A Novice Navigates Backyard Composting : Just do it!

You’ve heard of composting. But maybe you are wondering why it’s such a big deal?  Why waste your time composting, when food is biodegradable? Shouldn’t we be worrying about plastic and recycling?  Well, the answer is yes, and actually we need to be worrying about all of it, but for now, let’s talk about composting.

So Why Compost?

Isn’t food biodegradable?  If that is what you are thinking you are not unlike many people.  I myself, thought this too and shamelessly put my food waste in the garbage without guilt or even a second thought. So, here is the problem with just putting your food scraps straight into the garbage.  Food waste creates a LOT of pollution. WHAT? Yep, it’s true. According to Forbes, “When food is disposed in a landfill it rots and becomes a significant source of methane – a potent greenhouse gas with 21 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide.”  That’s right. So, although food IS technically biodegradable if not broken down in the proper conditions, it’s just as terrible as driving a car or flying in a plane. 

I’m convinced. So, how do I get started on this compost thing?   My advice?  Just start.  

I am by no means an expert on composting.  I recently heard the statistics on the effects of food waste and was astonished so, I decided to go for it and just get started.  There is certainly no harm in attempting to compost. 

So, let me begin by saying it’s important for you to check with your local city/municipality to find out what the regulations are and what might already be available to help you in your composting journey.

Just follow these 8 easy steps to start your composting journey.

  1. Try to Cut Down on Your Food Scraps in the First Place.

Check out our blog post “Food Waste Recipes” and “Zero Waste Food” for recipes about using food scraps for delicious, kid friendly meals. Make sure to plan ahead and only buy what you will need at the grocery store.  Make a detailed list based on what you will eat for the week. Make it a family goal to use everything in the refrigerator and let nothing go to waste.

Picture by  Patricia @at.my.table www.at-my-table.com

2.Check Out What Your Local City or Municipality’s Rules are About Composting. 

They may provide a composting bin for you next to your trash can. Some places don’t allow composting from your balcony while in some places there are no rules at all. Luckily, where I live, there aren’t too many rules so I can do what I want as far as composting goes!

3. What Can be Composted?

*Any fruit or vegetable scraps 

*Paper -printer or black and white newspaper

*Coffee grounds

*Nut shells

*egg shells

A couple of weeks worth of coffee grounds kept in empty yogurt containers

4. Saving Your Scraps

Do this NOW.  Even if you don’t have the actual compost bin ready, you can store your scraps, get into the habit and do all of the teaching/yelling at whoever is in your house.  Once your scrap container gets full, just pop it in the freezer until you have your compost bin. Don’t leave it in there too long though or people (like my husband) will get annoyed with you that you are taking up all of the space in the freezer. This part takes some time and some training.  Depending on who lives in your house, you’ll have to make sure everyone is on board or at least understands what you are doing. It might be handy to create a list of what can be composted and leave it on the refrigerator. Scraps can be kept in anything with a lid. The number one rule of zero waste is to use what you have.  I used old yogurt containers that I keep on the counter near the stove.

5. Get Something to Store and Build the Compost in.

For me, this meant a free garbage with holes drilled in it that I stumbled upon at a nearby bulk store that I shop at.  No free trash cans for you? Find a large, old plastic tupperware with a lid. Be sure to check your local buy and sell website before buying new. Once you have your container make sure to drill holes in the sides.  This allows for air to flow through which is super important and one of those reasons that you CAN’T just throw your food scraps in landfill. 

Our compost bin. I picked this up for free at the Hive Bulk Store in Kuala Lumpur.

6. Decide Where it Should Go.

An ideal location is in a garden or a spot that can get dirty.  Deciding where to put the compost really depends on where you live. This part was a little tricky for us because we live in a condo on the bottom floor, so we have a backyard but it’s turf.  Weird I know. We decided to put our compost under an awning on cement because it didn’t make sense to put it on the turf and we don’t have any regular grass. So, find a place that works best for you. We put another little plastic tupperware under it to collect the soil that came out of the little holes.

7. Layer Your Compost

Start your compost by first layering it with “brown material”.  This can mean dried yard trimmings, leaves, newspaper strips, soil or even coffee grounds.  The next layer can be your food scraps. It’s best to keep a container nearby with “brown material” to make layering easy. In our family, we drink a LOT of coffee so, I always use coffee grounds as our “brown material”. 

I always make my 2 year old part of the process. He now has all of the language to talk about composting.

8. Stir & Sprinkle with Water

Each time you add composting material make sure to also add brown material.  Stir after you add to your composting materials. I use a giant stick to do this.  Also, depending on where you live you may have to sprinkle a cup or so of water over the top. Since I am in a very humid, wet place, I never add water.

In a few months time you will have beautiful, rich, healthy soil.  Use it to enhance your flower beds, plant something new or share it with friends! Good luck and just do it! Be sure to get your children involved too because in the end they do what we do as we explore in “Equipping Our Eco Babies”.

What advice do you have for me about composting?  What has worked for you? What should I be sure NOT to do? Let me know if you gave this a try and how it worked out.

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2 thoughts on “A Novice Navigates Backyard Composting : Just do it!”

  1. We only have small balconies and not really enough space to do a proper compost. We compromise by cutting up our fruit and veggies scraps into smaller pieces and putting them directly onto the soil of our plants. We haven’t bought a potting mix since doing that and it seems to be working well.

    1. Yes! This is a great solution that I am just learning about! Unfortunately, we don’t have a ton of dirt/garden space and I would be worried that my 2 year old would dig up the food! He’s in such a curious stage. Thank you for sharing!

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