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Monday Q&A | Compost Questions, Extravagant Gifts, and Photography

Every Monday, I answer a few of the questions that my readers send me. If you have a question you’d like me to answer in a future Q&A post, just leave me a comment here or email me (thefrugalgirl [at] gmail [dot] com) and put Q&A in the subject line. I look forward to hearing from you!

A few questions cropped up in the comments on last week’s post about composting, so I though I’d include them in today’s Q&A.

Have you done a post on the ins and outs of composting? I would be very interested in hearing your full process.

Yes, indeed! A while back I wrote a post about easy, cheap composting, which explains how I set up and use my bins. And you can read all my compost-related posts in the composting category.

One question: what about the toxins in the ink on the paper from the shredder? Any info on that? I don’t think the black ink is edible, do you?

I hadn’t considered that before, but because of your question, I did a little bit of poking around and came to the conclusion that the ink is not a big problem. The 13 Common Composting Myths article at Earth 911 says that composting actually dilutes the hydrocarbons and that multiple tests have shown the amount of ink in the finished compost is not at all dangerous.

Of course, if you still felt nervous about the ink, you could only put printed paper into compost you plan to use for inedible plants, like bushes and flowers.

One question about composting shredded paper– Wouldn’t it be better to recycle the paper? It would take MUCH longer to grow a tree using your compost, and then turn it into paper, than just recycling it. Of course both options are better than throwing paper in the trash!

That’s an interesting question. I’m no environmental expert, but I would venture to guess that composting is, at the very least, as green as recycling. Consider that composting requires absolutely no outside energy, whereas recycling requires energy on a lot of levels….someone has to come pick the paper up, drive it to the recycling plant, and then at the plant itself, a lot of energy is used in the recycling process. And as Mrs. Green pointed out to me, paper can only be recycled 5-6 times before the fibers are too weak for reuse.

That said, I recycle WAY more paper than I compost, simply because I don’t have room in my composting bins for all the cardboard and paper that comes into our house. I generally only compost the paper that I shred, and that’s usually made up of papers that have personal information on them.

Another reason I am prone to composting my shredded paper is that the shreds have to be bagged up for recycling. This seems kind of wasteful to me, and I am not at all sure that a single bag of paper shreds is going to safely make it to the recycling plant, especially if it’s in a paper bag (a plastic bag could be tied shut, but then it’s kind of a waste of a bag). The recycling here all gets chucked into the back of a garbage-like truck, so it’s sort of an indelicate ride to the plant.

A final reason I compost paper is that in order to properly compost all my produce scraps, I need to have some browns to include in my pile…if I don’t, the produce scraps take forever to compost and the pile gets stinky.

If someone else offers to pay for something extravagant (= more than you’d pay), is the purchase still unfrugal? The thing could be a simple as a nice dinner; my point is that the purchaser is willing to spend more than you would.

Hmm, I guess it would be frugal for me! I actually don’t tend to worry myself about what other people are spending…I focus more on frugality in my life. Are you maybe wondering if something like that would make me feel uncomfortable? If that’s the question, then no, unless it was a case where I knew for sure that the giver couldn’t afford the extravagant purchase.

The bottom line is that I figure that what other people do with their money is not my worry (which might seem sort of odd, given that I blog about money!). And I’m not one to be offended if someone wants to buy something for me…I just say, “Thank you!”. 🙂

I would love to know how you learned so much about photography. I would love to get started but have no idea what I’m doing! Your pictures are so beautiful!


Thank you! I appreciate the encouraging words. 🙂

I think I first started getting better at taking pictures when I switched to digital. Getting instant feedback on my images helped me to learn how to best use the available light and it helped me to learn much better composition (I used to always shoot from too far away!). I have great respect for people who learned how to take good pictures when film was the only format available…I don’t think I’d do too well that way!

I have not taken any formal photography classes, but I’ve checked out tons of photography books from the library, and I’ve done quite a bit of reading on the internet too (Digital Photography School is a good place to start). In addition to reading how-to kind of stuff on the ‘net, I also like to just browse through photo blogs because they give me good ideas and inspiration.

Probably the best thing I’ve done though, is practice, practice, practice. I take pictures nearly every day, and I think I’ve learned a lot through simple trial and error as I shoot. I take lots and lots of bad pictures (I just don’t show them to anyone!), and I probably learn as much from the duds as I do from the more successful shots.

So, my best advice is to do some reading, look at good pictures taken by other photographers, and practice, practice, practice!

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Bankruptcy Ben

Monday 21st of June 2010

I used to use shredded newspaper on my potplants as mulch but it worked too well and would stop rain from getting through. I think you need to mix it with something courser like bark


Sunday 7th of February 2010

Q&A we are a household of two, one is vegetarian, one carnivore. I've see what you spend on groceries and it's very inspiring. I'm going to attempt to plan some meals. I def need to do some research, but starting from scratch intimidates me. Do you have any tips on getting started? Or any article/blog suggestions on the topic in general? Do you use coupons? I think I could save a lot with coupons but it's all processed foods???? Thanks!


Tuesday 2nd of February 2010

Learning photography is the same as learning to paint or to compose music or write poetry. You can learn the basics of it but it's something you really need to tune your artistic side for. I'm still working on that (99% of my art is rubbish) but I get a keeper every now and again.

Instant feedback is great. I learned when I would cry alone in the darkroom when I had 36 worthless shots that I had just spent a half hour developing myself (or crying over an envelope of bad slides back from the lab.) Experimentation helped a lot and with digital it is cheaper but you don't get the full range of experimentation (i.e. which film's color palate would look better in this shot) but it's an alright trade off.

The ones I marvel at are the guys like Alexander Gardner who took shots when each frame required loading and unloading the camera and developing the glass plate immediately.

Elizabeth B

Monday 1st of February 2010

Actually, a more important reason not to recycle shredded paper is that the shreds get into the gears of the recycling machinery and jam them. So if you shred it, you're stuck either composting it or throwing it in the trash. :(


Monday 1st of February 2010

Yay, thanks for the composting link as well.

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