the dirt on composting


(photo by the amazing Irving Penn)

Composting is awesome.  It takes off-cast scraps which would normally be trash and turns them into a treasure: fertile, rich humus which then in turn nourishes the growth of new life.  To reduce your waste, composting is a must.  For our family, a HUGE portion of what was in our trash can was fruit and vegetable scraps.  I feel like there’s all this mystery surrounding composting, though.  It’s often regarded as gross, smelly, bug-attracting, and only available to people with a backyard.  Really, most ANYONE can compost and there are so many different ways.

  1.  Check and see if your city offers a compost service (a green waste bin that’s serviced curbside along your trash and recycling).  This is what my city (Davis, CA) offers.  If not, they may still offer a free home composting system or educational materials like how to classes, pamphlets, or someone who can guide you in your endeavor.  It’s in your city’s best interest to reduce waste!  Call or visit the website of your city office and get the details.
  2. If no luck, do a quick google search to find out if there is a place you can drop off food scraps in your city.  Sometimes farmers markets will have a weekly collection site, or a nursery or farm may accept compost.  Call around and ask!  I’ve even seen compost bins at Whole Foods and Costco.  You can also put an ad up on your local Freecycle or Craigslist site asking if someone in your area who already composts would be willing to let you drop your food scraps with them.  If you find a drop off location, simply save your scraps in a big bowl or paper bag in the freezer until its full!  No smell or mess at all.  If you live in Sacramento you can drop off at the Plant Foundry which gets picked up by Oak Park Soil.
  3. If 1 and 2 don’t work for you, don’t worry.  You can still compost!  If you have any outside space, look into building a bin like this or this (both very easy and inexpensive), or you can buy a premade kind (check at Costco, a local nursery, Home Depot- they’re pretty common).  If you don’t have any outside space, try a worm bin under your sink!  Here’s a how-to for vermi-composting.

Here’s a quick how-to  for composting if you’re doing it at home- what’s compostable and what’s not plus a few tips.


fruit and veggie scraps (peels, rotten veg, odds and ends)


tea leaves, coffee grounds, and paper tea bags

nut shells

sawdust, wood chips, fireplace ashes

dryer lint, hair, pet hair, vacuum lint, dust from sweeping floor

cotton/natural fiber rags

dead plant materials (yard trimmings, lawn clippings, leaves, dead flowers)

paper products (cardboard, paper, newspaper, soiled food paper like pizza boxes)


meat + dairy : attract rodents, harmful bacteria, odor problems.  If you have a city compost pickup they may accept it (mine does) but don’t put this in your home compost.

pet waste

fat, grease, lard or oils

When you add scraps to your compost, cut them up small.  More surface area = faster decomposition.  For optimal digestion for your compost, add in an equal amount of “browns”- paper, dead leaves, dry lawn clippings, etc for your “greens”- fruit and veggie scraps- layer the browns and greens like a lasagna.  Turn your compost every week to mix well and cover it when it rains.  If it’s really hot, spray it a little with your hose.  Things should be slightly moist and not stinky.  You can add a sprinkle of soil after each addition to your pile if you want too.  Here’s a more in depth guide for composting at home: Composting and this one too.

I hope you guys give composting a try!  It is really rewarding to turn trash into treasure.  Have a wonderful weekend xx

2 thoughts on “the dirt on composting

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