What is composting? How to compost at home

What is composting

What is composting you ask? Essentially, it is breaking down organic matter such as food scraps, paper, fur, cardboard, and yard waste into a fertilizer that can be used to assist with growing plants.

The process is very easy, with minimal investment. If you have a garden at your home, this is a good way to boost its effectiveness. Additionally, yard waste and food scraps make up around 30 percent of trash thrown away.

Speaking about trash, composting helps keep waste out of landfills where it ends up releasing methane. Methane is a greenhouse gas and negatively affects the environment.

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What is needed for composting

In order to start composting at home, you’ll need a couple things:

  • A countertop food scrap bin
  • A compost pile, tumbler, or bin

Additionally, there are certain things you throw into the compost pile or container to create compost, of course, consisting of “browns” and “greens”, so let’s dive into what those are.

The greens

The greens are nitrogen rich food scraps that you just create from cooking waste. While cooking, just throw your scraps into the bin. You can throw any fruit or vegetable scraps in there, but avoid meats and dairy as this will create odors and attract rodents and other pests.

The countertop food scrap bin just sits in your kitchen, and you can line it with a compostable bag. However, you should be careful not to leave food scraps in there for too long, as the bag will start to degrade with moisture.

The image below is our food scrap bin that we keep in the kitchen. We got it on amazon if you like the same one. There are a bunch of other options available though.

What is Composting

The browns

The browns are for carbon, and these can consist of newspaper, regular brown cardboard, leaves, straw, paper, eggshells and teabags.

You may already have some of this stuff waiting to either be recycled or thrown away, so this is a good way to put them to use instead!

Outdoor composting bin or pile

After you have the indoor bin, and the necessary ingredients for creating compost, you will have to either designate a spot for a pile in your yard, or buy a tumbler or bin.

If you go the pile route, make sure it is in a dry and shady area, preferably close to a water source and the garden you want to use the compost on.

We wanted to avoid odors and didn’t want to see bugs, so we bought a tumbler. We bought this small one on amazon, but there are larger options and many others to choose from.

What is Composting Bin

How to compost at home

Now that you have an indoor bin, some browns and greens, and an outdoor pile or tumbler, we can start the process.

There are two methods for composting, you can either do it in batches (which is faster) or do an “add as you go” method where you add kitchen scraps and cardboard as you produce waste.

The batch method

This is the fastest method, however, one downside is many of us might not have enough of the nitrogen-rich food scraps necessary.

The greens are usually the issue here, not the browns. If you can save up a lot of green food scraps quickly then this is the best option.

  1. Chop your ingredients into small pieces if possible. Food scraps are likely already in small pieces, but you will want to tear apart or shred cardboard, paper, or other large items.
  2. This next part is different based on if you’re using a pile or a tumbler like the one I have:
    1. Tumbler: Add browns and greens. It should be about a 50/50 split between the two. It doesn’t matter how you add them as you will tumble to mix.
    2. Pile: Add a 6-inch layer of browns, then 3-inches of greens, 3 more inches of browns, and then greens again. Usually, you want the base to be a bit heavier on browns. After you get it going you can just add each in layers.
  3. Moisten the materials after this is done, so they are quite damp but not soggy.
  4. Turn the pile or rotate the compost tumbler every 4-6 days. Your compost will be ready to use within 4-6 weeks if you live in a warmer climate or it is hot out during the summer. If you’re composting in a colder climate it will take longer up to a few months. You may benefit from using some compost starter.

The add-as-you-go method

This is the option we use, however getting usable compost takes longer as you continue adding to the overall volume and causes it to heat up slower. Heat is the main factor in composting speed. We lack the ingredients to make full batches, so this is the best option for us.

  1. Load your compost tumbler or pile with the shredded or torn browns, about 3 inches deep.
  2. Add greens when they become available and make sure the materials are moist but not soggy.
  3. Continue adding greens and browns as they come available, but try to keep it at a 50/50 ratio if possible. Ensure the mixture is moist and add water if needed.
  4. When you want to use the compost, there are two methods depending on if you have a tumbler or pile:
    1. Tumbler: Let it rot for about 4 weeks and it should be ready if it’s the summer or if you’re in a warmer climate.
    2. Pile: Usable compost will always be at the bottom of the pile.

Summary

Composting is a great way to reuse your food scraps to make more food! Makes more sense to create some usable fertilizer than to throw away the scraps. If you’re on a path to zero waste, this is one of those vital ingredients.

If you liked this article and want more information on other sustainability topics, check out our post on seven of the most important environmental issues we must solve!

Comment below or contact us if you have more tips and tricks for composting!

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