0 In Going Green/ Low Waste

Easy Guide to Backyard Composting

composting for beginners

I’ve shared a bit about how we’re trying to reduce waste in our home. Whether being our kitchen or bathroom, we’ve gone through our home and thoroughly assessed where we create the most waste. One of the biggest areas of waste is still our kitchen, specifically with food waste. Enter composting.

This is something I was incredibly intimated by when I first started looking into it. For some reason it seemed like a huge commitment and a massive project. Composting was really the only thing I could think of, though, to help really reduce our food waste.

I just want to disclaim that composting is a way to help eliminate food waste, though of course, it’s preferable to consume or utilize as much as you can.

What is composting?

Composting provides an environment where certain foods combined with natural, organic material can breakdown and provide nutrient rich soil. This is done through heat-the compost pile will create it’s own heat, but it’s also helpful to place your compost bin or pile in an area where it will get a lot of sunlight. There are so many benefits to composting. Our top two were to reduce our food waste and to get nutrient rich soil for our garden.

A good compost needs “green” material, which is typically the food waste, and “brown material”, which is the organic material needed to break down the food.

*food put into the landfill does not break down. Because landfills are so compact, the food waste will not come into contact with enough organic material to break it down. It will mummify and begin to emit methane gas, which is more toxic than carbon dioxide. Composting reduces the food waste going into the landfill, thus eliminating the amount of methane gas released into the environment. It results in nutrient dense soil which is ideal for use in gardening.

Before you begin

Ok, y’all. Say you’re thinking about beginning to compost. Take it from a skeptic, it is not as overwhelming or scary as it seems! It truly doesn’t take as much work as I thought it would, and it saves us from throwing so much into the trash can.

Before you start, make sure you take into consideration where you live! You can have a backyard compost pile or you can get a bin. I personally opted for a bin. I didn’t want to worry about the smell, having a fence-thing to keep animals out, and mainly about the kids getting into it. Long way to say- the bin worked better for us.

backyard compost bin

We got this one from Lowe’s– there are so many different kinds, and I’m not expert enough to say if any kind makes a difference. I like this one because it comes with a stand that makes it easy to spin. It is a bit of an investment expense wise, but y’all, let’s not lie. You spend that much easy at Target without batting an eye.

The only other thing you need to get started is a small bin or bowl for in the home! This is so you can place food scraps here without having to go outside every time. Once it gets full, you just dump it in to the big compost bin. While they make super cute countertop compost bins, my neighbor gave us an old Folger’s bin, and it’s been working great. Even a bowl works fine if you empty it at the end of the day!

backyard composting- what you can and cannot compost

Also check with your neighborhood or apartment complexes! Some areas may have rules or regulations surrounding composting, so you just want to make sure you’re educated about your area. Most of the time it’s not a big deal, especially with a bin that keeps any smell and mess contained!

The process

It’s so easy- you just start! We put our bin on the side of the house that gets the most sun so it could get the most heat. (I started in the summer, so this is what worked for us.) I began putting apple cores, banana peels, pepper tops and insides, cucumber ends, strawberry tops, etc into our bin. When it’s full, it goes into our larger compost bin and gets topped with brown material. I bought a bin that spins easily, so after a few dumps, I turn the bin to get everything mixed up. If you have a pile, you’ll want to have a shovel to turn it over.

It takes while! I started mine towards the end of the summer, and the first batch is still cooking away. I checked on it a few weeks ago and it was almost all soil. By the time we start planting out garden, I should be good to go to use it!

In the meantime, I’m putting our compost and brown material in a black trash can we used for yard waste. We have it at the side of the house where it gets sun, but it’s not hot enough to “cook” it. Once I empty the compost bin for our garden, I’ll transfer that trash can into the compost bin to begin the process again. Essentially we have two bins reserved for compost so we don’t have to go back to throwing it away.

Some things to remember

  • You need about twice as much brown material as green material.
  • It truly doesn’t smell that bad! It’s no potpourri, but if you are using enough brown material, it should’t be super pungent.
  • It’s ok if you get bugs! I’ve opened my bin before to find maggots, and while it grosses me out on a human level, it just means you need a little more brown material.
  • You can put worms in it! Oliver loves to find worms, and they go in our compost bin. They help to eat and breakdown the food scraps in there, so they’re pretty helpful.
  • It does not require that much attention. You fill it, sometimes you spin it, but mostly it sits.
  • It is not that big of an eyesore. Of course this depends on if you use a bin or a pile and where it’s located. But it will not actually make your yard look ugly.

What can I compost?

This was perhaps my biggest question when I started. What was, what wasn’t ok? It really isn’t complicated, and you’ll find you use the same things over and over again, so it gets really easy!

backyard composting- what can you compost

Ok to Compost

  • Fruit + Veggies (be careful with citrus as it can make your soil super acidic and takes a while to breakdown, same with onions)- think apple cores, banana peels, pepper tops and insides, cucumber and zucchini ends, rotting tomatoes, avocado gone brown, potato skins, lettuce ends, carrot skin, etc.
  • Eggshells (they take a looong time to breakdown, but you can do it!)
  • Coffee grounds + filter
  • Cardboard
  • Unbleached kraft paper
  • Papertowels
  • Newspaper (not the shiny coated stuff)
  • Outdoor plants or indoor plants (if they’re free of chemicals)
  • Soil
  • Leaves (they take some time to breakdown but are great brown material)
  • Yard clippings (bagged mowers finally have a use!)
  • Most bamboo products

Do Not Compost

  • Meat
  • Dairy
  • Oil/Fats
  • Waxed paper/shiny newspaper inserts
  • Chemicals
  • Diseased plants
  • Charcoal ash
  • Animal waste

Ready to start?!

Again, it’s truly not as overwhelming as I first thought! Don’t overthink- just do it! I promise you will be amazed at the amount of food waste you save from going into the trash. If you don’t garden, you can always use your compost in your yard to fertilize your grass, or you can find someone who gardens and give/sell it to them!

If you already compost, any tips I missed?! Share all your wisdom!

If you found this at all helpful, pin for later! It means so much to this lil’ blog!

An easy guide to backyard composting

And if you’re looking for other ways to create less waste in the kitchen, make sure to check out this post!

travel blog, zero waste blog

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