According to the Environmental Protection Agency, food scraps and yard waste make up 20 to 30 percent of what we throw away.
Composting your food scraps instead helps reduce waste and keeps them out of landfills where they can release methane and take up room. Composting may sound like a big commitment but, in reality, nature does most of the work! As long as you do some prep work and can manage a bit of maintenance, you can help save the planet one eggshell or apple core at a time. Some towns and cities have compost bins that the city or state trash service will pick up, but compost also makes a great soil supplement that you can toss in your garden!
Step 1: Know What You Can Compost
Many things can be composted, but it's important to know what can and cannot be added to your bin. A few things on the compost-friendly list include items such as:
- Fruits and vegetables
- Coffee grounds and filters
- Tea bags
- Shredded Newspaper
- Cotton and wool rags
- Dairy products (e.g., butter, milk, sour cream, yogurt) and eggs*
- Fats, grease, lard, or oils
- Meat or fish bones and scraps*
Step 2: Start A Bin Despite common public opinion, composting can be cute! Look around your house and yard for a fun container that you can recycle and transform into your kitchen compost. Make sure it’s small so you remember to empty it often, and so it doesn’t start to smell. Empty the small bin into an outdoor pile where heat, worms, and bacteria will turn it into soil. There are a few options for piles: you can buy a container, a stand-alone mound, or you can build a more sophisticated bin with a small fence or barrier. If animals such as deer frequent your backyard, a container might be a good investment!
Step 3: Get Your Browns and Your Greens
It’s important to have a combination of “browns” (materials such as dead leaves, pine needles, hay, cardboard, and twigs) and “greens” (grass, weeds, kitchen waste) for composting. A compost pile should have a 3:1 ratio of “browns” to “greens”. Shredding or chopping these piles will help them decompose faster. The third ingredient in your compost recipe is water. The pile needs to remain moist to keep breaking down, so put your pile or bin somewhere near a water source.
Step 4: Care For Your Pile
Like most things, your compost pile needs to be shown a little love to get moving. “Turning” your pile will help it decompose more quickly. A tool called a “turning” fork will help you stir ingredients more easily, though you can do this with a shovel, too. Too much work? Look into a tumbling composter to help mix your compost for you!. If your pile is a free-standing mound, layer the greens and browns with soil or compost that is already finished. Your pile should be three to four feet tall. Make sure to wet any dry materials that are added. Adding a tarp on top can also help keep it from drying out.
Step 5: Patience, Composting Grasshopper!
Composting doesn’t happen overnight. It can take two months to two years for a pile of compost to turn into ready-to-use soil. Make sure to turn your pile every week or two to expedite the process! Find more composting tips and tricks here.