Food scraps and yard waste make up 20 to 30 percent of what we throw away. Composting is a great alternative!
Compost is created by combining organic waste—things like food scraps, grass clippings, coffee grounds or dead leaves—into a pile that breaks down over time.
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, more food reaches landfills and incinerators than any other single material in our everyday trash. Composting diverts food waste from landfills, reducing carbon emissions and creating an awesome, homemade fertilizer in the process.
If you have the space for an outdoor compost bin, select a dry, shady spot near a water source; you’ll want to moisten dry materials as you add them. Periodically add your brown (dead leaves, twigs) and green (grass trimmings, fruit and vegetable scraps) materials. Try to keep the ratio even, as brown materials provide carbon and green materials provide nitrogen necessary to create compost.
As your pile grows, bury additional fruit and vegetable waste under about 10 inches of the compost material to promote breakdown. You’ll want to mix your compost about once a week with a shovel or pitchfork and can cover the bin with a tarp to hold in moisture. Cutting large materials into smaller pieces also helps them break down faster. When the material at the bottom of your bin is dark in color, it’s ready to use as fertilizer for plants!
For convenience, try keeping a small compost bin in your kitchen for food scraps. You can transfer them to your outdoor bin periodically, or drop them off at a local composting facility. You’ll want a special type of bin, which you can find at a local hardware or gardening supply store. If you’re feeling ambitious, skip the store and make your own!
If you don’t shy away from worms, vermiculture—the process of using worms to decompose your natural food waste—might be right for you. It’s especially convenient for our urbanites who may not have access to an outdoor compost bin.
For a DIY vermiculture lesson, check out this awesome Aussie’s video:
- If you don’t have the space for an outdoor bin (or don’t want to do it yourself), there may be a facility nearby that collects food waste and other organic materials for composting. Visit FindAComposter.com to search for one near you. Bonus tip: you can freeze your food scraps until your next trip!
- Here’s just one example of an indoor compost bin you can purchase for your home. There are a lot of options out there, so choose the one that’s right for you. Compostable BioBags make cleanup even quicker!
- Check out Apartment Therapy’s tutorial on building your own indoor compost bin.
- Going the vermiculture route? This stackable bin can help get you started, or try making your own with this DIY tutorial.
- For more on home composting, check out the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s guide to backyard and home composting.