Composting 101 | How To Home Podcast #016

Composting 101 | HTH 016

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back to another episode of How to Home Podcast. This week we sit down with Tess
and Baba from Epic Renewal and we dive into why you should be composting, some
tips for how to make a more sustainable lifestyle and why we’re nerding out
about microorganisms.
back to another episode of How to Home Podcast. My name is Aaron Massey
alongside Tracy Pendergas as always, and our guests today are Tess and Baba
from Epic Renewal and we are talking about some composting tips and tips to
create a more sustainable home. So thank you guys so much for being here.
for having us.
don’t you give us a little bit of a background on Epic Renewal. What caused you
to start it and what the goal of it is?
Epic Renewal, we are a curbside composting company out here in Los Angeles and
what drove us to start, this is really that when we moved out to Los Angeles,
there was no access for us to even have a recycling bin, let alone a composting
bin. And we’re from the east coast and we had access to a backyard pile being
able to compost ourselves or another curbside composting company. There’s a
bunch of them out there and la just didn’t have that. So we thought to
ourselves, how can we start composting with the little amount of space that we
have? We didn’t have a yard, we barely even had a second bedroom. That was kind
of doubling as our office. And we wanted to figure out how we could just take
our organic waste and really transform it without sending it to a landfill. And
that just got us going on this.
it’s all about urban composting really. It’s about maximizing your space and
finding ways to compost, which I guess is a traditionally rural kind of thing.
You need the space. You need the environment. So this allows you to do it in
any size space or any home?
Traditionally composting is a much more rural farm based practice. Urban
environment was not meant for throwing your food waste out the window and just
letting it decay is a-
people don’t like that. If you want to just throw a banana, peel out the window
and smack him in the face as they walked by.
the old bucket method right out your window there, not too ideal in a bigger
that also doesn’t mean there aren’t solutions for here, which is really what
we’re committed to figuring out and working on and finding a way to work with
the environment we have and create a more sustainable solution.
want to make it easy.
cool. Before we dive into all the benefits and all that type of stuff. We want
to get some more information from you guys. But before we do that, we just want
to take a quick minute to remind you guys to be sure to hit us up on social
media with your questions or your comments at howtohome_guide. And we want to
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we thank Filterbuy for making this show, this episode possible. And let’s just
dive into some composting stuff. We’ve got a bunch of questions for you guys.
First of all, I’m curious, what are the benefits of composting? Why should I do
this is definitely a Tess question, Tess is the compost and soil expert here.
ready. She’s like let’s go.
me with it.
over a couple of times. I’m sorry.
all right.
there’s a couple of local benefits which a huge one is shrinking your waste
hauling footprint. Most people don’t realize how far their garbage trucks are
actually traveling to get to landfills. So by finding a local solution in
dealing with your food waste, you’re actually reducing about 60% of your trash
that is normally going to a landfill.
didn’t even think about that.
all the gas.
the trucks are using-
something I’ve never even thought about.
a huge part.
you’re reducing those trucks on the road to begin with and you’re reducing
what’s going in your black bin every week. So that’s the biggest part at least
from like a local level, supporting your local composters or doing it yourself
you’re also creating local self-reliance and local jobs from macro level. And I
get like super excited about this and I’m sorry, I’m going to like-
love your excitement.
support soil health. So finished compost actually works like a booster shot to
soils. And what’s super exciting about soil health is it actually creates all
of these huge macro solutions to climate change. And a lot of the challenges
we’re facing with our environment, so what’s really fascinating is we can look
at this huge picture that’s really almost debilitating and we feel really
helpless. But by simply looking down and taking care of the dirt and the ground
underneath us, we can do a lot to actually be reversing our own impact. What
people might not think about when they’re throwing out their food scraps is
food waste that goes into landfill. It actually is being deprived of the oxygen
it needs to break down correctly. And as a result, it’s releasing methane and
that methane is 23 times more potent than carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas.
it’s super impactful actually, when you look from an emissions perspective and
it’s really easy to not think about because we think about trash and it goes
away. And in reality, it’s actually super impactful. And just by changing
little habits in our kitchen, in our home, we can totally be reducing that
And I think that’s what the discrepancy is. If it can biodegrade in my own
yard, why does it matter if it goes in the trash? Either way, it’s
disappearing. That’s kind of like the thought, right? So that’s not really the
case. There is a big difference.
a huge difference. And just by for instance, doing in your backyard, you’re
giving it the more natural systems that needs to be doing it the right way. And
when you’re letting food and organic matter breakdown the right way, it
actually is doing all of this incredible magical stuff just by using the
natural systems it’s supposed to have, when we throw it in a landfill, it’s
totally deprived of the conditions it needs to break down correctly.
what are some types of things you can compost?
you’re composting at home, that can be a little different than what say an
industrial composter can do, or someone who can process on an industrial level.
In your backyard, you’d want to avoid things that might contain pathogens. So
you wouldn’t want to try and compost meat or leftovers for other reasons. But
yeah, you really want to keep that down to vegetables, fruits, yard waste,
things like that. You might have heard greens and browns, those are different
inputs, mainly carbon and nitrogen based. But you find a good recipe for those
and you can really get your backyard pile cooking.
I’m sure there’s tons of resources online for what you can compost and what you
should avoid. And-
what I’m hearing you guys saying, it sounds like you have a very scientific
background. Did you guys go to school for this or how did you get into this
what ended up becoming your business?
simple answer to your question is no, not at all. No science background. I
actually have a psychology background, Tess is more of… How would you
describe your background?
went to art school and studied product design. I spent a lot of time focusing
on furniture and woodworking, crane pieces that you want to stay in your home
and live a long life. But I also spent a big chunk of that time really focusing
on systems and processes that make the world better. And in doing so, kind of
really realize that big issue that matters a lot to me is food packaging and
the stuff that we waste on a regular basis and how design can really solve for
our habits and our systems that make it really easy to just waste and not think
about why you’re using. Which kind of just drew us into this world and we
started kind of falling down this rabbit hole.
this is more, this is passion right here. This is educating yourselves and then
educating others because you have a legitimate concern and care for the
environment. It’s not really more from a business standpoint first, right? Is
that what you’re saying.
it’s not from a business standpoint first. And I think a good takeaway from
this is that we don’t have a background in this. We have maybe a bit of a maker
personality, but anyone can start composting. Anyone can get involved in it.
And if you are willing to learn, you can absolutely get out there. And there’s
a massive base of information to learn from.
what I love about your company is if you’re not willing to learn, if you’re not
the kind of person that likes to research and figure things out and do them
yourself, there are companies accessible to you, like you guys that will
basically do the work for you.
We want to make it easier for everyone to be able to do the right thing. And
composting is one of those common sense right things to do. There’s a lot of
other companies out there like ours. Some on a municipal level, some on a small
community level. But yeah, there’s a lot of people trying to make it easier to
do the right thing.
tell the listeners how your company operates or what it is that you do on a day
to day basis. You deliver a bin to them, correct?
Our basic a residential model is we’ll give you a clean container where you all
load all of your organic waste into and then once a week, same as your
municipal trash service. We’ll collect that container except we just give you a
clean one to use again for the next week and continue on in that fashion. And
then we take all the food waste and process it ourselves into compost.
for people that are concerned, my house is going to smell. Let’s start there.
Does your house smell with this bucket in your home?
no it does not at all. As long as you close the lid, you’re usually fine. It
will be the same as if you accidentally left some leftovers in your Tupperware
out in the counter until you open it up and it’s been sitting in the sun for a
long time or the dog got into it or something like that. You’re not going to
notice those smells.
there’s also a lot of like kitchen based habits you can start building to
really avoid smells to begin with. It really depends, kind of what you’re
collecting your stuff in, how often you’re taking it out. For us, for instance,
our containers are totally airtight, so it’s totally contained. But if you’re
doing your own backyard solution, you might consider freezing stuff in the
freezer if you know it’s going to be smelly and then when you’re about to take
it outside, taking it out of the freezer. So there’s a lot of little tips and
habits you can pick up that make it a lot easier to do it in your home without
it being impactful.
model that you’re talking about where the containers deliver to me and then you
come and pick up that stuff, it’s not like you don’t come back and deliver
processed soil or something like that at the end of it. Right? You’re taking it
just keeping it away from somebody else’s from a landfill or essentially you’re
not redelivering the finished product in that case. Right?
we do offer a residential give back, so if people want composts you want to add
that to the garden. We do that once a year. But most people who aren’t able to
compost also don’t have the need for finished compost. So we do find other good
uses for that, such as urban agriculture at green spaces locally.
there are a lot of other composters our scale and municipal composting programs
that do give compost back to home gardeners and people like that that’ll make
good use of it too.
when I’m learning, is there’re different types of composting? So the method
that you’re talking about, which you guys do when it’s in the barrel, what is
that called?
called Bokashi composting, which technically is not composting. Composting is
defined as neurobic process, which means you need to have oxygen involved. Our
process starts out anaerobically, so we keep everything contained and introduce
it to a beneficial culture of Bacterias, which help to break it down a lot
faster and without smells, which makes it a lot more suited for the urban
environment that we’re processing in. That’s not the method for everyone, but
if you’re limited on space, limited on outdoor footprint, it could be a great
solution for you.
does the term Bokashi composting? Where does that come from?
is a Japanese word. And the Bokashi composting process came from a gentleman,
Dr. Higa who did a lot of work in the 80s with these culture of bacteria and
through almost fault found that introducing these bacteria, it’s certain
environments produce these great results and it’s been expanding ever since then.
The name Bokashi itself, I’m not entirely positive where it came from, Dr. Higa
would be the origins of it.
it really works like pickling or making Kombucha at home. It’s really just
about letting bacteria do its thing and basically ferment the food scraps so
that breaks down a lot faster and it all can happen in a closed container.
it’ll actually have a really interesting smell at the end. Similar to a stinky
cheese or a stinky beer. It’s kind of cool.
thing is that we love the smell of as we grow older.
process works without oxygen. Kind of like what you were saying before
essentially, but it’s because of the bacteria that it doesn’t create that
harmful methane situation that you were talking about?
process is a bit of a two-step process. So we’ll use the anaerobic bacteria to
pre-process everything and then that allows us to have an aerobic finishing
process, to really turn that material into what’s commonly seen as compost. So
it looks like that finished soil has that same texture to it, but really you
could take anaerobically processed Bokashi composted material and add that
right to your garden if you wanted to.
listening right now and really wanting to start to compost and has the space to
do it on their own. Where do you start with figuring out what’s the right method
for you?
we typically would ask people to ask yourself a few questions, how much space
do you have? How fast do you want to have your finished compost in? And then
how much money are you able to put towards this problem? There are home
tumbling composting systems. Small investment can range from 50 bucks up to 500
bucks where you load your scraps into there and you’re turning it manually by
hand. You can have finished compost and about two months with that given the
right conditions. If you don’t feel you have a lot of energy and you really
want to keep it simple as possible, low investment, you could literally just
make a pile outside and it will decompose over time. That’s not necessarily
going to be your healthiest pile, but it’s keeping it out of a landfill better
than the alternative. So it really, it’s a matter of where you want to start
and what you’re willing to put into it. There’s a lot of great options out
there depending on the variables you have to add to it.
will be finished. That means that you can remove it from the container and just
put it into your soil and start to plant in it?
the home assemblers and home systems. Yes. And you visibly see the difference
at that point as well.
were saying you have one.
do have, yeah, I have one of those big tumbler ones like what you’re talking
about. I bought it on Amazon, I don’t know a couple of years ago. The only
drawback that I can see from it is like because of how hot and typical summer
months and stuff here, you have to keep it moist. You’ve got to kind of
maintain it and keep it in optimal conditions to break down and it can become a
little hard or time consuming. You just gotta be out there constantly kind of
monitoring that, which is a little challenging depending on how much time you
have. But I think if you have one of the more open type of piles, I mean you
still have to do the same thing, but I think it’s a little, the tumbler thing
is kind of out of sight, out of mind in my opinion.
reality when you’re kind of playing with whatever makes the most sense in your
home, it’s really about striking a balance between those different variables of
how much time you’re able to put in, how much attention. If you really think
about it like a recipe instead of your waste, it becomes a little more
approachable. It’s really about balancing what fresh materials you’re printing
in, what yard waste you’re putting in, how much water you’re putting in. And it
is work. It is a learning curve.
a habit thing though. Right?
we’re very habitual people so that the traditional mindset is you’re in the
kitchen, you’re doing your thing, you get all these off cuts and everything
else on a cutting board for example. And you just kind of toss it in the trash
because it’s just right there. But I think if you are shifting your habits and
you start kind of just putting it into a container, like what you’re talking
about, something other than the trash can, eventually you get used to doing
that. Right? So it’s about changing your lifestyle, changing your habits, that
kind of thing.
And a simple habit change that you can do in the kitchen, just starting with
your food scraps, even if you still have to throw in the trash can when you’re
preparing food, scrape that into a bowl on the counter. Start to build that
little habit that will help to make the bigger change because then when you
have that full bowl of scraps, oh, I don’t need to put this in the trashcan, I
can put this in my compost bin instead, and you’ve already made that
just live in the age of easy and immediate and I can order something from the
grocery store, I’ll be at my house in two hours and having things already
packaged, already chopped and we’re having to relearn these things all over
again and start to be mindful. And Are you seeing people get more re-energized
again about all of this?
The whole sustainable community is really starting to take off now. There’s a
lot of zero waste, more sustainable living, blogs, social media, people out
there. And the general trend is certainly going there, away from disposables
towards more reusables, less impactful on the environment. We’re definitely
noticing that trend is as we continue to exist in the community. Yeah.
of the things I think people tend to think of with composting in addition to
the smells is obviously like the pest or the rodent situation. Can you talk a
little bit about that? How do you avoid that? Is it a misconception?
lot of that is how you’re composting. So for instance, doing like Bokashi like
we do, it’s entirely in closed containers and none of that stuff becomes an
issue. If you’re, for instance, just doing like chicken wire in your backyard
and turning stuff yourself all the time, it becomes a little more of an issue.
But in reality, if you’re spending that little bit of extra effort and trying
to learn and improve as you go and you’re balancing your pile right, it won’t
smell and actually won’t attract pests. So all of those myths are actually, if
they’re happening, they’re indicators that you need to adjust your process.
in the backyard kind of chicken wire situation that we’re talking about, you
usually want to kind of mill it up and mix it with already decent soil. Right?
Or some kind of dirt, put a layer of dirt on top of it kind of thing?
want to be mixing it with dry brown material from your backyard. So that might
be grass clippings, that might be leaves, that might be branches. It’s a little
less mandatory that it be soil. But it’s important that it be stuff that isn’t
fresh and juicy and smells good. It’s more of the stuff that’s dry and absorbs
and balances it back out.
what about the concern about safety, about planting in this, I mean, is there
any reason to be worried about essentially eating vegetables that were grown in
your trash?
if you think about it this way. You’re eating vegetables that were grown from
your last vegetables, so it’s totally natural if you’re putting the right stuff
into your compost pile. The only really big concern about planting in this and
compost should always be mixed with soil. It’s a soil amendment. So it adds and
bolsters and strengthens your soil, makes it better for your plants. The only
really big concern in terms of planting in it as if you’re putting plants that
were treated with pesticides in, those pesticides will make it through the
whole process and they’ll follow through to the compost, which basically means
they’ll continue to kill stuff in your finished compost. So it’s just important
to be mindful about really only putting like healthy good stuff into your
compost pile and being careful not to put in herbicides, pesticides, other
toxic things that might just follow through to the end.
then there’s one other thing that could potentially be hazardous and it’s why
you keep the meats out of your compost. The big difference between your
backyard composting and your industrial composting is the temperature that pile
is able to get to. So when you cross a certain temperature that kills the
pathogens in the compost, so those larger sites are able to break down and
mitigate the damage that those could do. So as long as you’re keeping meats and
other potentially pathogen.
eggs, stuff like that?
about it like the way you think about cooking. You don’t necessarily want to
eat a raw steak. So you don’t want to be putting stuff that needs to be cooked
into your pile because it’s not going to get cut to the way it needs to for it
to be healthy in the final product. So those the same things that’ll give you a
stomach bug will follow straight through.
about sort of like animal waste too, right? You don’t want to put any of that
type of stuff.
don’t, and it’s a little different if you’re looking at industrial scale where
they’re working in huge piles that are like the size of your house and they’re
getting super hot and all that stuff’s cooking in your backyard pile. You don’t
want to keep anything that’s even if you like that out.
about Doritos?
would you throw away Doritos?
doesn’t finish the Doritos?
Finish the bag? What are you talking about? Who has Doritos waste left over?
is a really good point. Always one step ahead.
turning the thing inside out and you look in the inside of the bag. Let’s talk
about, so somebody wants to get into composting and more sustainable habits.
Where’s the best place to look in your opinion? You guys are obviously well
versed on this. Are there any good sources of information that people should
definitely look into?
mean the Internet’s is a great starting place. There’s also a lot of great
books out there.
the UACPAs page on composting is a super helpful starting point and then if you
start finding things you really curious about, those are kind of the questions
to start looking elsewhere for. But I would definitely start at their page.
It’s like a great overview.
maybe Local community type pages to where you can actually talk to people in
your area maybe might be helpful.
And so I know we have access to a lot of this stuff here, but in a lot of
cities and other rural areas, there are community gardens, there are a
municipal park programming that are happy to teach you and help you. So getting
involved in a community garden or looking into composting workshops or
educational opportunities, master gardeners and people who have been doing this
forever are always really excited to share.
let’s say our listeners are living in kind of an urban environment and they
hear your business model that you know they, somebody will deliver a bin to
them, how do they search for that to see if there’s somebody like you in their
there are several different options. We obviously we encourage starting with
your city and your local community gardens and stuff like that, if you don’t
have those options available to you because a lot of community gardens and
farmer’s market have compost drop offs and those tend to be free, which is an
awesome starting place. The easiest lowest cost, most accessible option. If
you’re looking for someone like us that is more of a concierge service and
makes it super, super easy. If you don’t have time to get to the market, you
don’t have time to be dealing with this. I strongly recommend CompostNow’s
website, they have a really good database of people like us. So community scale
composters who are small, serve residentials, do pick up and drop off. They
have a really accurate list of all of that stuff.
there’s usually about one of our organization in every major city.
much, yeah.
they’re really around all over the states, especially international, but
definitely all over the states.
There’s over 100 organizations like ours that do this in most major places. And
that’s not limited to cities
your process, in the Bokashi style. So I have the container, I’m throwing food
and food waste in there. Do I have to stop throwing food waste in there at a
certain point and then shift to another container so that that stuff can
continually break down or how does that work?
So once you filled up your container, you ought to want to let that sit closed
for a week or two and then you’re good to dump that out and start it again. If
you’re going to fill up an entire a container in that two week period, then
sure, switch over to a new one. In the meantime, you can also freeze your
scraps until your bin is empty and you can start reloading it again. You have a
container, you take your food scraps in about an inch or two layers. You put
those food scraps in and then add a small sprinkling of a Bokashi brand or an
inoculated brand of some sort with that bacteria and there’s a few options
depending on where you are in the states, sweet brands, the main one to use
because that’s just so plentiful. In Asian countries, rice brand’s a little
cheaper. You could even use newspaper if you had a shredder or something like
market drop offs and like community composters like us. They’ll just take your
food scraps as they are and you don’t have to do anything and they’ll do all of
the work at the end.
you talk about this bacteria, do you have to go buy something specific for that
or is it just random stuff that you’re talking about? You mentioned, what was
bran, so there’s a few different ways you could approach that if you wanted to
just have this bran pre-made. There’s plenty of groups out there who produced
the inoculated wheat brand and sell it out. We are one of those groups, if you
want to do everything yourself and make it at home is actually quite simple.
What you need to do is purchase EM mother culture and there’s two companies in
the states that really make it a ProBio and Theragenics. And then you take that
mother culture, mix it with molasses, water and wheat bran, and then you let it
sit for a week or two to really inoculate in that wheat bran and you’re good to
go. You have your composting material there.
sounds very scientific.
So for someone again that listens to all of this and is like, “Dude, I
don’t have time to do this. I don’t want to spend money to throw away my trash
when I could just throw away my trash for free.”
got to pay for your trash service.
but I’m saying for the people that just aren’t motivated to put in the work,
what do you say to them? What would be your-
selling point. Yeah.
they’re not trying to make a difference in the environment, it’s going to be a
tough sell, but that’s usually how we open it, it’s that you can make a
difference in your environmental impact and you can start to counter climate
change through your practices. That’s really the best way. And as you have the
power through your own actions to create that change and that impact.
I think it’s just being mindful that there are so many options out there to
deal with it and they don’t all require spending an hour outside every day.
They don’t all require spending a certain amount of money for a pickup service.
They might just require you bringing a bag of your food scraps to the farmer’s
market with you when you go. So I’d really just explore what options are
available to you and especially where you live and figuring out what makes the
most sense for you. I know our work and the people who do work like us, we’re
really dedicated to making it really easy and intuitive, but it’s really about
what fits with your life and what you have the space and time and means to do.
beyond the landfill issue, what are some bigger environmental impacts of composting?
so the finished product of compost, it acts as a soil amendment and it’s really
functioning like a booster shot to soil. So what most people don’t know is just
in a teaspoon of healthy soil there are more micro organisms and there are
people on earth just it’s super cool.
gets really excited about this.
And all of those micro organisms when they’re in the soil and the soil’s super
healthy, it’s working in tandem with plants to make our planet better. So it
leads to this like myriad of really exciting impacts like the first of which
when those plants and soil are working together, they’re actively taking
atmospheric carbon down where it’s acting as a greenhouse gas in the atmosphere
and they’re pulling it down and storing it and soil where it acts as a life
builder and it builds plants and other material. That saved, carbon and soil
when it rains, it functions like a sponge and suddenly the ground can absorb
that water and store it and replenish our water tables, which leads to drought
resistance. And on top of that, that carbon is functioning exactly like your
water pitcher in your kitchen with the carbon filter, it’s pulling heavy metals
and toxins out of the water and leaving pure water behind.
the same amount of soil that’s healthy, you can be growing a significantly more
abundant yield of plants. So we can be growing more crops in the same amount of
space when they’re working with all those microorganisms and soil who are
literally doing all the work for them and delivering nutrients to them. Those
plants are more nutritious and healthier, which makes a huge difference when
they end up on our plate. So we’re getting more nutritious food and we’re
getting more of it with the same amount of input. Those microorganisms are also
reducing our reliance on pesticides, herbicides, and toxic fertilizers, which
means that farmers can spend less money growing healthier and more food. And
that means as customers, we can spend less money on that food and be feeding
our family healthier food.
the healthy soil is the last thing I swear. Those healthy soils, they promote
biodiversity in the ecosystem. And the more diverse our ecosystem is, the more
resilient it is to change and other impacts. So as we’re increasing that
biodiversity, we are improving our ecosystem and its ability to take care of us
and deliver the services that we rely on but don’t really think about. So the
food it’s giving us, the water it’s giving us the climate regulation and the
air that we breathe. So on the whole like what’s super exciting that composting
is, most of us aren’t farmers. We’re not growing our own food. We can’t
necessarily change our agricultural practices, but we can take the cutoff from
your carrot in the kitchen and be building a healthier planet as a result of
it. Instead of letting this kind of thing we’ve looked at as waist, that’s
really an opportunity go to a landfill and do damage. We can actually be
healing with it instead. To me is just super exciting.
do you guys do a lot like your own home gardening as well? Because I mean you
have access to all this compost and stuff now?
do. We have a few raised beds in our place, we’re renters still out here. So we
added in some raised beds for own personal gardening purposes and there’s also
a few fruit trees that we’ve added our compost too. And we’ve been seeing some
great results out of that.
obviously you guys are passionate about the environment. You have a business
based entirely on kind of helping minimize the impact on the environment. So
are there other sustainable habits that you can recommend or other things that
you guys do personally that carry over from your business into your your day to
day lives?
absolutely. And really once you start diving into this world, it’s a rabbit
hole. You keep finding new ways that you can make less impact. So even
something as simple as bringing a to go coffee container with you. When you go
for your morning coffee stop and not getting that one cup, that’s a great step.
You saw the straw movement that came about recently. It’s not just the straws,
it’s all of those disposable items and disposable plastics that are ending up
places that, that’s a great one that a lot of people are drawn to very quickly.
There’s the myriad of ways you can reduce your impact though from cooking at
home more, eating out less, carpooling, optimizing your routes for errands,
really any number of ways. If you would like to make a change, there’s probably
something in your life that you could start to alter slowly or start to build
that habit towards and incorporate that practice into your life.
of the places we’ve started have been, like Baba said, starting to just swap
out the staples of our everyday life with stuff that we can reuse, so like
buying a utensil set that lives in your purse instead of getting a plastic fork
everywhere you go. Doing a little more planning around the food that we eat and
being intentional about when we buy stuff so we know it won’t go bad in the
fridge. I’m really bad about not eating leftovers, so I’ve started to make more
decisions about not having a ton of extra food that’s leftover in the fridge
that I’m probably going to waste. One day at a time of maybe taking public
transportation instead of a car or taking an extra beat to think about which
piece of meat or which piece of produce I’m buying and asking a question of the
person selling it and where it came from, how it was grown, and starting to be
a little more curious about the decisions that we make in terms of purchasing.
in all, I think the biggest thing that we’ve learned and that I firmly believe,
and I don’t think gets said enough, is to be really patient with yourself.
Building new habits. It takes time and behavior change comes from tiny little
steps that happen every day. So if you can do one little thing every day that
adds up to a lot and making a mistake or using a plastic fork, it won’t be the
end of the world. It really won’t.
that’s how we learn. We grow from those little mistakes and the little points
that we mess up on. It’s like, oh no, I forgot this or I forgot that I’m going
to have to go with the disposable option. Okay, I won’t do it next time. Let’s
get better about it. We can do it.
being just patient and forgiving with yourself and the time it takes to really
build a new habit and just trying to make those little choices every day that
ultimately if we all make one tiny change every day, it adds up to a lot.
it comes to buying your stuff, do you guys source a lot of your vegetables and
stuff from local places and farmer’s markets and stuff to try and avoid some of
the packaging or what about from that side of things?
do, I mean we have the benefit of attending a few farmers markets, so we try
and buy directly from the farmer whenever possible. That’s great for both the
economy and for the food that you’re putting in your body. But just like
everyone else. We end up at the grocery store, we buy a box of something or a
bag of pasta, we’re human. But you can make those little changes.
think you can also encourage people to carry more sustainable options too,
right? Because it’s like, that’s one of the things I’m like, why is all this
stuff just so plastic wrapped.
bell peppers always annoy me. The three pack of bell peppers that are plastic
go to home depot and buy something and it’s like wrapped in three levels of
plastic. It’s like the thing is wrapped in something and then the screws are
individually wrapped in plastic. And I’m like, oh my God. Like really?
one thing I’ve started doing at my house, my kids are so into art, like art
projects. So it kind of makes me feel better. Toilet paper rolls, boxes,
containers, jars like the cold brew jar, anything that’s a container I put in a
bag and that goes into my kids’ art drawer and they make stuff out of
everything. Bottles. And then you’re not buying like all the googly eyes and
pipe cleaners and all that stuff that just wasteful and they’re obsessed. Like
they love everything. So that’s kinda one fun way to-
you do have kids at home, kids enjoy the composting practice and getting
involved in that. And there’re a few partner organizations here who do
educational campaigns at elementary schools and just these kids faces light up
when they’re playing with compost and seeing how they can take this, what would
be in a trash can and turn it back into this cool stuff they play with in their
garden and their dirt.
love dirt.
love dirt.
love playing in and it can get your hand dirty.
course. And then I always find too that when my kids help prepare food with me,
they’re super open to tasting it and trying it. Whereas if something just
appears on their plate, that looks a little weird. It’s like, what’s that green
thing? If they know they chopped up spinach or are they cut the tomato? I think
it makes it more exciting to them. So, yeah, like get your kids involved in all
of this stuff. It’s great.
it helps build those practices young too. I know when I was a kid, they taught
us recycling in school and so how I like to recycle in my adult life and that’s
part of my practice. But other people, they never learned about that so they
don’t keep the cardboard out of the trash can for whatever reason.
also just jumping off that idea too, I think what I find like fun and
empowering about like compost and food waste is in this huge thing of like
climate change in our environment that feels totally overwhelming and
disempowering and you feel like one person, you can’t do everything. You can
actually like take a little bit of ownership over what’s happening with your
waste and create something that grows life out of it. And there’s things super
fun of about that and generative to me about feeling like I own this little
part of my own impact and I can make something like really beautiful out of it
instead of wasting it.
hot off the press. Now, we have some fun social media questions that came in
and we would love to ask you. One that I think was really good is what was the
big turning point in your life that caused you to start composting and start
the composting business?
think that would just be the fact that when we got out here, when we moved to
Los Angeles, we were so ingrained with composting already. The fact that we
couldn’t do it as easily or there wasn’t access to it and it just upset us too
much. We’re like, how do we make this happen and we need to make this happen?
LA could really use a service like this and we’ve just spring boarded from
there. Just diving right into it and figuring out how we can do it and how we
can make it more accessible for everyone.
the most exciting innovation and sustainability that you’ve seen recently?
free restaurants. That seems to be a trend that’s just starting now. A few
restaurants where even the to go containers, they’re returnable so you’d get a
bit more rigid of a container. They fill it up with your takeout, you bring it
home and then you swap that container out when you come back. I know in other
cities there’re salad places that offer that, you have the salad bowl that’s
reusable, dishwasher safe and you can bring that in and out. So really reducing
from the source the amount of trash that we create, that’s been a great trend
that’s happening recently. In terms of product creation. A lot more companies
are moving towards natural inputs or less harmful inputs and analyzing the way
that they produce their materials and seeing how they’re impacting the
environment. Starting to look at the triple bottom line is it’s known in the
business community.
guess I get really energized by the amount of excitement and effort that’s
really going into providing options that don’t require a ton of plastics or
packaging. So like bulk shopping opportunities like refill stations, things
like that, that really let you kind of decide what you want to put your
purchases in instead of necessarily needing plastic bags or things like that.
I feel like a lot of that comes from pressure put on by the consumer and I
think it’s important to know that you have a voice and you can reach out to
your local stores and just ask or you know, show your concern and people, I
mean with enough pressure, I feel like companies do listen.
definitely vote with your money. Businesses respond to that. If you’re buying
more organic food in the grocery store, they’re going to stock more organic
food in the grocery store. If something’s not selling well, they’ll get rid of
that. That’s nature of business. So if you want to see more sustainable items
in the stores you visit, start purchasing with that and making that an
intentional decision.
more. What are three tips that I can apply to my own life as well as tell
others on how they can start being more sustainable every day? We did touch on
this, but if you had to choose just three.
so bring your to go coffee container with you, that is a great one. A lot of
people need that is a little packaged up fork spoon knife chopsticks if that’s
your preference, but they make a lot of great reusable kits like that, that are
friendly to match with any style that you might have.
will go back to wasting less food. Try digging in a little bit about learning
how to use more of each piece of produce you have or learning how to buy a
little more intentionally or meal plan so that stuff isn’t necessarily going
bad in your fridge.
when you’re excited about something which you guys are, now, I’m excited about
something, which now I want to tell my friends about it and it becomes a whole
mean you were excited when they walked in the door.
been excited for the whole month. I’m like, we have some really fun people
coming in. It’s just I’m super into actually seeing something, thinking that’s
a cool idea and actually following through and learning about it and educating
myself and I just think it’s cool to find out about these things that can seem
so daunting and so like, oh well I live in like I live near the beach, I’m not
going to have like a… Anyone can do these things. I think it’s just finding
like you guys said, finding the right solution for your specific situation.
there’s plenty of resources out there. You mentioned a bunch, we’ll have a ton
more in the show notes.
for sure.
list out everything and all your recommendations and everything in the show
notes so if anybody wants any more information they can find it right there. We
want to thank you guys so much for taking the time to come in and super
helpful. Super, super informative. I wish my wife were here because she’s
really into composting right now so I’ll just have to make her listen to the
episode. But I feel like she’d be your best friend.
Well thank you so much for having us. It’s been a great conversation with you
guys and we’re always happy to answer questions via email and we’re actively
engaging in discussions with people from all around the community and how we
can improve things.
can people find you if they want to talk to you?
point of contact would be through our website, our Instagram
handle @epic_renewal and then those are really our two sort of digital means
communication. Otherwise we’re around a few farmers markets and things like
that if you happen to be in the LA area and want to meet us in person.
we also want to take a quick second and say thank you to you guys for listening
and we encourage you to follow us on social media as well. You can find us
@howtohome_ guide on Instagram or you can check out our website at
this show was actually a suggestion from one of our listeners through our
Instagram. So we listen and we find the guests, then we make it happen.
we also want to say thank you to FilterBuy for making this series and this
episode possible. So make sure you guys visit to sign up for
your HVAC filters. Anything else?
that’s it. Thank you guys so much.
excited to get my hands dirty.
you to that lone listener who requested us. I appreciate it.
thank you guys so much for listening and we’ll see you next time.
How to Home Podcast is brought to you by your one stop direct to
consumer replacement air filter brand and it’s produced in collaboration by
Mass Media Group, LLC and Intelligent Arts and Artists. The show was executive
produced by George Louis and Aaron Massey.

Show Notes

This week, Aaron and Tracy chat with Tess and Baba of Epic Renewal. We cover composting basics and touch on some common misconceptions people have about the process.


You can always call and leave your questions and comments on our voicemail!


Composting Facts from Tess and Baba:

  • The benefits of composting:
    • Reducing the gas used by trucks on the road.
    • Creates self reliance and jobs.
    • Composting creates soil health- it acts as a booster shot to the soil.
    • By changing habits in our kitchen and our home we can make a big difference.
  • You don’t want to compost things that contain pathogens (like meat). There are a ton of resources online for what you can compost and we’ve included them below.
  • How do you find the right composting method for you? Take into consideration: your space, the speed you want the process to be & the money you’re willing to spend. There are home tumbling composters that take about 2 months, or you can just make a pile outside and eventually it will turn into finished compost.
  • You can avoid the pests by using closed containers or working to balance your piles right.
  • Industrial composting can break down pathogens (meat, eggs etc), but home composting can’t.
  • In a healthy teaspoon of soil there are more microorganisms than there are people on earth, and that works in tandem with our plants to make our earth better.

About Epic Renewal:

  • They are a curbside composting company in Los Angeles.
  • Inspired by not being able to compost in their LA neighborhood.
  • You can do this type of composting (Bokashi) in any size home.
  • Epic Renewal provides you with a clean container, you fill it with organic waste and they pick it up and compost it.
  • Containers are airtight and don’t produce a smell (unless you open them).

Changes You Can Make To Create A More Sustainable Lifestyle:

  • When you’re cooking start scraping scraps into a bowl on the counter to create that habit. Once you’ve created the habit you can start moving scraps to a bin.
  • Bring to-go coffee containers and straws with you.
  • Cook at home more, eat out less.
  • Carpool and/or optimize routes.
  • Swap out staples with reusable items.
  • Meal plan.
  • Think about the meat and produce you buy.
  • Be patient with yourself. Building habits takes time.
  • Source from local farmers markets.
  • Tracy suggests reusing items as art supplies for kids.


The How & Tips to Get Started

Soil Health // The Why // Digging In Deeper:


Q: What was the turning point in your life that motivated you to start this business?

A: Not having access to composting in LA (as renters).

Q: What’s the most exciting development in sustainability you’ve seen recently?

A: Package free restaurants. They have containers you return. A lot more companies are also leaning towards more options that don’t require plastic packaging (refill stations etc).

Q: What are tips I can apply to my life to become more sustainable TODAY?

A: Reusable containers and wasting less food!

Epic Renewal INFO

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