Q & A with Michelle Balz, Author Of ‘Composting For A New Generation’

By Shelley Pierce | February 25, 2018
Image by The Quarto Group
by Shelley Pierce
February 25, 2018

Michelle Balz is a long-time backyard composter with a passion for reducing our impact on the planet. She spends her days writing laid-back advice for home composters in the Confessions of a Composter blog, teaching classes on backyard composting, and learning everything she can about composting, recycling, reusing, and waste reduction. Since 2002, Michelle has worked as a solid waste (a.k.a. garbage) professional encouraging residents and businesses to reduce their waste and use fewer resources. Michelle has a bachelor’s degree in Environmental Studies and a master’s degree in Professional Writing both from the University of Cincinnati. She lives in Cincinnati, Ohio.  In her latest book, Composting For A New Generation, Balz provides a comprehensive look at modern composting techniques, vermicomposting, composting with nature, keyhole gardens, organic composting, and using compost.  Read on to learn more and enter below to win one of two copies of this Quarto Group book.


1. How and why did you become a compost fanatic?

Before I started composting I had no idea how much of my garbage was fruit and vegetable scraps. Composting allows you to take material that is usually “trash” and turn it into a valuable soil amendment for your garden. My first year composting I kept adding fruit and veggie scraps, coffee grounds, and leaves to the bin and did not really know what to expect. After a year of adding material, I harvested the beautiful finished compost and I was hooked.

2. What is your favorite composting method and why?

Oh no, I can’t choose just one! I really love composting in my simple black plastic bin that I have used since the beginning. It holds in moisture and heat and can accept a lot of food scraps. Simple wire leaf bins filled with shredded leaves and coffee grounds are my new favorite obsession (I have three in my backyard). I think I like the idea of a leaf bin because the materials are really cheap and it is something anyone with leaves can do to start composting.

3. There are several benefits to composting. What are some benefits that most people would find unexpected?

Most people do not consider how backyard composting reduces your carbon footprint. First, materials decomposing in a backyard compost bin decompose aerobically, releasing carbon dioxide while materials in a landfill decompose anaerobically and release methane. Methane traps heat in our atmosphere with an impact 25 times greater than carbon dioxide over a 100 year period. The second way composting helps reduce your carbon footprint is by restoring soil health. Healthy soil acts as a carbon sink, storing leftover carbon consumed by plants for potentially thousands of years. Restoring the health of our soils could reduce climate change and you can help by composting.

4. How does this book turn the notion that composting is a time-consuming smelly business on its head?

Backyard composting is not smelly or hard if you follow a few simple rules, and this book lays them out for you. After over a decade of research, teaching classes on composting, and answering a composting hotline, I have become very familiar with the most common mistakes people make when they try to compost in their backyards. I address all of those potential mistakes in the book and lay out simple methods for maintaining your compost bin. I want you to compost successfully, so I put a lot of thought into how I can teach people.

5. What are some features of this book that readers will find helpful?

I have chapters on the basics of what you can and cannot compost and maintaining your backyard compost bin. The troubleshooting table also provides helpful advice if you do run into a problem and throughout the book readers will find recipes for adding a balanced and successful mix of materials to compost.

6. What are some of the most unique and oddest items that you have ever composted?

Q-tips, tissues, dryer lint, expired tofu, and stale beer have all visited my compost pile.

Win one of two copies of “Composting For A New Generation“!

To enter, simply leave a comment on this blog post by midnight on Sunday, March 4, 2018 (be sure to provide a valid e-mail address) in answer to the following question:

What’s in your compost pile?

Be sure to include a valid e-mail address. The winner will be drawn at random from all qualified entrants, and notified via e-mail. (See rules for more information.)

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  • Michael L
    Comment added February 28, 2018Reply

    I’ve only just got my first black plastic compost bin last month and I’ve already filled it!

    My compost bin contains fruit and vegetable scraps, weeds and pruned plants, sawdust and hay, lots and lots of tea bags, grass cuttings, leaves, and the secret ingredient is lots and lots of bunny poop! They like to think they are helping! I’ve also added some compost maker that I bought from a local shop as I feared I had too much brown material.

    Your book sounds like it could help me a lot.

  • Michael L
    Comment added February 26, 2018Reply

    Just got my first black plastic composter last month and I’ve already filled it! Had no idea what I was doing so looked across loads of sites online. Your book sounds like it would help me a lot!

    My compost heap has grass trimmings, weeds, leaves, fruit, veg peelings, lots of tea bags, pruned branches, sawdust, hay and straw, and the secret ingredient is bunny poo! Added some compost maker from a local shop because I was worried I had too much brown material.

  • Terri Boykin
    Comment added February 25, 2018Reply

    I started composting q-tips and dryer lint this year. I also use black soldier flies in the summer; come January I really miss them!
    This book sounds like it's a great resource.

  • Amy Bondurant
    Comment added February 25, 2018Reply

    Vericomposting is my favorite! It’s so easy, and the worm castings are an awesome addition to my gardening beds.

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