Composting Breakdown: At-Home Composting Guide
Composting is an effective way to reduce your carbon footprint, and thankfully, it’s a lot less complicated than recycling. We want to empower you all to live more sustainably, even outside of your personal care routines, so we’re here to break down (get it?) composting for you.
Why should you compost?
All organic matter decomposes eventually, but the location of decomposition determines whether the material becomes trash or treasure. When buried in landfills, organic matter undergoes a process called anaerobic decomposition, where it’s broken down by organisms that don’t require oxygen to live. This process releases methane and carbon dioxide, both potent greenhouse gases which we don’t need more of in our atmosphere.
On the other hand, when composted, organic matter is transformed into nutrient-rich fertilizer, or compost. Everyone wins when you compost. You get to reduce your contribution to our already out-of-control waste stream. The earth benefits from the omission of those greenhouse gases from the atmosphere. The end users of the compost—farms, municipal landscapers, individuals—can reduce their reliance on synthetic fertilizers because of compost's natural ability to help soil retain water and increase productivity. What’s not to love?
How to start composting.
There are many ways to compost, but your method of choice will mainly depend on your living situation. If you have a backyard or a patio, you may have the space for a home compost bin. If your city has a residential compost program, you can send off your accumulated organic scraps in your green bin (make sure to check with your city’s waste management service on what materials are allowed). If you have neither the space in your home nor access to a city program, there may be a community garden near you that will accept compost scraps for their own composting program. And if none of these sound like your situation but you’re still determined to do what’s best for the earth, you can always start your own community composting program in your neighborhood.
Other factors to consider are how much time you want to dedicate to composting and whether or not you would like to be the end user of the compost produced. Once you’ve determined what method will work best for you, it’s time to start composting!
There are four main ingredients that make up healthy compost: greens, browns, water, and oxygen. By greens, we mean fresh organic material, like kitchen scraps and grass clippings (untreated with pesticides). By browns, we mean drier materials like dead leaves, twigs, and even newspaper. We think water and oxygen are self explanatory.
If you’re putting your scraps in your green bin or sending them to a local community garden, no need to worry about the water and oxygen. Just make sure that your kitchen scraps are not contaminated with non-organics (remember to peel those labels off your produce!), pet waste, or any animal products. We recommend getting a kitchen compost bin with a lid, or storing your scraps in a paper bag in your freezer until it’s time for disposal. Don’t forget that Bite refill packaging is compostable too, so go ahead and rip it up into small pieces and toss that in with your peels!
If you’re attempting to create compost at home, make sure your compost bin (the ideal size is roughly a 3-foot cube) is in a shady spot. Layer your browns and greens, aiming for a 3 to 1 ratio of browns to greens, and make sure the organic matter is slightly damp. Every few weeks, aerate the contents of your bin (it’ll look like tossing a salad). You can also purchase a tumbler bin that will allow you to rotate the bin and mix the contents easily. Depending on how rigorous you are about maintaining your bin, it can take anywhere from 2 months to 2 years to achieve finished compost.
Successfully creating compost at home will take time, and you’ll no doubt run into hiccups along the way. Regardless of whether you choose the DIY route or to leave the process to the professionals, just know that your actions make a world of a difference.