Composting is good for the planet, but did you know it can also be good for the soul? Check out 15 reasons why you might enjoy composting at home that have nothing to do with the environment.
Composting is great for the planet for a slew of reasons, not the least of which include soil health, waste reduction, and regeneration. But there are lots of reasons I enjoy composting that have nothing to do with the planet. Maybe some of these will resonate with you too and might encourage you to give composting a shot for your own benefit (and not just for the good of the planet).
Turning a compost pile builds muscles
I’m not a huge fan of working out. I don’t hate it, but I don’t really love it. I’d much rather incorporate movement and wellness into my everyday activities. Turning a compost bin builds my muscles and is a bit of a workout built into my everyday habits.
Tending to the compost gets you outside
Even when the weather isn’t great, it always feels good after being outside. I won’t melt in the rain. Crisp winter air is refreshing in small doses. And even a little summer sweat is good for me. Turning the compost bin gives me a reason to get outside every few days or maybe once a week despite the weather.
Composting is a reminder that everything has value, even if you think it’s waste
Watching crummy food scraps transform into lush compost that feeds the soil is a constant reminder that everything has value even when we might think it’s just waste. This lesson applies to food, waste, single-use items, so many material possessions, and even people in our lives. Nothing and nobody is worthless when we find the value and what they bring to the world.
Compost smells good (for real)
Rotting food in your trash does not smell good. But when food waste combines with the right elements, like carbon, water, and oxygen, they produce a sweet, earthy aroma that actually smells quite good. If you don’t believe me, I challenge you to turn a compost pile or two and tell me it’s not true.
It’s a great way to connect with nature
I’ve learned a good bit about nature as a result of composting at home. Through observation of the compost piles through different seasons and weather and when mixing various combinations of organic matter, I’ve seen how organic matter reacts together in different conditions.
Also, because composting takes me outside without distraction or conversation, I’ve learned the sounds of squirrels cracking nuts on tree branches and the sounds of their claws scampering up tree trunks or the rustling of leaves as they jump from branch to branch. I’ve heard a variety of different calls and songs from birds. I’ve seen woodpeckers pecking away at trees in our yards, birds that for so long I heard without ever seeing.
Wildlife scurries away when I first enter the garden, but quiet toiling in the compost piles gives them a chance to return while I’m still around. I have learned so much about life in my backyard just by listening and observing while I manage our compost piles.
You take out the trash far less often
I kind of hate taking out the trash. And once we started composting, we produced so much less waste. It’s hard to explain because the reduction in trash is more than just the amount of food scraps we put in a bucket over the course of a week. It doesn’t feel like a one-to-one ratio of waste reduction to food scrap collection.
For years, we carried a nearly full trash can to the curb. Now, we generate about 1 bag of trash per week in our family, so I rarely have to take the trash out to the bin. Even better, I can regularly skip bringing the trash bin to the curb because it takes many weeks to fill.
It offers a few minutes of quiet solitude while managing the compost
Most of the time, my family is uninterested in helping manage the compost. I could probably encourage them to help me out more often, but I actually appreciate the quiet solitude of being in the garden by myself for a few minutes. That’s not to say I don’t love when my family joins me, because that’s nice too. But in a world where it seems like some things just never stop moving, slowing down and taking a few minutes to myself is always refreshing.
You’ll better appreciate the “creepy crawlies” of the world
I used to hate bugs. Digging through the compost brought me a new appreciation for worms, pill bugs, other creepy crawlies, and even spiders and snakes. They are such an important part of the decomposition process. They work much harder than I do, and their work brings mountains of value to my garden and our ecosystem.
Watching trash turn into treasure is utterly fascinating
Maybe it’s just me, but observing the process of trash turning into a sweet, loamy soil amendment is simply fascinating. I’m a composting nerd, so maybe I have few fellow compost fanatics. But I’m owning every bit of my nerdiness.
It gives you agency to offset eco-anxiety
Stress and anxiety about the impact of climate change on our communities are very real. Taking action, even small actions, to mitigate the destruction of our planet is a proven antidote to eco-anxiety. Having the ability to do something that makes our community better with respect to the environment gives me a sense of agency in prompting change.
It saves you money on fertilizer for the garden
In years when I can generate enough soil amendment from my food scraps and those of my neighbors who I allow to drop their food waste in my compost bin, I save money by not buying finished compost from a nursery or local farm.
It connects you to neighbors (ShareWaste) and the community (WasteWell)
Composting has connected me with my neighbors in so many ways. Through ShareWaste, a handful of people in my area stop by periodically to drop off their food straps in my compost tumbler. We connect and commiserate over food waste dilemmas and the lack of infrastructure in our municipalities to make composting easier for everyone.
Through WasteWell, a curbside composting business I used to own, I connected with all sorts of people in our community from my customers to local media to lots of people just curious about composting in general. Running any local small business will likely connect you with the community more deeply, and owning and operating a sustainability-focused local small business certainly drew me into the sustainability community in my area.
It facilities conversations with friends and family about trash and waste
I can wax poetic about my passion for composting for longer than anyone cares to hear. But simply knowing it’s something I care about and have developed expertise around, many people who probably would otherwise have little interest in the topic ask me about composting. I love that it’s an opportunity for me to share more about sustainability and why it’s such an important topic to me and relevant to others.
It became the genesis of a business I started and sold
Although it won’t be the case for most people who choose to compost, it became the genesis for a small business I started, operated, and eventually sold. I enjoyed the business, but I didn’t have the bandwidth to expand it at a rate that best suited the community. I was more than happy to pass it along to someone well-qualified to carry WasteWell into its next chapter.
I’ve learned and practiced new skills as an adult
I knew nothing about composting before we moved into our current home, where the previous owners left a compost bin in the garden. Learning how to compost has been a process of trial and error, plenty of research, and following my natural curiosities.
Often as adults, we shy away from learning new skills or pursuing new interests out of fear of failure or generally lacking time to foster new skills. But challenging our bodies and brains to step outside our comfort zone is so valuable, and composting has brought many new experiences and lessons into my life.
BONUS: My kids have watched me learn new skills, start a business, and prioritize a connection with nature.
I can only hope that they watch me and come to expect that it’s ok to try something new and fail. They see that it’s not so scary to start your own business, even if you know you’ll make mistakes along the way. It’s a risk to put yourself “out there” and step outside your comfort zone but one worth taking. And connecting with nature is nourishing and well worth the investment.
Jen Panaro, founder and editor-in-chief of Honestly Modern, is a self-proclaimed composting nerd and an advocate for sustainable living for modern families. In her spare time, she’s a serial library book borrower, a messy gardener, and a mom of two boys who spends a lot of time in hockey rinks and on baseball fields.
You can find more of her work at Raising Global Kidizens, an online space to help parents and caregivers raise the next generation of responsible global citizens.