Why Composting Is Important & the Benefits of Composting at Home
Instead of tossing all of your garbage into the trash can, consider composting. Composting is a great way to positively impact the environment and minimize the waste you produce. From fruits and vegetable scraps to eggshells to coffee grounds, there are dozens of food items that you’ve been throwing in the trash that can be composted instead.
There are also non-food items, like grass clippings, cardboard, shredded newspaper, and leaves that you can toss into your compost pile, proving composting to be an effective way to reduce your waste and enrich the soil in your yard or garden in one fell swoop. The best part? Composting is simple to set up in your own home to minimize your family’s carbon footprint.
But you might be asking yourself, “Why should we compost?” There are countless reasons to compost, including:
- Boosting soil health
- Helping soil retain more water
- Filtering local water sources
- Improving ocean health by reducing the need for chemical fertilizers
- Reducing greenhouse gas emissions in landfills
- Trapping additional carbon dioxide thanks to microbes in the compost
- Reducing food waste and saving money
All you need to do is dedicate a spot in your yard to create your compost pile or add a compost bin. Look for a dry, shaded spot near a water source—like a hose—and start to collect your compostable materials. Add a bit of water to dry materials, and cover the top of the pile with a tarp or plastic to lock in the moisture. Slowly, your compost pile will begin to break down and create rich fertilizer for your grass and garden..
5 Compostable Items You Can Easily Compost at Home
Composting is simple! When you have organic materials, like food scraps, simply break them down into small pieces and toss them into your compost pile or bin. The smaller the pieces, the faster they’ll break down, helping your compost to decompose more quickly and reduce landfill waste. Just be sure not to add any non-biodegradable or toxic materials into your compost.
For the best results, try to balance the “brown” and “green” things to compost, which will create the healthiest composition. Brown items include things like cardboard, eggshells, and paper, while green items include veggie scraps, grass clippings, and tea leaves. But don’t stop there. There are dozens of items you can compost across a wide range of categories to make a bigger positive impact on the planet.
Yard waste is a natural and organic source of material for your compost pile. While most things in your yard can be composted, there are a few exceptions. Walnuts, for example, have a chemical that’s toxic to plants. Charcoal ash has chemical additives that can be harmful to your compost pile, too, so it’s important to know exactly what can and can’t go into your compost pile before you get started.
Yard waste you can compost:
- Grass clippings
- Dead autumn leaves
- Hay and straw
- Natural wood wash
- Wood chips and sawdust
Yard waste you can’t compost:
- Coal and charcoal ash
- Black walnut tree leaves and twigs
- Grass clippings treated with chemicals
- Diseased or insect-ridden plants
Don’t forget to also keep the “brown” and “green” ratios in mind when it comes to compost waste for the most nutrient-dense results.
When you’re cooking, you probably toss a lot more food waste into the garbage than you realize. Everything from carrot and banana peels to eggshells and coffee grounds can be diverted into your composting to help reduce food waste and make your kitchen habits more sustainable. Certain items still need to go into the garbage to maintain the health of your compost pile.
Food scraps you can compost:
- Coffee grounds and biodegradable filters
- Tea and biodegradable tea bags
Food scraps you can’t compost:
- Fats and oils
- Meat and fish bones and scraps
- Dairy products and whole eggs
- Citrus and onion peels
- Bread and rice
Bones, fat, cooking oils, and dairy products can slow down the composting process, catch the attention of wild animals like rodents and raccoons, and have a very potent odor, making them a risky addition to your compost pile. Onion and citrus peels, on the other hand, are very acidic and will slow the decomposition of your pile. Otherwise, most food products in your kitchen are fair game!
When you think of things to compost, your mind probably goes straight to the kitchen, but bathroom products can also be composted to minimize your carbon footprint even further. Many toiletries come in biodegradable forms, and all of these things will break down quickly in your compost pile.
Toiletries you can compost:
- 100% biodegradable cotton swabs
- Cotton balls
- Hair trimmings
- Toilet paper rolls
- Facial tissues
Toiletries you can’t compost:
- Nonbiodegradable wipes
- Plastic cotton swabs
Some items can be tricky—while there are biodegradable cotton swabs, there are also non-biodegradable versions, so be sure to check the packaging when you’re buying new toiletries to determine whether or not you can compost the waste. Inorganic materials like plastic, aluminum, and metal won’t break down, so they’re not candidates for composting. When it’s time to restock, keep your eyes open for more organic toiletry options so you have even more you can add to your compost pile.
Cardboard, Paper, and Other Office Waste
If you work from home or have a home office, a lot of your garbage probably comes from unwanted office paper products. Instead of mindlessly throwing them in the trash, look at your office waste with a critical eye to determine which things to compost instead.
Office supplies you can compost:
- Sticky notes
- Envelopes without plastic windows or glossy coating
- Junk mail
- Non-glossy or embossed business cards
Office supplies you can’t compost:
- Anything with tape or adhesive
- Nonbiodegradable pencil shavings
Almost all paper products can go right into your compost pile—just be sure to rip it up into small pieces first to help them decompose faster. Just be sure to check for tape, glossy finishes, or any other non-biodegradable finishes that might be hiding. These won’t break down in your pile and can slow the process, so your composting waste isn’t as effective.
Biodegradable Party Supplies & Wrapping Paper
When you’re celebrating special occasions, it can also double as an opportunity to find more things to compost. From wrapping paper to party decor, many party supplies can go right into your compost pile instead of into the garbage.
Party supplies you can compost:
- Biodegradable wrapping paper
- Paper table cloths
- Paper decorations
- 100% latex balloons
- Organic holiday wreaths, garlands, or trees
Party supplies you can’t compost:
- Plastic party supplies (i.e., utensils)
- Plastic ribbon and bows
When sorting your party supplies, just be sure to get rid of any plastic items, like utensils or cups, and ensure that any ribbon, tape, or bows have been removed from wrapping paper scraps. Once you go through everything, it should be ready to go into the compost pile to help boost your supply and minimize your contribution to the landfill.
What to Do With Compost Once It’s Ready
After you’ve started your compost pile at home and it starts to decompose, you might ask yourself, “What do you do with compost?” There are many ways you can use the compost you’ve created to help create richer soil.
Best Compost Uses:
- Potting soil
- Crop bedding
- Lawn fertilizer
- Garden bedding
- Fruit tree soil
The purpose of compost is to help create nutrient-rich soil for plants. From houseplants to tree saplings, your compost will deposit nutrients into the soil to help the plants grow faster and stronger and give you an impressive green thumb.
Start Your Sustainable Journey With At-Home Composting
If you’re trying to make small, sustainable changes to help the environment, composting is an easy, low-cost, and impactful way to make a difference. And there’s no time like the present! The sooner you get started with composting, the sooner you can use your compost to make a positive impact, like reducing food waste and boosting the health of the soil in your lawn or garden.
You’re likely already throwing away things that can be diverted to your compost pile, like coffee grinds to fruit and veggie scraps, so starting your new, sustainable lifestyle should be simple!