According to the EPA, compostable food scraps and other natural waste products account for more than 28 percent of a home’s weekly trash (EPA 2019). (For vegetarian households, the percentage is typically higher because more of its food scraps are compostable.) Sending that waste to the landfill increases energy use and pollution: more trash means more trash trucks and more trips to the landfill. In addition, as the waste rots in the landfill, it emits methane, a greenhouse gas.
Composting at home is a simple method of “food recovery” (reducing food waste by redistributing or recycling discarded food). It creates a rich soil amendment for your garden and landscape plants, and it’s totally free (except for any bin materials you have to buy).
Building a compost bin and composting food and yard waste is much easier than most people think. While you can build a three-bin composter to manage your compost in stages, this is overkill for most home use. All you really need is a clear area of dirt that is fenced off to keep out the family dog. Here’s one simple design you can build in a few hours:
To start composting, simply dump your compostable material into a pile, forming it into a mound. Turn over the pile every couple of weeks; a pitchfork works best, but you can also use a shovel. If you add a lot of paper, grass clippings, and other dry materials, you might need to add some water to the compost to keep it moist, but if you compost mostly food scraps, you shouldn’t have to add water. Once the compost at the bottom looks like dark brown soil (in fact, it is soil), it’s ready to use.
What to Compost
Compostables are grouped as “greens” or “browns.” To make the richest and quickest compost, try to add half greens and half browns to your pile.
What Not to Compost
Properly managed compost piles have a fruity-vegetable smell (for real). They smell bad only if you add the wrong types of food or you dump in loads of green grass (which smells terrible). Never add any of these items to your pile.
For the next two weeks, try composting your natural waste instead of throwing it away. If you already have a compost pile, send us some composting tips or tell us what you’re using your compost for.
The planet thanks you!
"Composting At Home." EPA, Environmental Protection Agency, 13 Nov. 2019,
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