Have you heard of composting? If you haven’t, now is the time to learn about it!
Recent data shows that more people are composting every year, which can make a big impact on environmental sustainability. As of 2021, 38% of food in the U.S. is wasted. That means over one-third of produced food is thrown in the trash, contributing to landfill waste and carbon emissions. Composting at home is a great way to help reduce your carbon footprint and contribute to sustainability efforts as an individual.
How Does Composting Work?
Composting is recycling organic scraps for use as fertilizer in soil or plants. Composting limits waste by allowing food scraps to be reused and put back into the environment.
Through composting, you can reuse your food scraps as nutrients for plants, rather than throwing them away. Think about peels, shells, and other parts of food that you wouldn’t eat. If you’re wondering what to compost, anything from leaves, to coffee grounds, to tea bags can be composted. In terms of what not to compost, it’s important not to compost any plastic, styrofoam, or cooked food.
Composting contributes to soil health, which in turn helps to support habitats and reduce the need for chemical fertilizers. Composting is a great example of the connection between food, the environment, and your household or community.
How to Start Composting at Home
Many common household items that you may consider waste can actually be composted. Repurposing what you can compost from your everyday actions is an easy way to practice sustainability in your home.
The composting process starts by determining what you can compost. Try making a list of ideas for what you can compost from your home. If you have kids, include them in this activity!
Once you have an idea of what to compost, it’s time to start collecting. You can store compost in a mason jar, bag, or bin (consider using an empty garbage can), depending on the volume of compost that you have.
Now that you’ve started collecting compost, you’ll need a place to put it, where the nutrients from your scraps can go back into the earth.
Your Compost Pile
A compost pile is your storage of scraps and is made up of browns and greens. Brown compost is the carbon source- they are items that are brown or will turn brown. Browns include items like leaves or twigs. Green compost is the nitrogen source and includes items that are green or come from green plants. Some examples of greens are food scraps and grass clippings.
Compost piles could be in your own home garden, a friend’s garden, or a community garden. If you’re building your own compost pile, you want to make sure you layer browns and greens. Browns tend to be dry components of a compost pile, while greens tend to be wet components. Start with browns to lay a good foundation for your pile, then layer, alternating between greens and browns. It’s recommended that you add browns on top to avoid emitting odor or attracting pests. It’s important to organize compost in this way to ensure the nutrients from your compost can soak back into the soil.
You always want more browns than greens to balance out the wet components with the dry components. A 4:1 brown to greens ratio is a good place to start.
If you don’t have access to a garden for starting your own compost pile, another option is to take your food scraps to a dropoff site in your community. Organizations, grocery stores, and community foundations may have programs where you can take your scraps for composting. Try searching ‘compost near me’ and find out what options are available in your neighborhood.
Teaching Kids to Reuse, Reduce, and Recycle
Composting in your household is a fantastic way to engage kids in reusing and recycling to support the planet. Small steps like composting at home can make a big impact on the environment. Exploring how to make compost work for your household is an excellent learning opportunity for kids and parents alike.
Midwest Food Connection teaches food education in classrooms across the Twin Cities and beyond. We help students build relationships with their food, and understand how their food choices connect to their environment and community. Through exploring new foods, healthy cooking, and gardening, kids get excited about learning how to nurture their bodies and the environment.