How to Start Composting: How I Compost and Why I Do It!

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Why start composting?

There are close to 8 billion people on this planet. Have you ever stopped to realize how much garbage you – as one of those people – create in a single day? It’s easy for us to throw our waste in a garbage bag and forget about it, but everything we put in the garbage winds up in a landfill somewhere. And when you stop to think about that amount of daily waste TIMES 8 BILLION, you start to worry a little.

And that eco-anxiety is one of the reasons I wanted to start composting several years ago!

How to start composting: the first step  

The first and most important step to composting is deciding that you want to do it.

I’ll be honest, composting does require more effort than simply throwing your food waste into the garbage, but it’s so worth it in my opinion!

Our ecological problems may feel insurmountable, but I truly believe that every small action we take makes a difference. As individuals we can’t control everything that happens around us, but we can do our part – and at the end of the day that’s what matters. You’ll feel better knowing you’re doing your best to reduce your ecological footprint, and when others around you see your commitment they might be inspired to take action as well.

Be the change you want to see in the world!

What are the benefits of composting?

Reduce your ecological footprint – Once you start collecting food scraps and other compostable materials, you’ll be amazed at the volume of waste you’re able to keep out of the landfill. Sadly, perfectly compostable material is sealed up in plastic bags every day, where it has no chance to biodegrade naturally. Composting allows you to keep that volume of waste out of the landfill and reduce methane emissions.

Create super nutrient-rich soil for your garden – Compost is nature’s fertilizer, and adding it to your garden will increase the amount of organic matter in your soil. This leads to healthier plants that you choose to grow without the need for chemical fertilizers (which can be harmful to the planet and can end up in our water supply). I personally haven’t gotten into gardening outdoors much, but I just throw my compost into an area with bushes in my backyard – and that section of bushes grows so much faster than the rest!

Take part in the magic of nature – One of the coolest things about composting is that you can watch waste material turn back into earth right before your very eyes. It’s magical to me to put banana peels into a bin and see them come out as soil after a few weeks. When you start composting, you get to play the magician in that miraculous cycle of life!

How to start composting: the process that works for me

There are many different composting methods out there, but by experimenting (and making some mistakes along the way) I’ve found a process that works well for me. This means I can fit composting into my life without it being too much of a hassle, but still get the benefits that I listed above.

Let’s start by going over what to put in a compost bin:

  • Napkins and paper towels (after you use them!)
  • All fruit and veggie scraps
  • Coffee grounds (and paper coffee filters)
  • Tea bags
  • Egg shells
  • Unwaxed and undyed cardboard (cut or ripped into smaller pieces)
  • Grains and legumes (if you have leftover rice that has gone bad, for example)
  • Stale bread
  • Hair from your hairbrush or pet fur
  • Leaves, grass clippings, and other yard waste (that’s not treated with chemicals)

And here are some things you should leave out of your compost bin:

  • Meat or dairy
  • Oils (other than the small amount that may be in some leftover food)
  • Pet waste or litter
  • Anything that may have come in contact with chemicals (a paper towel you used with Windex, for example)
  • Synthetic fibers

Getting the right balance for your compost

It’s important to have a balance of green matter (think fruit and veggie scraps) and brown matter (think dry leaves, paper, cardboard). This helps the compost break down properly and reduces bad smells, which I learned the hard way in the beginning!

I keep a convenient compost container inside for the short term

a compost bin in the kitchen how to start composting

I keep a small container on my kitchen counter where I collect items I want to compost during the week. A couple of times a week I dump this small container into a separate “holding bucket” that’s in my backyard (see the image below and the video at the top of this post for reference).

This allows me to conveniently collect compost items but not have to do the actual composting inside.

NOTE: I realize that my having a backyard where I’m able to compost is a privilege. For those of you without a yard, there are some indoor composting options I’ve heard of but haven’t tried personally. I’ve also heard from people who live in the city and collect their compost to drop off weekly at a designated compost station.  

The rest of the composting process takes place in my backyard

picture showing compost tumbler for process of how to start composting

When my “holding bucket” is full, I dump it into my large compost tumbler along with some dried leaves and / or yard waste. This tumbler is where the magic happens as it allows oxygen to activate the decomposition process when you turn it. After a couple of weeks (depending on how warm the weather is) your waste materials will turn back into earth!

How to compost the right way: drop the expectation of perfection

If you’re thinking about how to start composting, don’t get too hung up on doing everything 100% perfectly. It’s better to just get started and learn more as you go!

It’s also important to remember that we’re all human, and some weeks you may not manage to get every compostable piece of waste into your compost bin, and that’s ok. Every little step we take towards reducing our negative impact on the environment adds up.

It may sound strange, but composting brings me so much joy. And that’s why I do it. It feels so amazing to know I can take what would otherwise end up in a landfill, and help turn it back into earth. It also makes me more conscientious about the food I buy and less likely to let any of it go to waste. (I have a similar sentiment about making bone broth – you can read more about that in this post.)

If you’ve been thinking about how to start composting, I hope this post encourages you to give it a go! Remember that small actions add up to big impact, and together we have the power to change the systems that don’t serve our environment and our future generations. ✌️💜🌎♻️

4 responses to “How to Start Composting: How I Compost and Why I Do It!”

  1. Hi Alyson! Great article. I’ve been thinking about composting too, but it seemed overwhelming. You make it sound doable. I’m inspired! Thank you for connecting with us again. Hope you’ll start blogging again. I always enjoyed your articles. Your video was very good too. You have a wonderful voice and a great way of explaining things. Keep up the good work!

    Hope you’re doing well with all the COVID concerns.
    Elaine Heinl

    • Hi Elaine – you can do it! Once you set up your system it really doesn’t take too much extra time and is really awesome to see waste turn into earth 😊 hope you and your family are well!

  2. Loved this article. Already committed to composting but we need good people like you getting the word out, informing people about their ability to make a difference and how to do it. Bravo!

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