Compost is decomposed organic matter.

Home composting is when you decompose your kitchen and garden wastes in your garden or in an outdoor bin. Typically, compost is reused for gardening or planting.

The benefits of composting include diversion of kitchen and yard waste from the landfill, natural soil conditioner and fertilizer, and the addition of beneficial organisms to the soil. One-third of landfill waste is made up of compostable material, so composting is an easy way to both improve your garden and reduce your environmental impact.

Free LEED Exam PreperationHow to Compost

You can start your own compost pile at home by following these steps:

1. Choose a location for your compost pile that is on bare earth, but not next to a fence or wall. Microorganisms and bugs will aid in decomposing the matter, so you do not want them in the house or on the fence.

2. Choose a bin, if you want one. Bins can help to make your compost pile more organized and attractive, though they aren't necessary. If pests are a problem in your area, you may want a bin to deter them.

3. First, lay twigs or straw a few inches deep to help aerate the base.

4. Add compost in layers of moist and dry, or carbon and nitrogen. You can add a nitrogen source (i.e. manure) to the top to aid decomposition.

5. Maintain the pile by keeping it moist, turning it occasionally, and of course, adding more compostable material. Rain should keep the pile moist, unless if you live in a dry area. You can turn the compost every few weeks with a shovel or garden tool, unless you have enough straw (or other course material), which helps the pile develop without turning.

If you do not have a garden, you may purchase a compost bin.

Keep in mind that only certain waste is recommended for a home compost. You should compost fruits and vegetables, egg shells, paper, and coffee grinds. You can compost most lawn or garden waste, though you should to avoid weeds or diseased plants. Do not compost meat, fish, or bones, because they will attract unwanted animals and pests.

While composting at your home is typically a do-it-yourself project, you may wish to hire a Master Composter to help you set up the compost pile. Larger projects, such as compost piles for apartment complexes, may require professional help or training.

Composting Toilets

Composting toilets are dry toilets that use little or no water to process waste. Instead, the waste is mixed with substances such as peat moss or sawdust to absorb liquids, promote aerobic digestion, and reduce odor.

The following 3 composting toilets are currently on the market, and can be used for green and LEED certified building projects.

1. Ecovita Separett Villa

Ecovita's Separett Villa composting toilet, voted one of the top 10 green building products of 2009 by Sustainable Industries Magazine, is made from recyclable high-gloss polyethylene. This makes it feel like a modern, conventional toilet, even though it uses no water. It can be used for a variety of applications, and either all year round or seasonally.

The Separett Villa uses a urine diverter with electricity or a battery for the ventilation fan. The urine is disposed through a waste water pipe, while the solid collects in a container. Then the container is full, the user can attach a lid and dispose of the waste, and attach a new container. With this system, liquids and solids are not combined, so there is no latrine-type odor. It contains a view guard, which slides back when the person sits on the seat.

The urine is diverted through a waste water pipe. When the solid waste container is full, the user can attach a lid and dispose of the waste, then replace it with a new container. This urine-diverting system ensures that liquids and solids are never mixed, which means that there is no latrine-type odor.

The Separett Villa retails for $1,249 on Ecovita's website.

2. Envirolet FlushSmart Vacuum Flush

Envirolet's FlushSmart VF composting toilet is the first to incorporate a vacuum flush, which allows it to flush waste up to 70 feet away. This means the toilet does not require gravity and makes it easier to install, even in places where many composting toilets cannot typically be used, such as in basements or on rock. However, because it uses a vacuum flush, it uses some water, but only as little as 0.2 liters per flush.

The FlushSmart sells for $3,199.20 to $5,423.20 on the company's website, depending on the model.

See their website for more information.

3. Sun-Mar Excel

Sun-Mar manufactures composting toilets, including self-contained systems, central flush systems, and central dry systems. The Excel is the best-selling composting toilet in North America. It is a self-contained system and was the first composting toilet to earn certification from the National Sanitation Foundation. It retails for $1795.

The toilet is available for homes and light commercial use, and uses an electric flush. Sun-Mar also offers the Excel-NE, which uses no electricity for flushing.

Compost and LEED

Currently, there are no credits in any of the LEED 2009 rating systems that address composting food waste on-site. However, composting food waste may be eligible for an Innovation in Design (ID) credit, if the project team uses a strategy that achieves significant, quantifiable environmental performance using a strategy that is not addressed in LEED.

The Innovation in Design credit should include:
• Intent of proposed credit
• Proposed requirements and submittals for compliance
• Design approach used to meet the requirements

However, composting toilets are a technology that is addressed in the LEED rating systems.

According to the LEED for New Construction rating system, composting toilets could contribute to the following credits:

• Water Efficiency (WE) Prerequisite 1, Water Use Reduction (0 points):
This credit requires that the building uses 20% less water than the baseline. The baseline for toilets is 1.6 gallons per flush (gpf). Most composting toilets use no water, which means it can contribute to this credit.

• WE Credit 2, Innovative Wastewater Technologies (2 points):
This credit is intended to reduce wastewater generation and decrease potable water use. One of the options is to reduce potable water use for sewage by 50%. The rating system specifically mentions composting toilet systems as a potential strategy.

• WE Credit 3, Water Use Reduction (2-4 points):
This credit is the same as Prerequisite 1, except it awards points for greater levels of water reduction. It awards 2 points for 30% water reduction, 3 points for 35%, and 4 points for 40%. Again, most composting toilets use no water, so they could contribute toward this credit.


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