Putnam’s Health Department and Cornell Cooperative Extension Team Up: Making Backyard Composting Easier and More Affordable

Backyard composting is an easy way to reduce household trash, save money and improve the environment. In as little as 10 minutes a week, kitchen scraps and yard waste can be turned into a useful soil addition and a garden can be enriched without chemical fertilizers. There is no one way to do this. But now the Putnam County Department of Health and Cornell Cooperative Extension of Putnam are joining together to make it easier, offering residents easy-to-follow instructions and a reduced-price Earth Machine model compost bin to boot.  

“If you have ever considered backyard composting and didn’t know where to start, we are here to help—to make it easier and more affordable for you,” said Jen Lerner, a longtime Cornell Cooperative educator and experienced composter herself. “A quick-start guide for composting is available on our website and we are happy to answer any questions that may come up. Composting is good for the environment and your pocketbook, because you don’t need to spend money on expensive fertilizer.” The health department, working with Cornell Cooperative, is offering the Earth Machine compost bin for sale at a reduced cost of $65, compared to similar compost bins that normally retail for $80 to $100. Compost bins can be ordered online at the health department website. (Visit www.putnamcountyny.com/recycling.) 

According to Jane Meunier, who works at the health department and coordinates solid waste management, an estimated 20 percent or more of household garbage is food. “Moving this food waste out of the garbage and into a backyard composter not only reduces household trash, but it also protects the environment in multiple ways,” Ms. Meunier said. "On top of a reduction in fertilizer use, there are lighter loads for garbage collection, less energy needed for incineration, and lower levels of greenhouse gases coming from food waste that would end up in a landfill.” Personal home benefits include odor-free trash and cost savings for trash bag purchases.  

“Composting is not difficult,” added Victoria DiLonardo, recycling educator at the health department. “It involves balancing ‘greens,’ ‘browns,’ and moisture. Greens are kitchen scraps like fruit and vegetable peels, coffee grounds, eggshells, and dry grains, as well as green yard trimmings. Browns include dried leaves, small twigs, sawdust and shredded newspaper.” Once assembled, the decomposing organisms get to work. To learn more about the basics, get a copy of the quick-start guide for composting at: putnam.cce.cornell.edu/gardening/compost-resources. Finished compost can then be used in flower or vegetable gardens. Mixed in with soil, or laid on top like mulch, compost provides nutrients for plants and improves the texture of the soil.  

For those who would first like to see composting in action, there is an opportunity to visit and view the Earth Machine and garden on the western perimeter of the building at 1 Geneva Road, home to Cornell Cooperative of Putnam, the health department and the motor vehicle department. Here employees are composting lunch food scraps. The lovely flower and vegetable garden, found just off the DMV parking lot, is nourished by the rich compost created in the Earth Machine.  Those with questions can email  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  or call 845-808-1390 for the health department, or 845-278-6738 for Cornell Cooperative extension. 

The mission of the Putnam County Department of Health, nationally accredited by the Public Health Accreditation Board (PHAB), is to improve and protect the health of the Putnam County community, composed of nearly 100,000 residents. Core services include community health assessment, disease surveillance and control, emergency preparedness, environmental health protection, family health promotion and health education. For more information, please visit our County website at www.putnamcountyny.com, or visit our social media sites on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram @PutnamHealthNY.  



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