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Composting is something that is super important especially in this day and age with all the waste that’s ending up in landfills.
I struggled with getting into composting myself. I knew it was something I should be doing, and I wanted to do it, it just seemed like too much effort.
Honestly, I just had no idea where to start and the thought of it made me feel overwhelmed. But it doesn’t have to be as complicated as you think.
That’s why I’m writing this post, to make composting as simple as possible so that you don’t have to feel overwhelmed or stressed.
Mother Nature has been composting for thousands of years and now you can too. 😉
What is Composting?
Compost is decayed organic matter. When you mix a bunch of these items together in a compost pile, they will naturally break down into a nutrient-rich fertilizer that is great for gardens.
Basically, the decomposition process happens because of microbes. These microbes need to be able to breathe in order to live and function and therefore be able to decompose the compost.
For them to breathe, you normally have to turn/mix up your compost so that the microbes can get the nutrients and oxygen they need to survive and decompose the compost. (I say normally because you don’t have to in a vermicompost, which we will talk about.)
Another good thing to keep in mind while composting is the hotter the compost pile, the better. It will make the decomposition process much faster.
Compost is used in gardens, landscaping, organic farming, and much more! It’s usually used as a soil conditioner, fertilizer, and as a natural pesticide for soil.
Why Should you Compost?
After researching a ton on composting, I realized how important it is and that we should all be doing it if we can.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, food is the biggest ingredient in American trash. Currently, more than 35% of the average garbage can is filled with kitchen scraps—scraps that could be diverted from the landfill altogether.
You might be thinking, “Oh, well since food is compostable, then it will surely compost in a landfill.” That’s what I used to think too, but that actually isn’t the case.
Food can’t compost in a landfill because there isn’t enough oxygen circulating in the landfills, which is crucial for composting.
The reason why this is so bad is because organic waste releases methane gas, a harmful greenhouse gas that is up to 35 times as strong as carbon dioxide in increasing the rate of global climate change.
Methane isn’t released during composting, which is why it’s such a great alternative.
Some more facts I’m gonna throw your way:
- 95% of food scraps are thrown away. (source)
- 15.1% of ALL methane emissions in the US comes from landfills. (source) (According to a Yale University study, this number may be even higher.)
- If food waste were a country, it would be the third-largest emitter of greenhouse gas emissions behind China and the U.S. (source)
- Landfills are the United States’ third-largest source of methane emissions. (source)
So, if you want to make a serious impact and reduce 50% of your household waste with just ONE swap, start composting!
What can be Composted?
You can compost almost any organic matter. Organic matter can range from a twig or even a banana peel. Basically, anything that comes from the ground can be composted, including grains (because they sprout from soil).
Make sure to cut food scraps and any other big or hard to compost items into little pieces, this way it will break down easier (the smaller the better).
Don’t compost meat and dairy as they are harder to decompose and could stink up the bin!
You also need a mix of nitrogen and carbon in your compost. If your compost is lacking nitrogen, it will stop breaking down. If there isn’t enough carbon, the pile will begin to have a bad odor and become slimy and sticky. It’s recommended to keep a C:N ratio of 25-30 parts carbon for every 1 part nitrogen by weight (30:1). If you’re curious about the science behind this you can learn more here.
What you CAN compost:
- Fruit & veggie peels
- Coffee grounds
- Fresh leaves
- Broccoli stalks
- Corn cobs
- Cooked plain rice
- Cooked plain pasta
- Grass clippings
- Stale bread
- apple core
- avocado pit
- Shredded newspaper
- Pine needles or straw
- Paper bags (shredded or torn)
- Pizza boxes (torn into small pieces)
- Paper egg cartons (torn into small pieces)
- used paper coffee filters
- Cereal boxes (torn)
What you can NOT compost:
- Colored paper
- Diseased plants
- Aluminum foil
- Pet droppings (cat & dog)
- Ashes from coal or charcoal
Different Ways to Compost
There are many different ways to compost. I’ve listed just a few of them, so feel free to do whichever one you are comfortable with and that suits you & your busy life! 🙂
Option #1 Drop-off Services
This is what I do and recommend if you’re not comfortable having a compost bin in your apartment or if you just don’t have the time and/or resources for making your own. It’s also free!
This is realllly simple. First, check to see if there is a composting site near you. I used to drop my scraps off at Whole Foods (before I switched to a pick-up service) because that’s closer to me than a compost drop off, so if you have one near you check to see if they accept composts! ShareWaste is another great resource to find composts in your community.
Then all you have to do is start collecting your scraps, put them in the freezer, and when you’re ready, take your scraps and put them in your compostable bag, and send it off to the compost! Make sure to check what scraps the compost service accepts, it’s different everywhere.
I recommend reusing an old tupperware or, for example, saved yogurt containers as a low-waste way to store your scraps in the freezer before taking it to the compost drop-off. If you don’t have that, you can always buy a compost bin.
When you’re ready to take your scraps to the drop-off, you can either bring your scraps in a bin or put them in a compostable bag. The process may be different for every service, so if you are bringing them in a bag, I recommend a compostable one (they may even be able to take the bag).
Option #2 Compost Pick-up
This is also a really great option if you don’t want to get your hands dirty. It does cost some money, about $15-$35 a month or more depending on the service and your area.
Compost Now is just one great service you can check out, and the one that I currently use. I absolutely love it and it’s so simple and requires no work from you besides putting the scraps in a bin. There may be other services in your area that you might prefer, and you can find them here or with a quick google search.
I suggest doing some research to make sure you’re okay with where your food scraps are going. The services should be transparent about how they compost the scraps and what they do with the finished compost.
If you can afford it, composting services are great if you’d rather not put the time or effort into making your own compost. It’s also a great way to support sustainable businesses!
Option #3 Vermicompost
This method includes worms, and I get that it’s not for everyone so feel free to skip ahead if this isn’t your thing.
Worm composters are great becuase they don’t require any turning, which is the main work in composting. The worms actually do this for you! So all you mainly have to do is give them compost to eat and provide the right conditions for them to thrive.
I’ve personally never done this before, but from what I’ve heard it’s almost odorless (just smelled like wet newspaper), and that it’s easy to fit out of sight! If you’re interested in vermicomposting, you can learn more here.
Option #4 Compost Tumblers
This is a great option if you have a big enough balcony. Compost tumblers are bigger than worm composters and are fully sealed to preserve the heat generated by your compost, which makes the decomposition process faster.
They are made with a handle to turn the compost, to aerate and mix the contents, and may even process waste in as little as 13 days depending on the tumbler (it can normally take months).
Another plus is that the tumblers are sealed and therefore avoid pest problems, are odorless, and a much more attractive option for your apartment.
The main downside is that they are usually pretty pricy, ranging from $100 (usually the less attractive option) all the way to $1000 (usually the really big one). You can find some here.
Luckily, you have many other options, that I’m going over in this post, so don’t worry if this isn’t ideal for you. It’s not for most of us, trust.
Option #5 Bokashi Bin
I had actually just recently heard about the bokashi bin, and it seems really interesting!
This kind of composting uses bokashi powder to break down food scraps more quickly than regular composting. This method handles all food waste, including dairy and meat. If you’re interested in learning more, you can read about them here.
option #6 Electric Composters
And just so you have all the options, electric composters are one as well. This is also an interesting one and not one that I’m too familiar with. There are three phases in this method: drying, grinding, and cooling. The phases help break down the food waste quickly using aeration and hear.
This technically isn’t a composter and more of a “food recycler” because the end result is completely dry and sterile, much different from regular compost. It can not be used as topsoil, but instead as an odorless fertilizer.
You can read more about what they are and how to use them here.
So there you have it! All the basics to get you started on composting. I wish you well on your journey and if you want to share how you’re composting is going, let us know in the comments below! I’d love to hear from you! 💚
And for your ease, I made a list of 101 household items that you can compost. You can find the form down below.
Happy composting! 🌱
FREE COMPOSTING CHEAT-SHEET
Get access to my free resource library and the 101 things you can compost cheat-sheet by filling out this form: