What is Composting and How Can You Do It?

Sabrina Lopez
October 29, 2019
3 min read

In today's ever-warming world, the more we can do to reduce our carbon footprint, the better. Whether carpooling to work in the morning, eliminating single-use plastics from your daily routine, or installing solar in your home, we can do many easy things to contribute to a healthier planet. 

One of the easier ways to start helping Mother Earth is by taking up composting. Composting is a great way to cut down on food waste and greenhouse emissions attributed to food in landfills. Although it is a great way to start greening your life, composting might seem like a daunting task that only experienced gardeners know how to do correctly. But contrary to this belief, the basics of composting are pretty easy. To help you get started, here's a quick list of the most important things you'll need to know to start your own compost project. 


What is composting?

To begin, let's go over what compost is. Compost is decayed organic matter, whether a leaf or an eggshell. When you combine many of these organic items in a compost pile, they naturally break down to create a nutrient-rich fertilizer that helps gardens grow. Composting is the act of compiling organic matter and letting it break down through the grand biology of Mother Earth. 

Composting has many environmental benefits. It helps to reduce food waste, and the methane emissions that result from food rotting in landfills—and methane is a significant contributor to climate change. Since compost is a fertilizer, using it for gardening reduces the need for chemical options, which can harm water supplies. When added to garden soil, compost will help in carbon sequestration, acting as a kind of "carbon sink," trapping and containing it in the dirt.


What can be composted?

A good general rule of thumb for what's compostable is things that come from the ground. This encompasses everything from apple cores, carrot peels, avocado pits, cucumber ends, and even your leftover pumpkin from Halloween. Most vegetables, fruit scraps, and grains from the ground are safe to add to your compost. This includes stale bread, cereals, and pasta, all of which can be added to your compost pile. Flowers and plant trimmings can be added, too, as long as they aren't diseased. 

A few outliers to the "from the ground" rule are coffee grounds and filters, tea leaves, herbs, spices, nuts, and eggs, all of which are safe to add to your compost pile. When in doubt, you can look online for a wide variety of items that can and cannot be used for your composting goals. We always recommend double-checking if you need clarification so you don't contaminate your heap.

Things that you should avoid adding to your compost are mainly animal byproducts. Meat, fish, butter, yogurt, cheese, milk, or animal fat are bad for composting. An easy way to remember this is by keeping anything oily and greasy out of your pile.


How you can start composting

Composting is pretty easy, but your methodology may vary depending on where you live. If you live in a home, you can choose to compost in an outdoor or contained space inside your house. For outside composting, you'll first want to designate an area where your food scraps will be piled or use a tub to contain your heap. While building your pile, you'll want to keep a good mixture of "green" material, like fruit and vegetable scraps, and "brown" material, such as sawdust and plant trimmings.

Starting every other week, you'll want to turn your compost over with a shovel to let it aerate and add water to keep it moist. The biggest con to outside composting is the risk of animals getting into it, so keep an eye out for any critters rummaging around your heap. Besides that, you need to let Mother Nature do her work! It can take months for your pile to turn into soil, but you should notice a change after a few weeks.

For inside composting, most popular with people living in apartments, choose a glass container to get started. You'll do the same material-adding step, maintaining a healthy mix of green and brown material added. In about 2-5 weeks, your compost should be usable as fertilizer—a great treat for any of your indoor plants!


Composting is a great and relatively easy way to contribute to a more sustainable future. If you're looking for other ways to reduce your carbon footprint, we invite you to download our free solar "Is Solar Right for You?" You'll learn the factors that make a solar purchase decision in it.