How to Start a Compost Bin at Home
If you’re wondering how to start a compost bin, then you’re in luck! Composting is easy, effective, and has many wonderful benefits on the environment. I started composting my food scraps when I realized that any food entering a landfill causes methane, a harmful greenhouse gas, to release into the air.
This was definitely news to me since I never studied environmental science and only ever heard of cows releasing methane. It was not until later that I also took into account the amount of food waste I generated and could recycle back into the ground.
1 bucket and a pile of food scraps later and I had started my own compost bin at home!
Food Waste and How Composting Can Minimize It
Before we delve into the details of composting, let’s talk about food waste and why it is so important to minimize it.
Approximately 1/3 of all food produced in the world is wasted, which is equivalent to roughly $680 billion lost in developed countries.
This also contributes to the loss of resources such as water, land, energy, and labor.
America throws out 38 billion tons of food every single year, which is mind-blowing if you actually think about it. According to author Jonathan Bloom, that’s like filling up an entire college football stadium with food waste every. single. day. Eeek!
Although these statistics are harrowing, there are things we can do to minimize it and luckily, more and more people are becoming aware of the effects of food waste.
Of course, we should do our part to lessen food waste through things like only buying what we need, making sure to eat leftovers, etc. But, we can’t always avoid food waste. For instance, inedible parts of food like egg shells, banana peels, and bones cannot be consumed and must be thrown out.
Luckily, composting exists! Not only does this reduce food waste and conserve our resources, but it also keeps food out of landfills, which, when buried, releases methane, which is 25x more powerful than CO2 and contributes to our global warming crisis.
When I learned this, I immediately started a home compost bin.
Basics of Composting
Luckily, composting is fairly easy to do. Composting is the act of gathering food and yard waste in a bin or other form of enclosure and letting it decompose until it forms nutrient-rich soil.
It’s important to know the three basic ingredients of a compost pile:
- Green waste- This includes food waste such as vegetable and fruit scraps, coffee grounds, etc.
- Brown waste- This includes yard waste such as leaves, twigs, grass clippings, etc.
- Water- Any good compost pile must have some water in it to break down the organic matter, but luckily most fruits and vegetables already contain water, so you don’t need to add any.
*Always check with your local composting facility to determine if certain food waste is unacceptable to compost.
Benefits of Composting
- Recycles food waste into soil for growing more food
- Reduces methane emissions from landfill, lowering your carbon footprint
- Creates nutrient-rich soil through beneficial bacteria
- Helps soil retain water, reducing plant diseases and pests
How to Compost at Home
There are a couple different ways that you can start composting.
Method 1: Backyard Composting
The first way is called backyard composting. This is a great option if you want to create your own nutrient-rich soil and use it for your backyard plants or garden.
In fact, this is how my dad got interested in composting. He started a little tomato garden in his backyard and wanted to add his own soil. For Father’s Day, I bought him a large stand-up compost bin that spins and mixes the materials.
He immediately set it up and started adding his food waste to it. However, it took him a little while before he realized he also needed to add some yard waste for it to work.
Although this is a great option if you want to give your plants some nutritious soil, it can take anywhere from three months to a year for the finished product, depending on the conditions.
This is why I prefer the second method- indoor composting!
Method 2: Indoor Composting
This is a good option for anyone who either doesn’t have space in their backyard for a compost pile or just wants to divert their food waste from entering a landfill (like me).
I simply put a small bucket in a lower cupboard of my kitchen and add my food scraps to it as I go. Then, about every 3 days, I dump the contents of the bin into my green outdoor bin.
But make sure there is some yard waste at the bottom of the bin in order to prevent the food from getting the bottom all grimy.
A lot of people think that they need to put a lid on their compost bin to prevent a bad smell, but that actually makes the smell worse.
Either skip the lid entirely, or get a compost bin with a lid that has aeration holes at the top like this one:This stainless steel kitchen bin is a great option for a kitchen because it has a nice sleek look to it and the lid hides the yucky food scraps while keeping away the smell.
Since I live alone, I usually wait a few days before I need to empty it. However, I did let my bucket fill up to the top one time and I ended up attracting a whole swarm of fruit flies in my kitchen!
They were gone pretty quickly once I emptied the bin, but it was definitely not a pleasant experience. Now, I make sure to empty it at least 1-2 times a week, but you may need to empty your bin more frequently, depending on your household size and the amount of food waste you generate.
Also, most compost facilities accept paper, so you can line your bin with newspaper or a paper bag to keep it nice and clean!
Whichever way you choose, composting can be incorporated very easily into your day-to-day activities.
Personally, I don’t even think twice about it. It is as much a part of my day as throwing anything else away. Except now, I know that instead of being sent to the landfill and polluting our environment, it’s creating a pile of nutritious gold that will be fed back to our earth.