Step 5: Start to Compost
If you’ve followed Steps 1 through 4, you’ve eliminated most single-use plastic and waste from your house. With fewer labels and single-use plastic packaging in your kitchen and bathroom, those rooms are looking pretty good, too!
Are you ready to take things to the next level with composting? Keeping food out of the waste stream is one of the most important thing any of us can do for the planet. Once food is entombed into a landfill it does not decompose and it begins to emit high levels of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change. So, while composting takes some effort to get started, its positive impact on the planet is huge. Plus, my kids think it’s tremendously fun to collect our scraps and dump them into the bin… It’s the little things.
I get that composting can either be super simple or more difficult, depending on where you live and whether or not you have outdoor space. Here’s a quick overview on how to get started composting, no matter where you live, with the 3 most common ways to compost.
1. Decide on your compost system, and buy your supplies.
With several different ways to compost, the first step is to know your options and determine the best composting approach for you and your lifestyle. Commercial composting, backyard composting and vermicomposting are three of the most common approaches.
Commercial composting organized and collected by your city or another organization on a large scale.
How it works: You drop compost at a collection point. This could be in a bin provided by your city, at the farmers’ market, a garden center or anywhere else compost is collected. It may require some Googling to see what commercial composting options are available near you.
Best for: Anyone! This is by farmy preferred way to compost, especially if you live in a city or don’t have any outdoor space, because it’s so easy.
What you’ll need: If your municipality collects the compost, it will usually provide specific bags or bins for your compost. Otherwise, you need paper or compostable bags (most supermarkets sell them), or a small sealable bin for transporting the compost to the collection point.
Backyard composting organized and collected by you and turned into compost in a container or area outside.
How it works: You can buy or build a pen to hold your compost, or you can just start a pile in an unfrequented corner of your property. Composting this way will require a balance of brown matter (paper and leaves) and green matter (food scraps) and the compost will need to be turned regularly.
Best for: People with outdoor space, and those who want the nutrient rich soil for gardening.
What you’ll need: A compost container from a garden store (optional), open space to place the compost, and a shovel or tool to turn the compost.
Vermicomposting organized and collected by you and turned into compost with the help of a small, secure worm system in your kitchen (or outdoors, if the temp stays above 60 °F/15 °C)
How it works: Worms are buried under soil and your drop your food scraps straight into the top of the container. Worms speed the compost process so your food scraps break down quickly, odorlesslyand turn into nutrient rich soil.
Best for: The apartment dweller or someone with no outdoor space, and no access to commercial compost. Vermicomposting sounds scarier than it is, although it’s probably not for the faint of heart because, well, it involves worms.
What you’ll need: A worm composting system, which typically starts around $120/€100 and can be purchased at most garden stores or online.
2. Collect your scraps.
It’s easiest if you collect your scraps in the kitchen as you go. You can keep scraps in a bowl or container in the freezer, or you can keep an airtight container under the sink. The freezer is my preferred option because then there is no chance of fruit flies getting in. Both ways are odor-free if you empty the scraps into your compost each week.
Each compost system has slightly different restrictions on what can and can’t be added, so confirm before collecting.
3. Use that dirt.
If you are composting at homewith backyard or vermicompost, you will soon be producing a nutrient-rich soil. This is great for sprinkling on house plants or in the garden. You will never need to buy a bag of potting soil again. If you don’t have a green thumb, see if a friend or neighbor would like it. This stuff is a gardner’s gold - I guarantee it will go fast!