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How to compost: Start composting at home with tips from experts

Grab a compost bin and Mother Nature will take care of the rest.
Woman making compost from vegetable leftovers
svetikd / Getty Images

As we approach the end of Earth Month, we're all feeling inspired to change our lifestyles for the better. Maybe you're seeking out eco-friendly beauty products or vowing to use reusable bags instead of paper or plastic. If you want to take your conservation to the next level, though, we recommend composting at home.

The rules for composting seem convoluted to beginners, but it's actually extremely easy to get started. Incorporating this habit into your daily routine just takes food scraps and a receptacle to keep them — along with a little bit of time.

Why is it important to compost?

When food scraps end up in landfills, it eventually transforms into methane gas as it decomposes. When materials are composted and put back into the earth, though, it allows the soil to hold more water, adds essentials nutrients and beneficial bacterias to the ground and can even draw carbon out of the atmosphere. Along with lowering the amount of methane emissions from landfills, composting also lessens the need for chemical fertilizers.

How do I start composting?

First, you'll need a place to compost. We recommend getting a compost bin for all of your scraps. If you live in an area with a backyard, you can also opt to section off a piece of your yard for a compost pile.

Bamboozle Composter

Composts are comprised of two types of materials: a "brown" carbon source and a "green" nitrogen source. Green sources include food scraps, grass and plant trimmings; while brown sources are things like dead leaves, paper and mulch.

"Ultimately, there's no wrong way to compost," says Quinn Metoyer, founder of the Miami Compost Project. Simply place both green and brown materials in your pile and Mother Nature does the rest. If your compost starts to smell or is too moist or dry, add more brown material and make sure to aerate (or turn) your compost every once in a while.

If you don't have the space or time to compost, Metoyer recommends finding resources in your community where you can bring your food scraps. "You can still divert some of your food from the landfill by dropping off your compost at a drop-off site," he says.

What types of food can be composted?

Kate Jaceldo, founder of Compost Queens in San Antonio, Texas, answered this question simply and effectively for us: "Anything that comes from the earth." Think along the lines of plant-based food scraps or paper products like coffee filters and paper towel rolls. For at-home composts, Jaceldo recommends staying away from meat and dairy products because of outside scavengers and pathogens. She also recommends cutting your scraps into small pieces to help it break down faster, since the time it takes for each food item to decompose varies.

"Composting is an art more than a science," says Jaceldo. "Play with what you've got and monitor the process." When you're ready, use your compost in your garden, bury it in your backyard or take it to a nearby community garden.

So, what are you waiting for? Grab a bin and check out our other helpful products below.

Best products to start composting at home

All Seasons Bokashi

Bokashi bran flakes not only ferment food scraps, but they also help speed up the decomposition process. With this natural starter, Jaceldo says you can compost meat and dairy because the fermentation makes these items unappetizing to critters and creatures.

Tumbleweed Compost Aerator

This lightweight tool makes turning and aerating your compost extremely easy, resulting in richer, faster decomposition. The ergonomically designed handle lets you dig deep down into your compost bin or pile, which allows more oxygen to hit every part of your recycled materials.

General Tools Compost Thermometer

Taking the temperature of your compost can help you track the health and decomposition rate of your pile. Higher temperatures cause increased levels of decomposition, however, extremely high temperatures over 160 degrees Fahrenheit obstructs microbial activity. This thermometer can also be used for gardening and other agricultural applications.

Tumbleweed Compost Worm Blanket

Your outdoor compost might attract some organisms — and that's a good thing! Worms are a sign of healthy soil, and in return, they keep your soil healthy. Worm blankets help create a dark, moist and aerated environment for your worms to flourish.

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