Composting is a sacred act. Especially to those in the zero-waste community. Composters who consistently, deliberately, and thoughtfully tend to the transformation of waste into life-giving garden nutrients are among the biggest rock stars of the green movement. For without the cycle of decay life on this planet could not exist, and it is truly one of the best and most sustainable ways to keep your gardens at home thriving season after season.
Now you may be thinking, we’re just discussing rot here, right? We are. But composting is far more than just free fertilizer for the garden. It’s a vital and necessary sustainability strategy for reducing waste, closing the nutrient cycle, and preventing air pollution that causes climate change.
Composting can remove well over half of your household waste stream while reducing the burden on landfills. Composting can also provide homeowners with a cost-effective means of replenishing your lawn, trees, houseplants, or garden.
Still, there is an even more compelling reason we should all be composting. When organic matter like food waste goes to landfills, it ends up decomposing anaerobically—or without oxygen. This process creates methane, a greenhouse gas 20-35 times more potent than carbon dioxide, the chemical responsible for global warming. Which contrary to what many politicians will tell you is a very real problem facing our planet’s future, as landfills in the United States third-largest source of compiled methane emissions, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.
Compost can also help households deal with the food waste epidemic.
When we scrape off our dishes after a large meal, we rarely pause and think about the significance of our action. It seems routine to us: if we have leftover food scraps, shouldn’t they be thrown in the garbage? Our routine practices, unfortunately, make it difficult for us to conceptualize the magnitude of global food waste. The problem is bigger than we think.
According to a recent report by UNEP and the World Resources Institute (WRI), about one-third of all food produced in this country annually, with an estimated worth of $1 trillion dollars, gets wasted in America each year. That’s about 1:4 calories intended for consumption is never actually eaten and ends up in the trash. Which means that in a world full of hunger, ever growing food prices, and social unrest much should be done to curb food waste in this nation.these statistics are more than environmentally, morally, and economically egregious considering that
These statistics are all the more than environmentally, morally, and economically egregious considering roughly 40% of all food processed each day in America will end up in landfills. In a nation where 42.2 million Americans live in food insecure households, including 29.1 million adults, 1:6 veterans and elderly persons, and 13.1 million children. A staggering 13% percent of all US households.
So what can be done about food waste at home? Plenty! Buy only the foods you will consume and regularly enjoy. Reconsider your buying habits. Implement meal planning to determine how you will use up foods that are purchased. And for food that is set to expire at home, donate all nonperishable food products to food pantries. Composting should be a rational habit of disposing of organic food scraps and not a compulsory purging effort. The bottom line is this- Food does not belong in landfills.
It also goes without saying that there is no more powerful ingredient to soil health than compost. Whether you till it into your garden beds or use it as mulch around shrubs and trees, it is considered essential to organic and sustainable food production each season. Once it’s in the soil, finished compost—or garden humus—increases plant fertility, adds both micronutrients and macronutrients, buffers pH levels in zones prone to excess acidity, helps prevents many plant diseases, breaks down soil toxins, and improves soil structure. It’s like a booster shot to the soil.
Even for those without a garden, composting should still be a necessary household practice. It’s just as simple to compost your scraps as to walk them out to the trash. Many communities even offer neighborhood recitals or weekly curbside collections bins for your organic household waste. Waste which can be used to enrich local farms and co-ops that risk soil overuse the nation over. While this may seem daunting to start, composting will become second nature in no time flat!
Here a few tips to help get you started composting today:
1) A compost pile can be as easy as starting to rot a heap of veggie scraps, dead leaves, and grass clippings in the far corner of your yard, but most people, like myself, seek to contain their compost in a neat-looking compost bin.
2) In order to maintain my zero-waste kitchen, I keep a stack of compost bowls ready to collect scraps. A quick tip- to reduce the risk of fruit flies being attracted to your compost bowl, simply place your bowl in your freezer or deep freeze until ready to dump in your compost bin!
3) Let’s also consider your compost bin itself. There are many different kinds of compost bins to fit every living situation: simple pallet bins, tumblers, towers for urban yards, and even worm composters that fit in the space under your kitchen sink. To start composting, just be sure to select the bin style that works for you, and if it is an outdoor model, install it away from your house.
3) In my own home, we use bins constructed of already on hand hinges and free heat-treated pallet wood. Each bin took my husband under a half hour to construct. We also found that as bins fill up, the thermal energy they expel can cause the contents to expand. To remedy this, we added chicken wire around each box, as needed.
4) Compost is truly a work of nature in progress and is highly dependent on balance. An efficient compost pile is a careful balance of dry, brown things that contain carbon (like leaves, dried grass, straw, or shredded paper) and wet, green things that contain nitrogen (like fruit scraps or veggie peelings). So, for example, if you add a lot of shredded leaves or cardboard to the pile, you will need to balance and mix it with a nice heap of fresh grass clippings so things don’t get too dry, or vice versa.
5) You will also want to shred or chop your compostable items before you put them into the pile, as smaller items rot quicker than larger pieces. Slow-to-compost items like tree branches, nut shells, and hair can be added to the back of your compost pile to ensure you’re keeping your faster compost pile closer to the garden. Compost also requires weekly turning and aerating, moisture added as needed to maintain proper moisture, and items such as fish, meat or lipids, substances that create strong smells and attract critters from miles around to your yard, should be avoided.
A good rule of thumb when it comes to composting: When in doubt, leave it out.
7) So for those I still have with me on this composting thing, I also wanted to equip you with a starter list of 101 common household items that can be composted. Keeping in mind, the following list is simply a starter series and is meant to get you pondering over what can be composted daily and weekly from your home. To imagine how little you actually need to throw out each week at home!
101 Things You Should Be Composting At Home:
- Fruit and vegetable scraps
- Crushed Eggshells
- Coffee grounds
- Coffee filters
- Shredded Tea bags (non-rayon bags with staples removed and recycled)
- Loose leaf tea
- Outdated Nut Milk (soy, rice, cashew, almond, and coconut)
- Used paper napkins and paper towels
- Unwaxed cardboard pizza boxes
- Shredded Brown Paper bags
- Counter crumbs
- Dry and Cooked pasta
- Cooked rice
- Stale bread, pitas, naan, or baguettes
- Stale tortilla chips, pretzels, and potato chips
- Pasta sauce or tomato paste
- Crumbs from the bottom of snack bags
- Paper towel rolls
- Stale crackers
- Stale cereal
- Shredded Cardboard boxes from cereal, pasta, etc. (Remove any plastic windows)
- Non-Waxy used paper plates
- Nut and nut shells (except for walnut shells)
- Spoiled tofu and tempeh
- Seaweed, kelp or nori
- Unpopped and burnt popcorn kernels
- Old herbs and spices
- Stale candy
- Stale protein and energy bars
- Pizza crusts
- Old oatmeal
- Hair from the shower drain
- Shredded Cardboard egg cartons
- Stale pumpkin, sunflower or sesame seeds
- Avocado pits
- Wine corks
- Moldy cheese (in moderation, placed deep in center of pile)
- Melted ice cream (same as cheese, see above)
- Old jelly, jam, or preserves
- Stale beer and wine
- Bamboo skewers
- Paper cupcake or muffin liners (without foil)
- Used kleenex
- Hair from your hairbrush
- Trimmings from an electric razor
- Toilet paper rolls
- Old loofahs (organic only)
- Nail clippings
- 100% latex or lambskin condoms
- 100% cotton balls
- Non-Plastic Core Cotton swabs
- 100% cotton tampons and sanitary pads
- Cardboard tampon applicators
- Menstrual blood
- Soaked in water Dryer lint
- Old cotton linen, silk, or wool clothing
- Cotton crafting scraps
- Cotton scrunchis
- Old cotton towels and sheets (shredded)
- Shredded bills
- Envelopes (without the plastic window)
- Pencil shavings
- Sticky notes
- Non-Glossy business cards
- Used planner and agenda pages
- “Dust bunnies”
- Contents of your dustpan
- Crumbs from under your couch cushions
- Shredded, wet Newspapers
- Shredded, Non-Glossy Junk mail
- Burlap sacks
- Paper coffee filters
- Old rope, yarn, and twine
- Houseplant trimmings
- Dead bulb tops
- Flowers from floral arrangements
- Used matches
- Ashes from the fireplace, barbecue grill, or outdoor fire pits (in moderation)
- Grass clippings
- Autumn leaves
- Paper Party and Holiday Supplies
- Shredded Wrapping paper rolls
- Paper table cloths
- Crepe paper streamers
- Latex balloons
- Jack O’lanterns
- Decorative fall hay bundles
- Evergreen holiday wreaths, trees, and garland
- Dirt from your vacuum
- Fur from the dog or cat
- Droppings and bedding from your rabbit, gerbil, hamster, etc.
- Newspaper from the bottom of the bird cage
- Bird Feathers
- Alfalfa hay or pellets
- Dry dog, cat food, and fish pellets
So, everyone, that’s my list of the 101 household items you should be composting daily. I hope this list will inspire you to start composting this summer season. Even if composting isn’t your cup of tea, I encourage you all to re-think your food waste at home. So friends, now I have to ask, do you compost at home? If so, I’d love to hear your best tips below!
Here’s to reducing food waste at home,