Composting 101: the basics

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inside of a compost bin

What is composting?

Think of composting as simply completing the natural cycle of our food through decomposition. It means recycling your kitchen waste and lawn trimmings and turning them into a valuable resource for personal use.

Composting may be one of the most wonderful life cycles you can be a part of. That may sound kind of funny to some people. Let’s think about it with the example of a banana. Usually, when I eat a banana, I probably won’t eat the peel. That’s just personal preference. After I’m done, I always throw my banana peels and most other food waste into my compost pile. This is where it will break down into a beautiful, rich soil additive that will help me grow more food for my kitchen.

food scraps for composting

Is soil the end result of compost? Not quite.

It’s a really common misconception that I was guilty of too a couple of years ago, so no shame. It is actually a soil conditioner that enriches the soil to grow hardier and healthier plants. The benefits of composting certainly don’t stop there, but I’ll talk more about that in another blog.

The worker “bees” running the show during the decomposition process are the bacteria and fungi. All they need to thrive is air, water, and your food waste to perform excellently.

compost is fertilizer

Why does my compost pile smell?

Sometimes I hear that compost piles smell really bad; it is most likely the result of not enough air circulating throughout the waste material. Without air, the material will still break down, but it will be done by anaerobic microbes (organisms that do not need oxygen) as opposed to aerobic (ones that need oxygen).

So, if you do have an unpleasant smell coming from your compost bin or pile you can rotate the material to let in more air or add a substance to create more room for the air to circulate. Wood chips or hay are good for this.

compost bin and pile

Now that you know a little bit about what’s going on inside a compost pile, it’s important to know that a lot of this nitty-gritty science stuff is not necessary to have a healthy compost pile. Some people just find it interesting. So dig into it as deep as your little earth-loving heart desires.

Composting is really so much fun with many creative decisions! Decide what type of container and style suits your project, find out what to put into your compost bin, and decide the location of your bin.

Composting is phenomenal for the environment, your personal garden, and even reduces your carbon footprint. But unfortunately, the vast majority of our population just throws compostable food waste into black bins bound for the landfill where it contributes to methane gas emissions. Eliminate the amount of waste you throw away by utilizing tried and true composting methods.

Interested in being more sustainable in general? Check out our feature in Redfin’s 11 Ways to Start Living Sustainably at Home.

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