Spring is the Time to Start Composting: Here’s Why and How

Food waste is a serious problem, one that extends from production to consumption. While food waste on the producer side may feel a little out of your control, there is plenty you can do at home to limit your personal impact. Grocery shopping in small batches and planning meals ahead so that you know exactly what to buy are great ways to cut your food waste, but what about all that organic waste that’s simply inevitable? All those apple cores, coffee grounds and egg shells? That’s where compost comes in.

Some people are lucky enough to live in cities where the the local government takes care of composting their food waste for them. But if not, or if you’re a gardener and want to reap your compost benefits, there are plenty of reasons to set up your personal composting system at home.

1. Help to eliminate organic matter going to the landfill

In 2012, more than 36 million tons of food waste was generated in the United States, with only 5 percent of that being composted. When food is composted, it doesn’t end up in in the landfill. Why is that good? Food rotting in a landfill releases a significant amount of methane. Overall, landfills account for 20 percent of methane emissions in the country. Reduce the amount of food waste going to the landfill and we reduce the amount of emissions.

2. Have healthy soil for your plants

Growing food at home? Composting is a great way to ensure that you have healthy soil to keep those plants and herbs growing strong. Don’t have your own plants? Your friends with a garden plot will be more than happy to receive a gift of compost. It’s good for the plants and the soil in the garden.

3. It allows you to take part in the full cycle of what you eat

Setting up a compost system not only allows you to reduce your waste overall, but it also lets you be a part of the entire food process. Most of the time we simply throw away an apple core. When you compost, that apple core gets broken down into soil that can be used to raise another plant. You get your own cycle of life all at home.

4. It will help you save money

Let’s get back to that garden. When keeping a garden going, many people spend lots of money on expensive soils and fertilizers. If you have your own compost, you can avoid those costs. Compost is exactly what your plants want.

5. You can compost more than just apple cores

Coffee grounds, coffee filters, paper, kombucha SCOBYs, egg cartons, bread, sawdust: it’s all compostable. And when you compost, you keep these things out of the trash can.

6. You can use compost to make seed bombs

Maybe you don’t have a garden or pots at home, but why not use the compost to make seed bombs and green up your surroundings? This form of guerilla gardening — which requires making balls out of clay, compost and seeds, that are later tossed into abandoned spaces — is not only easy, but fun.

Options for Composting at Home

Now that you’re up on composting benefits, how exactly do you do it? How you compost will depend on how much space you have. For those with a garden or ample space, you can compost outside. There are of course compost bins that you can purchase (or build), but the truth is, you don’t need a compost bin to compost. In fact, all you need to do is make a compost pile. This requires an area of about 3 feet by 3 feet and a garden fork or shovel to turn the compost.

Urban dwellers that don’t have the outdoor composting option can still have a set up for getting rid of food waste. You can easily build your own compost bin in a bucket with a lid or you can go for a vermiculture system, where you let worms do the work of turning your food waste into soil that you can put to good use. Like with all the compost setups, you can choose to buy a worm composting system, or you can build your own. Contrary to popular belief, this compost doesn’t smell and is easy to take care of.

Still not sure about composting at home? See if you have a community garden nearby; often they have a compost set up and would be happy to take your food waste.

Here’s to a happy spring and happy composting!

Photo Credit: SITS Girls


Jim Ven
Jim Ven12 months ago

thanks for the article.

Son Y.
Son Y.2 years ago

@Julia C: Recommend starting with as large a container as you can manage (larger tends to be more forgiving, whereas smaller usually requires a *little* more care). I think a container would ease your mind about the wildlife -- it's less accessible. If you can reuse an old container, so much the better. [Please do note the "as you can manage" part. Compost via container still needs air, and once nicely filled, they can be heavy!]

Make sure there's plenty of carbons (browns). Too much browns without greens will just make the pile take longer, but too much greens without browns is likely to smell. [Should that happen, though, no need to panic -- just balance with more browns and air]. Also, the browns should cover up anything which you think might attract the mammals.

As a gardener, I'm sure you have plenty of both browns and greens already! You might want to start with that first -- all outside stuff. It's unlikely you'll attract any more wildlife from that than you would have otherwise, right? When you have a feel for how that goes (balancing C/N, water and air), you can slowly start adding greens from your home, making sure to bury them under the browns.

I also second the recommendation of Vicky B. on vermicomposting. ;)

And if you're still concerned about wildlife, perhaps you might also want to look up bokashi.

But, you're a gardener and probably know all this already, so here's hoping what you choose works quickly for you. Good luck! :D

Carrie-Anne Brown

thanks for sharing :)

Janice Thompson
Janice Thompson3 years ago

Compost your junk mail! Eliminate identity theft.

Julia Cabrera-Woscek

I have been thinking about this for a while now since I have my own veggie garden. I do live in an area with wild mammals and I do not want to attract any more than of what I have right now. Decisions, decisions...

Panchali Yapa
Panchali Yapa3 years ago

Thank you

Sarah Hill
Sarah Hill3 years ago

thanks. I have a corner of the garden I use.

Vicky Barman
Past Member 3 years ago

there is a procedure of composting using earth worms. benefits are low methane emission and high carbon retention. the output obtained is known as vermi composed. It has been observed that soil consisting vermi composed can hold moisture for a long time. as a result it is possible to cultivate in semi arid terrain with very less water.

ERIKA SOMLAI3 years ago

good article,thank you