbon-to-nitrogen ratio for each of your compost ingredients is the most efficient way to provide the optimal nutrient your plants require. It’s used less frequently than hay as livestock feed because straw’s nutritional value and digestibility are low. Having a locally available compost product made from local ingredients will make the city greener, enhance environmental awareness and may even save the County a few dollars per ton. Thanks to this answer to another composting question, I now understand the C:N ratio. All compostable matter is classified as either carbon- or nitrogen-rich ingredients. Replicated field plots in the dryland wheat fields have shown that a high portion of the carbon added with the biosolids stays in the soil. It turns out that using compost in urban areas can sequester a lot of carbon — especially if you use it on poor soils to grow trees. In all probability, the compost that King County will make will go to a variety of end uses with the net carbon balance somewhere in the middle of these examples. Carbons for the compost pile include the following: Dry leaves: Dry leaves are probably the easiest brown ingredient to work with for a beginning composter because they’re already smallish pieces of organic matter that are easy to shred into even tinier pieces if you choose. For trees, you get those same credits plus an additional credit for above ground biomass. Your compost pile should have an equal amount of browns to greens. While we based this study on King County’s Loop biosolids program, results would apply to other feedstocks that are used to produce nutrient rich composts. Therefore they have a high potential for carbon storage as the soils have low carbon content. Here are the carbon credits/debits using 7 application scenarios. So “browns” provide microbes with the carbon they need but they also play another useful role. You need to add carbon materials to your compost pile to provide energy for microorganisms while they break down your organic matter. Having too much carbon materials will drastically slow down the process of the materials … Okay, let's move on to the specific compost ingredients. 75% fewer pollutants to the atmosphere than ring kilns. We’ll always treat your details with the utmost care and won’t share them with any third party. To put the findings for the compost basis vs. the biosolids basis into perspective, it is important to consider the quantity of biosolids in a dry ton of compost. Since it contains a high percentage of water (over 50%), it swiftly goes anaerobic in the absence of oxygen. Our patented carbon compost has been processed and pre-activated to alleviate that problem and contains composted manure in the correct proportion to help turn your soil into “black earth”. When both compost and cover-crops were added in the organic-certified system, soil carbon content increased 12.6 percent over the length of the study, or about 0.07 percent annually. An imbalance between these two elements often leads to a smelly compost pile and a … If that customer picks up the compost in their personal vehicle and uses fertilizer just to make sure, compost is just over the line of neutrality — you get minimal net emissions. What is soil quality? If you read much about composting, you’ll soon come across the terms carbon:nitrogen ratio (often shortened to C:N ratio). Common Sources of Carbon-Containing Ingredients It produces a Class B cake that is used to fertilize dryland wheat fields and commercial forests. But the point is that compost can restore carbon to the soil and improve soil quality. But more than one composter has discovered, to his distress, that the grass he dumped into his compost pile, instead of decaying into a nice, dark, crumbly, humus-rich compost, has instead putrefied into a slimy, stinky mess.Grass does indeed make a fine feed-stock for compost, but it easily compacts into an oxygen-free mat. If you have a lot of pine needles, you can easily stockpile them and gradually mix them in with other organic materials. Application to poor soils has shown high rates of soil C sequestration — -0.52 tons of CO2/dry ton of biosolids. She is a certified Master Gardener, Master Composter, and Master Entomologist. The effect is cumulative, meaning the soil keeps absorbing carbon dioxide even after just one application of compost, the researchers found. Mature compost can be used as soil amendment to enrich stable organic carbon and microbes in soil, thereby improving soil quality. This peat-free Seed Compost combines organic coir with Grochar, our unique biochar complex. Producing high quality barbeque charcoal and biochar in a fraction of the time taken by traditional ring kilns. Carbon accounting for compost use in urban areas. publisher of BioCycle CONNECT & Biocycle.net | P.O. Carbon credits/debits were estimated both on a per ton of compost basis and a per ton of biosolids basis. The secret to producing high quality compost is to maintain the right proportion of carbon and nitrogen materials. For example, new lawns likely have poor soils, in part due to loss of topsoil during construction. Using a car to pick up 50 kg (110 lbs) of compost generates 0.09 Mg CO2/ton of compost. These microorganisms (which we also call “microbes” at random through this site) require four basic things to help them create the rich, organic compost we use in our gardens. The brown materials provide carbon for your compost, the green materials provide nitrogen, and the water provides moisture to help break down the organic matter. Tear it and mix it with fresh manure or grass clippings, or lay it on the bottom of a pile if you’re composting in a damp region. Greening up your highways can provide lots of carbon credits. The average long-bed pickup truck can hold 64 cubic feet of material, which is the same as a 4’x4’x4’ compost pile. Also, brown materials help … Break, chop, and shred this material as much as possible to speed decomposition. Woody plant trimmings: Shrubs, trees, palm fronds, dead perennial stems, Brussels sprout stalks, and dried cornstalks all fit into this category. This would make a feedstock combination that was about 30% biosolids on a dry weight basis. Grass trimmings are the quintessential compost ingredient. The peer review literature was used to estimate carbon debits/credits for growing lawns, trees, urban agriculture and for use alongside urban roadways. (Note: 1 Mg=1 ton). They highlight the good and the bad, where applicable. Results from specific end uses are shown in the series of tables below. The underlying soils for both lawns and trees will respond to compost addition and store carbon. Unfortunately, there isn't a good source of carbon in my mostly-lawn garden. For turf, you get credits for soil carbon and not using fertilizer. To put the findings for the compost basis vs. the biosolids basis into perspective, it is important to consider the quantity of biosolids in a dry ton of compost. It is used, for example, in gardens, landscaping, horticulture, urban agriculture and organic farming. You should also alternate layers of organic materials of different-sized particles. The main job of browns in a compost pile is to be food sources for all of the lovely soil-dwelling organisms that will work with the microbes to break down the contents of your compost pile. Don’t worry about pine needles’ acidity unless you have a lot of them: Small amounts have minimal effect in your compost pile or soil. Compost is rich in nutrients. Brown materials such as leaves, straw, hay and sawdust are high in carbon and are a source of energy for the compost microbes. Carbons for the compost pile include the following: Dry leaves: Dry leaves are probably the easiest brown ingredient to work with for a beginning composter because they’re already smallish pieces of organic matter that are easy to shred into even tinier pieces if you choose. Carbon emissions vs. reductions of King County’s current biosolids program looks like this (see figure to right): Even though the haul distance to dryland wheat fields is very high, the county’s biosolids are transported using high capacity vehicles, lowering the per ton carbon footprint associated with transport. The Organics Recycling Authority Over the course of a year or so, the material will decompose. This means you will need 42-48 cubic feet of carbon materials for one 4’x4’x4’ compost pile. Each features mixes of the variables. Thick layers of sawdust compress into impenetrable mats, reducing the ability of oxygen and water to circulate through the pile. Structure and Oxygenation. Transport in urban areas is much less efficient than long haul trucking. The closer you can come to mixing up 3 parts carbon materials to one part nitrogen materials when you build your pile, the faster the decomposers will consume it and reward you with finished compost.