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Composting guide for Big Sky

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Composting is the intentional decomposition of organic material using a natural, aerobic process. There are many different methods of composting, but all operate under the central idea of mimicking nature’s disposal process: turning waste into a usable resource that perpetuates life. This process is often referred to as “closing the loop.”

YES Compost: YES Compost is a Bozeman-based company owned by Karl Johnson. YES Compost uses red wiggler worms (see vermicomposting) to break down food waste into worm castings, which can be used as a rich soil. Johnson’s commercial and residential services include the drop-off of a bucket or waste vessel and regular pick-up of waste. A few times a year, Johnson delivers the finished product to subscribers of YES Compost, which is included in the monthly service fee. YES Compost is currently the only composting service in Big Sky. Visit for more information.

Happy Trash Can: Similar to YES Compost, Happy Trash Can, owned by Ryan Green and Adrienne Huckabone, is a Bozeman-based composting service. Happy Trash Can composts with a GORE cover Aerated Static Pile System. Happy Trash Can provides a bucket and does regular food-waste collection and soil drop-off for Bozeman, Belgrade and Livingston areas but has not yet expanded to Big Sky. Visit for more information.

Vermicomposting: Vermicomposting is a method that allows red wiggler surface worms to consume food waste and process it into usable castings. Kits like the Worm Factory 360 are available to aid in the process or you can create your vermicomposting system from scratch. Vermicomposting can be done inside and reduces foul odors that often come with food waste.

Three-bin System: The three-bin composting system requires a little bit more time and effort, but for those interested in participating throughout the entire cycle, this method is suiting. The first bin is for fresh waste, which requires frequent aerating and mixing. When it is full, it can be moved to bin two, where it will sit to decompose. The third bin should result in a finished, usable soil. Kits are available for this method, but it is not necessary to have one.

Heap Pile: The heap pile requires the lowest maintenance of all at-home composting options. It can be as simple as throwing yard and food waste into a pile in your yard, although this will take a long time to decompose. To speed up the process, add moisture, mix the pile often and alternate adding greens (waste) and browns (carbon, such as newspaper).

Joseph T. O'Connor is the previous Editor-in-Chief for EBS newspaper and Mountain Outlaw magazine.

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