indoor composting bin showing food scraps and soil

Composting is something that everyone can do, even if you live in an apartment. Every compost arrangement will look different based on where you live and how much waste you have to process, but all can be good for the planet (and your garden).


Why composting is important

Composting is all about assisting in the natural decomposition of your kitchen and yard scraps to create a rich garden fertilizer. It’s good for the planet and your garden. Food and yard waste take up a quarter of municipal landfills, where they release the harmful and very strong greenhouse gas methane.

Instead, these organic materials can be turned into compost to feed soil microorganisms that boost our crop health and sequester carbon. Using compost as a fertilizer also offsets the climate impacts associated with the production and transportation of store-bought fertilizers.


Types of composters

If you live in an urban area or lack outdoor space, vermicomposting (worm composting) might be the best solution, because it can be done in a small space and even indoors in five- or ten-gallon buckets. Compost can be put on indoor plants or shared with anyone who has a yard.

If you have more outside space, multi-tiered composters and tumbling barrel composters are good low-maintenance options that are pest resistant, but they can be costly.

Piles and holding bins are also good options for those with outdoor space. An open compost pile is free, but takes a lot of strength to turn regularly by hand, requires a lot of organic material, and is the slowest to decompose. A holding bin can be made out of repurposed materials, making it an affordable option that’s more contained if you think your neighbors wouldn’t appreciate an open pile.

If you want to redirect your organic wastes but don’t want to compost yourself, chances are there’s a local or even municipal compost service that will take your food and kitchen scraps. This is often fee based. Consider reaching out to local farms and gardens to see if they want this material for their own composts.


How and what to compost

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by all the information out there about composting. Composting is like your gardening journey: start simple and adopt more advanced techniques as you feel ready.

  • Start in the spring or summer, as warm temperatures help decomposition.
  • Aim for a roughly 50/50 mixture of “brown” and “green” organic waste in your compost to yield ideal results. “Green” waste is moist, organic waste like fruit and vegetable peels. “Brown” waste is dry, papery waste like dried grass clippings or twigs (make sure the yard waste wasn’t treated with chemical pesticides or fertilizers).
  • Keep your compost moist, like a wrung-out sponge. Water it and add more green materials if it feels dry. Add more brown waste if it feels too wet (or smelly).
  • Turn your compost to speed up the process and give the bacterial air to do their job.
  • Keep a small container for food scraps in your kitchen (in the freezer if you’re worried about odors). This will eliminate trips outside to toss scraps into the compost after every meal.
  • Do not compost pest waste, meat, or dairy. Also avoid weed seeds.
  • Do compost unbleached coffee filters, paper, cardboard, straw, fresh or dry grass clippings, twigs, leaves, wood chips, fruit and veggie scraps, eggshells, coffee grounds, and tea bags.