Composting Basics

Have you ever heard of composting before? Chances are you have, but do you know what it is, and how to do it? If not, let’s answer those questions.

What is composting? 

According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), “compost is organic material that can be added to soil to help plants grow.” Composting is simply the process of said organic material into compost, and then adding it to soil. The process is simple enough that it can be done at home or on a larger scale at a composting plant.

This is what compost usually looks like! Source: Colorado State University

Why should you compost? 

Composting has numerous benefits. The organic waste that turns into compost releases lots of methane, an extremely potent greenhouse gas, as it breaks down in landfills. By instead adding it to soil, the methane is put to good use, instead of helping to heat up the planet. 

Compost also betters the soil. It enriches it, providing it with several beneficial nutrients, and keeps it healthy by helping it to ward off harmful diseases and pests. Additionally, compost promotes the production of instrumental bacteria that creates a rich, nutrient-filled material called humus. Because of this, compost reduces the need for chemical fertilizers, which, in the moment, are helpful for plants’ growth, but harm them (and the environment) over the long run. 

What should or shouldn’t be composted?

Compost consists of three main categories: browns, greens, and water. The names are pretty self-explanatory; browns are materials like twigs, branches, and leaf litter, greens are materials like coffee grounds, grass, and fruit/vegetable waste, and water is water. Having an equal balance of browns and greens is essential for creating good compost.

Things that can be composted include:

  • Grass clippings / yard trimmings / houseplants
  • Fruits and vegetables
  • Coffee grounds / filters
  • Cardboard
  • Paper products
  • Leaves 
  • Wood chips / sawdust
  • Hair or fur
  • Straw / hay
Some examples of what can be composted. Source: NRDC

However, you cannot include the following, among others in compost:

  • Yard clippings that have been treated with chemical pesticides as they can harm or even kill beneficial organisms
  • Dairy products, meat / fish bones (scraps), and lard / fats / grease as they attract pests and emit foul odors
  • Pet wastes as they can contain pathogens, bacteria, viruses, and/or germs that are detrimental to humans
  • Insect-ridden or diseased plants as the diseases / pests may still be alive and harm the plants you add the compost to

To learn how to compost at home, check out this handy procedure created by the EPA.

Those were the basics of composting! Hopefully you’ve learned a thing or two about this environmentally-friendly process. While it can be labor-intensive for some, it’s a great way to repurpose your scraps to benefit the plants that provide us with oxygen.

Content Sources:

  1. https://www.compostingcouncil.org/page/ClimateChangeBenefits
  2. https://www.epa.gov/recycle/composting-home

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