by Sara Weinreb
Composting is one of my favorite sustainable-living habits. Before I started composting, it seemed a bit intimidating, and to be honest… kind of gross. The truth is, I can’t imagine my home without it now! It’s simple and has radically changed my approach to trash. Now we can go weeks without taking out a bag of trash since nothing is rotting in the bin, and I know I am doing something great for the environment. I love composting so much that on a recent vacation I actually missed it— it felt so weird throwing food scraps in the trash.
Why is composting important?
The process of composting is literally turning your trash into treasure! Our landfills are comprised of nearly 25% food waste, which doesn’t fully break down and emits methane, a greenhouse gas, into the air. Yuck. Through composting you not only divert your food waste from landfills, but you also turn in into soil that will positively benefit the environment. It’s a no-brainer.
So what do you need to know to start composting? Here’s what you need to know to get started.
Determine if you are going to send out your compost to be processed, or do it yourself.
There are two main approaches to composting: dropping your compost off somewhere or having it picked up from your house, if those options are available where you live, or composting yourself in your backyard. They are both great options!
If you are looking to outsource, the first step is to figure out your options. Many major cities have drop off points (when I live in NYC you could drop off your compost at most farmer’s markets, and here in Denver we have a composting center), and some smaller towns are now offering it too. The best approach here is to google “your city or town + composting” and see what options are available. Each city or town will have their own regulations on what you can put in the compost for processing, so pay close attention to those.
Some locations even offer pickup from your home— and that’s something else to look into, whether it’s the city or town itself, or a private company that arranges for pickups. Either way, it’s worth a google.
If drop off or pick up are not available to you, or if you’d prefer to compost yourself, you can create a home compost. This can either be a bin you purchase (this is the one I have in my backyard) or a compost pile. There are a lot of approaches to home composting (including using worms!), many of which are outlined in this article— see which resonates with you and the space you have. When you compost at home, the list of items you can put in your compost may be more limited (such as avoiding adding meat), but you can keep the soil for your garden. If you are composting at home, you may want to read up on how to layer the compost in your bin to ensure it breaks down properly.
Pros of drop off/picking up: it’s simple and manageable, you don’t need to take care of it, and you can often include more types of food and other scraps than home composting.
Pros of home composting: you get to be part of and experience the process, and you can use the soil for your garden or plants once it’s ready!
Freeze your compost
One of my favorite tips for starting your composting journey, if you’re not composting at home, is to freeze your compost— it’s truly a game-changer! By freezing your compost, you won’t end up with smelly or leaking compost. It also allows you to drop off your compost on your schedule since you can leave it in the freezer for as long as you want before bringing it to the drop off-site. If you freeze your compost, your garbage won’t smell and neither will your fridge. Woo!
Bring your compost home with you
When I am out and about during the day, I generally keep a mason jar or Stasher bag on me and throw any food scraps in there, like apple cores or banana peels. When you get home, you can add your food scraps to your compost or freezer pile!
Keep an eye on what is home compostable, and what is not
Not all compostable products are created equal! If you get a “plastic” looking cup that says it’s compostable, it’s almost-always only compostable in a commercial facility (and, therefore, not in your backyard). Keep in mind that not everything biodegradable or compostable will be able to be processed in your bin or at your drop off-site, so make sure to do a quick internet search or ask your drop off location to make sure you’re not putting the wrong thing into the bing, which will prevent it from breaking down.
With these tips, you will be well on your way to a most sustainable, way less stinky home! I strongly encourage you to consider composting in 2020— I have a feeling you won’t regret it.