Composting for Beginners Want to start composting? Let’s break it down.

As we progress further in a new decade, we’ve realized that a mindbodygreen lifestyle is universally accessible. We’ve realized that we don’t need fancy yoga clothes to rock a Warrior II, we can mediate without achieving the enlightened state of the Dalai Lama, and we can chisel our dream bodies while eating real food. Composting is no different.

Composting nestles nicely into the democratization of environmentally friendly practices. It has never been easier to cultivate a green life that includes not only separating our paper, glass, and plastic waste and depositing it at the curb once a week, but also includes using our food and yard refuse in a proactive way. Composing allows us to nurture a synergistic relationship with the natural world, and with all of the technology and information available to us, it’s never been easier!

No longer does composting involve tedious, smelly and complicated steps. It’s conducive to everyone’s lifestyle, even lazy environmentalists who care about the earth but prefer simple ways to green their homes. So why not just store your yard and food waste and transform it into something that benefits and beautifies the world?

Not only is composting a simple action with countless benefits, but its growing popularity renders it the hottest way to repay Mother Earth. Celebrities such as Julia Roberts, Daryl Hannah, and of course infamous treehugger and comic genius, Ed Begley, Jr. (pictured left) all compost. Even Starbucks lauds the practice by offering customers free 5-lb bags of used coffee grounds to add to their steaming pile of environmental goodness. The Denver International Airport also understands the importance of composting. It is currently collaborating with A1 Organics, Colorado’s leading recycling business, to install 65-gal compost containers throughout the airport, especially in employee break rooms and restaurants. If big name celebrities promote it and if significant establishments find ways to engage the public in it, then composting truly is something everyone can do.

Let’s break down this seemingly complex process, discredit misconceptions and address some common questions.

What is compost? What does it look like?

Compost is earthly material produced from the natural decomposition of organic matter. Basically, it’s composed mostly of once-living things turned into soil and fertilizer. When fully decomposed and ready for garden use after several months, our composted yard and food scraps look somewhat like topsoil.

Why should we bother to compost? Doesn’t our yard and food waste just biodegrade in landfills anyway?

Yes, our organic waste eventually decomposes in landfills, but the non-organic trash surrounding it prolongs the process. According to the United States EPA, yard trimmings and food residuals together constitute 23 percent of the U.S. municipal solid waste stream. That’s a lot of waste to send to landfills when it could become useful and environmentally beneficial compost instead! Earth911 lists that compost enhances the physical structure of our soil, stabilizes our soil’s pH levels, and controls erosion. Let’s give our overwhelmed landfills a break and use our organic trash to nourish our gardens and change the world.

What do I need to get started?

Think storage. Purchase a compost bin — one of the most popular and affordable ways to store refuse. Visit your local garden store or check out what mass marketing stores offer online to find a compost bin that accommodates your needs and lifestyle. From enormous to tiny and from electrically run to self-operated, a host of compost bins under $100 await your discernment and selection.

Live in an open area and have some outdoor space? Perhaps try a larger compost bin that spins and holds many gallons of waste. Kickin’ it in an urban environment and strapped for space? Purchase yourself a tiny compost bin that discreetly nestles in with your furniture and appliances.

If you’d like to invest in a more complex compost bin, choose from several innovations. Small, plug-in devices that heat scraps to speed the decomposition process run close to $400 and work well in small spaces for people without the desire or time to turn their compost. Those of you with more space might like large, globe-shaped compost units that hold 70 gallons of waste are priced around $200 and contain several air tubes to aerate the contents and produce compost after only 4-6 weeks. Some compost bins, priced around $100 use stackable layers to house worms that eat scraps and leave compost behind.

Although it might seem like you need all of this composting technology to give some love to Mother Earth, no elaborate equipment is necessary. Feel free to channel your inner carpenter and build your own compost bin. Visit EarthEasy for simple instructions or check out hundreds of how-to videos online. Chicken wire, one of the most malleable materials, also makes a great place to store refuse. Just mold it into a wide, cylindrical shape and start composting!

What do I compost first?

As Scott Meyer, editor of Organic Gardening Magazine says, “Compost happens — you don’t have to do a lot to make it work, but a few tips can make it more manageable.” Keep this in mind and the composting process will rarely overwhelm or frustrate you.

Here’s a great way to remember what successful composting requires:

Brown – Refers to the carbon part of the carbon to nitrogen ratio, an essential balance that sparks decomposition and produces usable compost. While numbers vary, an easy way to compost is to include roughly the same amount of carbon and nitrogen scraps. Brown ingredients include shredded paper, straw and leaves. These ingredients should be the first ones you throw into your bin, your first layer.

Green – Refers to the nitrogen component of a compost pile. Green ingredients include table scraps and animal manure.

Water – Ensure that your pile has the wetness of a damp, wrung-out sponge by watering it once a week or twice a month.

Air -This crucial ingredient speeds decomposition and mitigates odor, keeping insects and animals out. Turn your pile a few times a month with a garden fork or mechanism on the bin, or simply shake around the bin to aerate the waste.

Don’t forget to include soil in your pile, as only 1 tablespoon contains 6 million

microorganisms that devour your scraps and produce compost.

If you follow these guidelines, you’ll have fine compost within 6 months. Thinking BGWA will help you remember all of the critical ingredients in compost and turn your trash into treasure!

What can’t I compost?

Meat and dairy produces should not go into your compost pile. They produce odors when they decompose, attracting animals and validating all of those unfortunate misconceptions about composting at home. Eggshells are the only animal products that you can compost — they’re high in calcium level and great additions to your pile.

It’s trendy, it’s simple and it’s for everyone. Composting is now one of the easiest ways to green our lives. By composting, we can practice environmentalism on a local level and affect our planet on a large scale. With comprehensive information and innovative technology at our fingertips, we can incorporate composting as a mainstay of our mindbodygreen lives.

first image via earth911 last image via waystogogreen

Beautifully Organized: Pantry Areas

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An organized pantry is a great benefit, whether it’s shelving, a cabinet, a closet, or an entire room. It makes cooking easier, helps keep track of foods on hand, and well, it just looks nice. A few helpful items — jars, labels,

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baskets, and smart stacking — all help keep things nice and tidy. These awesome pantries have more great ideas and inspiration.

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MORE PANTRY POSTS ON APARTMENT THERAPY: • 10 Inspiring Small-Space Pantries • 6 Ways To Tidy Your Pantry In 10 Minutes • Kitchen Storage Between the Studs: 5 Examples of Smart Recessed Cabinets • Best Pantry Organizers: Space Savers & Food Storage

10 Vegan Sources of Protein

Meat-eaters will never stop asking and vegans always get sick of hearing it:

“How do you get your protein?”

The image of a skinny (not to mention gangly and dread-headed) hippie has typically been the poster child of veganism. After all, there’s no way we can be muscular, fit and even bulky as vegans, right?

Wrong.

Vegan athletes like Brendan Brazier, Rich Roll, and Jimi Sitko are changing the negative stereotypes, proving that plant-based protein can not only build strong muscles, but can keep a vegan healthy enough to run, swim, bike, dance or pump iron – no flesh-eating necessary.

So how do you get your protein? Here are 10 vegan sources to try on for size:

1. Veggies: Yep, good old greens will pack a protein punch. One cup of cooked spinach has about 7 grams of protein. The same serving of French beans has about 13 grams. Two cups of cooked kale? 5 grams. One cup of boiled peas? Nine grams. You get the idea.

2. Hemp. No, you don’t have to get high to get your protein. But toss 30 grams of hemp powder in your smoothie and get about 11 grams of protein – just like that.

3. Non-Dairy Milk. Got (soy) milk? A mere 1 cup of soy or almond milk can pack about 7-9 grams of protein. Eat with some fortified cereal and you’ve got a totally vegan-friendly breakfast.

4. Nut Butter. Eat up your peanut butter, almond butter and cashew butter. A couple of tablespoons of any one of these will get you 8 grams of protein.

5. Quinoa. I kinda think quinoa is God’s gift to vegans (and gluten-free peeps!), as it’s versatile, delicious and delivers about 9 grams of protein per cup.

6. Tofu. Four ounces of tofu will get you about 9 grams of protein. And at about 2 bucks a pop, it’s a cheap vegan’s BFF.

7. Lentils. With lentils, you can make rice dishes, veggie burgers, casseroles and more. One cup cooked delivers a whopping 18 grams of protein!

8. Beans. They really are the magical fruit. With one cup of pinto, kidney or black beans, you’ll get about 13-15 grams of protein, a full belly and heart-healthy fiber.

9. Tempeh. One cup of tempeh packs abour 30 grams of protein! That’s more than 5 eggs or a regular hamburger patty.

10. Sprouted-grain bread. Pack a sandwich with vegan sprouted-grain bread and you’ll get about 10 grams of protein in the bread alone.

Still want to ask me where I get my protein? Yeah. That’s what I thought. 🙂

Borrowed from: Mind.Body.Green

Confessions of a Yoga Practitioner

I admit it: I started practicing yoga not for some highly evolved, spiritual-sounding reason, but because I was desperate for peace and quiet.

Five years ago, I was working as a live-in caregiver for adults with special needs.

I loved my job, but as an introvert living and working in a house with 13 other people, I craved solitude.

My housemates’ needs filled my thoughts when their voices weren’t filling my ears.

It was then that I found sanctuary, in the form of the yoga studio down the street. And yoga didn’t just give me an escape; it helped make me a better caregiver.

Here are three lessons that my yoga practice (and caregiving commitments) taught me:

1. The unavoidable truth: Persistence precedes mastery.

My first experience with yoga came courtesy of my mother, an instructor who encouraged me to practice with her. When I first started, I couldn’t stay in downward dog for more than a few seconds. My upper body lacked strength, and postures like plank made me tremble. As such, I’d get discouraged, making witty comments like, “Plank sucks!”

But to her credit, my mom didn’t give up on me. She kept sharing her love of yoga, and I kept trying. And gradually, I noticed: I was getting stronger. Postures that had seemed impossible were now doable. I could stay in plank. Then side plank. Then side plank with my leg extended.

And when I started working as a caregiver, I saw how valuable those early sessions had been. My mother didn’t just teach me poses; she taught me that faithful practice can yield major changes over time. As such, I persisted at my new job, even though my caregiving routines seemed incredibly challenging at first. Yet I knew that if I could build enough muscle to maintain a strong plank pose, I could build my knowledge and learn a complex morning routine, too. Soon, I felt a sense of flow in my work; I started moving through routines as though they were sun salutations, one building upon the next.

Fast-forward several years, and I’m considering yoga teacher training. Arm balances are my favorite type of pose, and so it’s only fair to acknowledge another truth: My mother knew best.

2. The decision to show up is the one that matters.

Yoga rewards those who show up. If you keep coming to your mat, your practice will deepen. Likewise, as a caregiver, I discovered that a commitment to showing up for my housemates allowed our relationships to grow. It was freeing not to give myself an option to ‘skip out’. Unless I was physically unwell, I performed my caregiving duties, and I kept up with my yoga practice as well. True, I didn’t always feel like going down the stairs to set up breakfast (or getting myself out the door for yoga), but I knew that once I showed up, that would change.

Furthermore, taking time out to go to my yoga practice empowered me get more done when I returned home. The energy I gained from my practice was priceless, especially considering my responsibilities as a caregiver. Thanks to yoga, I had the stamina to lift wheelchairs, haul laundry, and cook dinner for dozens … and then crash into bed. (I’m only human.)

3. Tending the body can also tend the soul.

Sometimes, the best way to heal the soul is to care for the body. When I’d do spinal twists after a long day of sitting in a waiting room, those postures nourished my body and my spirit. Doing yoga gave me a sense that my body was worth listening to, that it had wisdom to share. And in extending care and attention to my own body, I learned to care for the bodies of others as well.

For example, during my time as a caregiver, part of my routine involved cleaning an older gentleman’s feet. Sometimes we’d banter as I held his feet in my gloved hands, and sometimes we’d just smile at one another. Either way, this small, intimate task became a favorite for me.

And then one day, I participated in a spiritual service that involved a foot-washing ceremony. And who should be my partner but the man whose feet I cleaned every day? As I later wrote, “During that ceremony, as I touched the feet I knew so well, I felt the sacred and the ordinary collide. And I realized that there is no separation; that the ordinary things we do out of love for one another are sacred.”

Borrowed from: Mind.Body.Green