Do you know how to compost at home? Depending on where you live, there are probably certain ways to compost at home that work better than others. This suburban family uses free municipal compost as well as a bin at home to compost their food scraps to reduce waste and create healthy soil in their garden.
The Compost Chronicles series highlights families in various circumstances who have all found a way to compost at home that works for their lifestyle. Hopefully, you can be inspired to give it a go and help our planet become a little healthier.
Did you know that composting can transform your trash into new life? And that new life, in the form of microbes, fungi, earthworms, and more, provides the foundation for much of all other healthy life on Earth?
Composting is a great way to create healthy soil to support people and our planet. Healthy soil is also a magical carbon sink that absorbs carbon from our atmosphere and helps cool the planet. While dead dirt has few living organisms, a teaspoon of healthy soil has more living organisms in it than the entire population of humans on Planet Earth!
We need everyone to learn how to compost at home and make it a part of everyday life.
Don’t think you can compost? We’ve got a whole set of resources on Everything To Know About How To Compost At Home, including more Compost Chronicles interviews. All of this information about how to compost at home will hopefully prove that just about anyone can make space and find a system to turn their food scraps into nutrient-rich compost to enrich our soil, feed our food cycle, and limit the food waste that ends up in landfills.
In this edition of Bring Your Trash To Life, we speak with Sarah, a mom of two living in the suburbs of Toronto, Canada. Sarah’s family has long used municipal pick-up programs for disposing of organic waste, like food scraps. They recently started their own compost bin at home to create compost they can use in their garden and complement the municipal pick-up program.
Read on to hear more from Sarah about how she and her family mix municipal compost pick-up with a compost bin at home to make the most of organic waste in their home and reduce the trash they send to the landfill.
Can you tell us a bit about yourself, where you live, your family, etc…?
Hi! I’m Sarah. I live with my husband and two children (ages 7 and 9) just outside of Toronto, Canada. We actively pursue a low-waste lifestyle in the suburbs with limited options, but things are slowly changing here!
Tell us a little bit about why you decided to start composting?
As a little girl, I vividly remember seeing pictures in National Geographic of food from the 1970s unearthed from a landfill, perfectly intact. A similar display at the Ontario Science Centre hammered home that nothing breaks down in a landfill, not even food. I have had access to municipal compost pickup since 1999 (Halifax, Nova Scotia, was one of the first places in Canada to have this) so for the most part, I have always had a green bin. Composting just makes sense!
What method or methods of composting do you use or have you used?
We have weekly municipal green bin collection, so we don’t need to think much about it besides making sure that food scraps and other compostable items hit the green bin and not the garbage can. We did just get a large outdoor bin, though, so I am very excited to learn more about the process about home composting!
If you had any methods that didn’t work for you, can you share what happened and why it wasn’t a good fit for you?
Our first night, we had critters in the bin. I think being too excited on our part was to blame. We threw in a bunch of food scraps but didn’t have finished compost to cover it. Whoops!
For now, we will stick to yard waste and browns until we have some soil. Our home composting journey is just beginning, and I am sure there will be some more bumps in the road before figuring out our system.
How do you store the scraps until they are taken to your compost pile?
We keep a bowl on the counter near where we prepare food and dump our scraps into that. These get transferred to our kitchen green bin, which has 7.5L capacity (a little over 2 gallons) under the sink. When that is full, we take it out to the municipal bin (46.5L capacity) which is collected once a week. Our town requires that we use “compostable” bags to line our bins.
We also try to wring out every last bit of goodness from our food scraps before composting. This includes making broth from veggie scraps, crushing eggshells for our plants, using coffee grounds for body scrubs and fertilizer, etc.
Have you had any issues with animals or pests getting into your compost pile?
Our municipal bins have a latching lid, but raccoons can open those in five seconds flat. There are add-ons you can get to lock the bin, but we just keep it in the garage and take it out just before pickup time. For our outdoor composter, I ended up putting a brick on the bottom sliding door to keep them from getting in the bottom.
Do you have any special tools, containers, or products that help make composting easier or more accessible for you?
Nope! We use the bins issued to us by the town and a bowl covered by a plate on the counter. Easy peasy!
Do you have any other supplies, like extra cardboard or brown materials, for example, that you store until you need to add them to your compost pile?
I keep our browns (toilet paper rolls, kraft paper, etc) in an old wooden box next to our fireplace. One way or another, they will get used as browns, fire starters, or for crafts.
How does your family feel about composting?
They are all on board! Because we have always had a green bin, it is simply normal for them. Gardening is also important to our family, so the kids understand the importance of composting from that angle as well.
Now that we have our outdoor composter, the foundation is already laid for them to get right into it and see the fruits of our labour as we prepare the beds next spring with our own soil!
Have you experienced any benefits from composting, especially ones that might have surprised you?
Using compost in the garden is so important! We are able to grow a little bit of food for our family every year because of glorious compost!
Anything else you’d like to share with readers about your composting practices, especially to help beginners gain confidence that they too can compost?
Even though I am new to home composting, I am going into it with excitement and curiosity. My experiences with gardening have set me up to understand that even with the basics down, every garden (and compost pile) is unique and trial and error are part of the process.
Where else can we find you and learn more about what you’re up to?
You can find me on Instagram @sarah.robertson.barnes and read my blog Sustainable in the Suburbs! These days I am working with local folks to build community engagement on sustainable living and climate action.