- Composting can help us reduce our contributions to landfills and cut down on greenhouse gas production.
- If you’re a gardener, your compost can be repurposed into the best garden fuel.
- There are many options of where to put your compost — and they don’t have to stink!
Composting. You’ve heard about it, you’ve thought about it. Either your local farmers market is encouraging you to compost or you’ve seen the pile in your eco-conscious neighbor’s backyard. Maybe you’ve considered composting, but you aren’t quite sure how to make it happen. Here, we’ll provide you with insights you can use to start composting at home.
What counts as compost?
At its most basic definition, compost is comprised of organic waste that will break down naturally. Experts agree that compost breaks down most quickly when it’s comprised of three or four parts brown waste to one part green waste.
The most common brown waste for compost is made up of:
- Paper or cardboard
- Coffee grounds
- Wood ashes (that are entirely cooled and not a fire hazard)
The most common green waste for compost comes from:
- Fruit and vegetable scraps
- Grass clippings
- Weeds or trimmings from plants
Of course, there are some exceptions that you may not think about as a beginner! Meat scraps and eggshells take a bit longer to compost, so you can quicken their decomposition by crushing the shells and chopping the meat into small pieces. Paper and cardboard are great for compost, but avoid using any paper items with a wax coating. Grass clippings can get quite stinky, so you may want to let them dry out so they resemble straw before placing them in your compost pile or bin.
Why is composting important?
We’ll keep this brief: Landfills are filling up quickly, but millions of pounds of waste could be kept out of those landfills each year. That’s because on average, according to Recycling Revolution, “each year, each American throws out about 1,200 pounds of organic garbage that can be composted.”
But why can’t food break down in a landfill, and what exactly makes composting a better option for the environment? It all comes down to chemistry. When food waste is put in the trash, it lacks the oxygen it needs to decompose properly. When this (non-decomposing) waste is dumped in a landfill, it creates methane, a greenhouse gas that “can hold 25 times more heat than carbon dioxide,” according to Resource Recycling Systems.
Composting, on the other hand, allows food and other organic waste to decompose naturally, by providing it the oxygen it needs. Composting does produce carbon dioxide — another greenhouse gas — but it’s widely considered a better alternative for the environment.
Step one: Determine where your compost will go
Before you have a pile of compost, you’ll want to consider where it will go.
1. Have your compost removed. Many waste removal companies accept separated compost. To see if your city provides these composting services, check out this website. Or, if you have a private waste contract, check their webpage.
If your neighborhood or waste removal company doesn’t currently organize compost removal services, call to request that they have it set up. Feedback is super important and a good company will be receptive to its customers’ desires and needs.
2. Feed your garden with compost. If you're a gardener or landscaper, consider creating your own compost pile in your yard. This will provide you with nutrient-dense fertilizer, free of charge.
To build a compost pile in your yard, you’ll need a compost bin. Then, you’ll fill the bin with a mixture of green and brown waste in the ratios discussed above.
A tumbling compost bin is a great option for many homeowners, as it’s easy to use and has a closed compartment. So, if you’re worried about the look or smell of your compost, this is a discreet solution.
3. Visit your local co-op. Still looking for options? A local co-op can be a great resource that could not only accept your compost, but also to teach you more about how to compost effectively.
Step two: Create your compost system
The next step is to actually create your composting system and begin to compost. Here are some options to store your compost waste:
1. Keep a food scrap bucket. This bin can be stored under your sink, in your pantry, or in the garage. Just make sure it’s in an easy-to-reach area so you can toss green waste in the pail while you’re cooking or after you’ve eaten. You’ll take the bucket out to your compost pile after each meal.
2. Fill up a biodegradable trash bag. Alternatively, you can place veggie shavings or other leftover, unusable food in a bag that will break down in your compost. Store scraps until you’re done cooking or your dinner guests head home for the night. Then, transfer the waste to your compost pile when it’s more convenient for you.
Whatever you decide to do, make sure that it’s something you're comfortable with. By choosing a system that works for you, you’ll create lasting habits and a manageable compost system.
Give composting a try
Whether you’re ready to go all out with composting gear or you’d like to give it a test drive before fully diving in, your contribution is making a difference. Any bit of waste that is composted rather than diverted to a landfill is helping to reduce greenhouse gases. Plus, compost can be repurposed in your garden to create a beautiful and thriving yard.