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13 Great Ways To Compost At Home

Do you know how to compost at home? Just about anyone can do it! It’s much easier than you think, and it’s not dirty at all. In fact, it may even save you money and make your kitchen cleaner! 

Composting at home has tons of benefits for your family and the environment. If you don’t already compost, check out these thirteen ways to compost at home and find one that will work for you!

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If you’ve been around the blog for a hot second, you know I’m a big fan of composting! I am a self-proclaimed composting nerd, and I’m always happy to talk about it with others. 

I love the science of how composting works. I love the environmental boost it provides to our soil and our communities at large. And I love the many other benefits it has brought to our family’s life. 

The Science of Composting

I think the science of composting is pretty neat. In essence, little bacteria and microorganisms break down our waste and turn into it nutrients to regrow the world in a totally natural and healthy way. Super cool, right? 

Composting is nature’s recycling mechanism and has been around since the beginning of time. It sustains the foundation of life on Earth. That may sound a little sensationalized, but the principles of recycling nature’s nutrients are what keeps living things on Earth alive and well. 

Composting Is Easy!

No, seriously! Composting is easy when you pick the right method of composting for your lifestyle. There are so many ways to compost at home (which I describe below), and I think almost everyone can compost in one way or another. 

Furthermore, there’s no perfect way to compost at home. Composting some of your food scraps and yard waste is better than none of it, even if you can’t go all in. And if you do ‘mess it up’ a bit and get the wrong mix of organic matter or it starts to smell, it’s a cinch to fix it. Chances are you just need to add either a few more browns, a few more greens, or give it a good mix. You’ll know if you’ve got it right because the smell tells all

Composting Isn’t Dirty or Smelly

Despite some popular myths, composting isn’t stinky or gross. It’s not just for hippies and tree-huggers. In fact, I’d argue composting is actually cleaner than throwing all your food scraps into the trash. 

Food scraps in a trash can smell bad because they are mixed with inorganic matter that prevents the food scraps from decomposing properly. In other words, all the other stuff in your trash is getting in the way of nature doing the recycling work that has been effective for hundreds of millions of years!

Just about every family I’ve interviewed for the Bring Your Trash To Life series noted that composting significantly reduced the amount of trash their family created and made their trash stink less. It’s not uncommon for families that compost at home to produce just one bag of trash per week for their entire family!

Composting At Home Can Save Money

There are several ways to compost at home for free or nearly free. If you pay for trash removal, there’s a good chance you can reduce the frequency of pick up and the number of bags of trash you create by composting. 

Composting also helps us pay better attention to how much food we waste. It’s a little nugget of accountability reminding us of the food we purchased and never used or leftovers that never got eaten. Simply paying closer attention to food waste helps us be more cognizant about using up what we have instead of wasting money on things we ultimately send to the landfill. 

Composting Helps The Environment

Even if you’re not a passionate environmental advocate, composting is one of the easiest and most effective ways we can all have a positive impact on the environment. Why wouldn’t we want to do something good for the environment if it saves us money and helps keep our house cleaner and greener?

Climate change is impacting just about all aspects of our lives in one way or another. We’re not going to turn our lives upside down and live off the grid to fix it. But composting at home is something easy we can do that provides a big return for pretty minimal effort. 

I can talk about composting for days (#compostingnerd). But composting is so effective because it helps fight climate change and create healthier communities in two very different and significant ways. 

First, food scraps in traditional landfills release methane gas, a greenhouse gas that is much more potent than carbon dioxide. Scientists don’t entirely agree on exactly how much more potent methane gas is relative to carbon dioxide, but the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates it traps 25x more heat than carbon dioxide thereby contributing to global warming at a much higher rate than carbon dioxide.  

Food scraps in a landfill release methane because they do not properly decompose due to insufficient oxygen. When food scraps are composted, however, the oxygen present in the chemical reaction of decomposition results in the release of water and a bit of carbon dioxide (that trees and plants use to grow). Thus, the broad adoption of composting can significantly reduce the amount of greenhouse gas released into our atmosphere. 

Second, finished compost (also called humus) is a nutrient-rich soil amendment or additive that makes soil much healthier. 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!

Healthy soil is a magical carbon sink. Healthier soil can drawdown significantly more carbon from the air than dead dirt. This helps reduce global warming. Replenishing the health of our soil will be one of the most significant steps we take globally as we work toward a healthier planet. 

Healthy soil also retains much more water than dry and depleted dirt. Healthier soil that holds sufficient water helps communities and farms endure droughts and reduce the destruction from floods. 

Individual Action Drives Systematic Change 

Much like we separate our recyclables from our landfill trash today, I expect composting will be something we all do as part of our daily routines in the coming years. It may sound crazy because we aren’t used to it, but I bet separating recyclables sounded crazy a few decades ago too. 

Get in front of the movement. Be a trendsetter in your neighborhood or social circle and start composting at home today. It’s so much easier than you think and will provide so many more benefits than you expect. 

I know individual action isn’t the sole answer to climate change. We can’t simply consume or compost our way out of the climate mess that currently engulfs our planet. But individual action creates a culture that normalizes composting, bringing it into our municipal spheres and making it part of our everyday life. 

Broader understanding and support for composting provide the impetus for funding and scaling municipal programs, building larger processing facilities, and ultimately driving legislation that makes it easier and more enticing for everyone to compost. 

13 Ways To Compost At Home

There are so many ways to compost, and many of them are really easy. Check out thirteen different ways to compost at home, including all the details about what equipment is required, the level of effort for each method, cost approximation, and the pros and cons of each method to compost at home. 

Countertop Compost Appliance

The most novel and one of the easiest ways to compost at home is the Vitamix FoodCycler. This small appliance takes up just one square foot of space, runs quietly, and transforms food scraps into finished soil amendment in just a few hours. The machine stays on the counter, so you can easily compost indoors no matter the season. 

The FoodCycler compost appliance can compost food scraps from fruits and vegetables as well as dairy, meat and bones, and other food scraps that can be problematic for more traditional outdoor compost bins. The machine dries out the food scraps and breaks them down to just 10% of the original volume of the food scraps. 

Although we compost outdoors in a pile in our yard, I bought the Food Cycler for our house. We occasionally have issues with raccoons getting into our trash in search of meat scraps and bones. The FoodCycler allows us to compost the meat scraps and bones in our kitchen, with no smells, to limit the raccoons’ attractions to our trash can. Now we have far less trash and much less smelly trash. 

Equipment

Cost Estimate

  • $399 for the FoodCycler
  • Replacement accessories vary from $25 – $80

Level of Effort

Very Easy | Simply add food scraps to the bowl as you create them. Once the bowl inside the FoodCycler is full, run the machine and you will have finished soil amendment in just a few hours. 

Pros

  • No smells
  • Limited space requirement
  • No physical labor
  • Fast turnaround to finished soil amendment

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Small bowl that limits the volume of food scraps able to be composted at one time

Paid Private Pick-Up Service

There are a growing number of private companies that provide compost pick up services. Most companies provide an airtight bucket to customers for collection. Once a week or once every two weeks, the company picks up customers’ food scraps buckets and replaces with a clean bucket in which to collect food scraps for the next collection period. Depending on where these companies operate, they may pick up food scraps via car, truck, bicycle, or another method that makes sense for the location. 

Each company has different policies about the types of food scraps they accept. Some limit collection to produce food scraps, coffee grounds, paper, and other types of organic matter that can be easily composted without attracting animals. Other compost pick-up services accept a broader range of scraps including things like meat, dairy, and oils. 

Customers should follow the instructions provided by their respective pick-up service to know what they do and do not accept in the collection buckets. 

Equipment

  • Compost Bucket (likely provided by the pick-up service)
  • Countertop collection bowl (optional)

Cost Estimate

  • $15 – $30 per month, depending on the service you use and where you live

Level of Effort

Very Easy | Put your food scraps in the collection bucket and leave out for your service to pick up once every week or two, as scheduled. 

Pros

  • Simple to use
  • Very limited work
  • Requires minimal space
  • No need to process the compost

Cons

  • May be too expensive
  • Do not get to use the finished compost (though this could be a pro for those without a need for the finished compost)

Examples Of Others Using Paid Pick Up Service

Municipal Pick-Up Service

Larger cities or those with more eco-friendly municipal policies have started to create compost pick-up services. In some cases, residents are required to participate. In other cities and towns, participation is optional. Like private compost pick up services, these programs often pick up scraps once every week or two and may be affiliated or associated with more traditional waste management organizations. 

If your city or town does not currently provide this service, you may be able to leverage examples of other towns doing it to help encourage your local leaders to follow suit. This could be a great way to encourage your town to pursue greener policies for everyone in the community in a way that could scale and be fairly simple for residents. 

Equipment

  • Compost Bucket (likely provided by the pick-up service)
  • Countertop collection bowl (optional)

Cost Estimate

  • Likely free though costs to run the program may be included in municipal tax levies. 

Level of Effort

Very Easy | Put your food scraps in the collection bucket and leave out for your municipality to pick up once every week or two, as scheduled. 

Pros

  • Simple to use
  • Very limited work
  • Requires minimal space
  • No need to process the compost

Cons

  • Do not get to use the finished compost (though this could be a pro for those without a need for the finished compost)

Farmers’ Market or Community Garden Drop Off

Many farmers’ markets have collection bins to accept food scraps. Some collection bins charge a small fee to process the food scraps while others provide the service for free. The farmers who sell at the market can often use the food scraps to make compost for their own operations. 

Community gardens may also accept food scraps as they will use the finished compost to amend the soil in the gardens. If you have a community garden in your neighborhood, it’s definitely worth asking if they accept food scraps for composting. 

Equipment

  • Food scrap collection bowl | You may consider using a countertop compost bin with a charcoal filter lid that prevents smells from escaping into your kitchen. Others freeze food scraps between trips to the farmers’ market.

Depending on how much organic matter your family generates, you may even benefit from using a 5-gallon bucket with an airtight top and include some browns to start the decomposition process before dropping off food scraps to the farmers’ market. Jess uses a bucket system that could be a great way to manage scraps before heading to the farmers’ market if you don’t have space in your freezer or in your countertop compost bin.  

Cost Estimate

  • $0-$5 per drop off, though it depends on the farmers’ market or community garden rules

Level of Effort

Fairly Easy | Collect your food scraps in a bucket or bin and drop off at a farmers’ market compost bin once a week or so. 

Pros

  • Simple to use
  • Very limited work
  • Requires minimal space
  • No need to process the compost
  • Low cost

Cons

  • Do not get to use the finished compost (though this could be a pro for those without a need for the finished compost
  • Have to carry the scraps to the collection bin

Examples Of Others Using Farmers’ Markets & Community Gardens

Municipal Drop Off Bins

Although there are not many of these just yet, some cities are starting pilot programs to collect food scraps in neighborhood bins much like they collect recycling and trash. For example, Boston has a program called Project Oscar through which they have several large bins ready to gobble up residents’ food scraps to be composted instead of sent to the landfill. 

Equipment

  • Countertop collection bowl or freezer container

Cost Estimate

  • Likely free though costs to run the program may be included in municipal tax levies. 

Level of Effort

Fairly Easy | Collect your food scraps in a bucket or bin and drop off at a compost collection bin near you once a week or so. 

Pros

  • Simple to use
  • Very limited work
  • Requires minimal space
  • No need to process the compost
  • Low cost (or free)

Cons

  • Do not get to use the finished compost (though this could be a pro for those without a need for the finished compost
  • Have to carry the scraps to the collection bin

Examples Of Others Using Municipal Compost Collection Bins

Neighbor’s Compost (ShareWaste)

ShareWaste is a free app that connects composters (compost hosts) with those who want to divert their food scraps from the landfills but cannot compost themselves (compost donors). Hosts and donors create accounts in the app, connect through messaging within the app, and donors drop off food scraps at compost bins in their area. 

I have been a host on the ShareWaste app for many months and have had three donors who periodically drop off compost scraps in our bin. At times, we’ve met. Since the pandemic began, they drop off food scraps in my bin without interacting so we have contactless drop off. 

ShareWaste is such a great way to connect locally and build a fabric of eco-friendly neighbors as well provide an easy and free option for people to compost who can’t do it on their own. 

Equipment

  • Countertop collection bowl or freezer container

Cost Estimate

  • Free!

Level of Effort

Fairly Easy | Collect your food scraps in a bucket or bin and drop off at a compost host in your area. 

Pros

  • Simple to use
  • Very limited work
  • Requires minimal space
  • No need to process the compost
  • Free!

Cons

  • Do not get to use the finished compost (though this could be a pro for those without a need for the finished compost
  • Have to deliver the scraps to the collection bin

Outdoor Tumbler or Enclosed Bin

There are many compost bins and tumblers available from local hardware stores and major retailers. These bins are enclosed containers that typically operate in one of two ways. 

Tumblers stand a foot or two off the ground and easily rotate to aerate the food scraps. They are enclosed to keep animals and other wildlife out of the container. Some tumblers have dual bins so that one can be filled while the contents in the other side decompose and turn into finished compost. These tend to be great for those living in the suburbs who have space to compost in their yards but want something that is easy to use and won’t attract pests to their yard. 

Equipment

  • Countertop collection bowl or container – If you plan to take the scraps out each day, any bowl or container will work. If you prefer to take food scraps out to the tumbler once every few days or once a week, you’ll like want a compost container that has a charcoal lid to prevent smells from escaping into your kitchen. You could also keep food scraps in a container or zip-top bag in the freezer until you’re ready to take them out to the tumbler. 

Cost Estimate

  • $100 – $200 fort he tumbler

Level of Effort

Fairly Easy | Collect your food scraps in a bucket or bin and add to your compost bin regularly.

Pros

  • Simple to use
  • Very limited work
  • You get to use the compost

Cons

  • Container may be out of your price range
  • Volume of food scraps to be composted is limited to the size of the tumbler
  • Need a dual bin tumbler to continually add food scraps while still getting finished compost in the other side of the bin

Examples Of Composting In Outdoor Tumbler In Yard

In-Ground Compost Worm Bin

As more people search for simple composting alternatives, companies like Subpod are creating solutions that make composting at home even easier. The Subpod is a simple box that lives in the ground in your garden. If you prefer not to dig a hole for it, you can also put it in a raised garden bed.

The Subpod is an enclosed box that has holes around the sides so that worm and other microorganisms can get into the organic matter to facilitate decomposition. However, the top is shut tight so animals and other pests do not get into the compost pile.

You can also sit on a closed Subpod so it’s a great way to add a seat in your garden. It functions a lot like an enclosed, ground-level compost container with a bit more functionality and aesthetic appeal.

Equipment

Cost Estimate

  • $169 – $259, depending on if you purchase the raised bed frame to go along with the Subpod

Level of Effort

Moderate | Requires initial setup of either an underground hole or a raised garden bed for the Subpod. Recurring maintenance to add food scraps and browns and then aerate occassionally.

Pros

  • Simple to use, once installed
  • Looks great
  • Keeps animals out
  • Get to use finished compost
  • Resides in the garden

Cons

  • May be too expensive
  • Initial installation

Outdoor Pile or Open Container

This outdoor method is the most traditional method of composting and one that many might consider messy or a lot of hard work. It does take a bit more diligence than some other methods to make sure it doesn’t attract animals or have improper balance. 

Equipment

  • Countertop collection bowl or container – If you plan to take the scraps out each day, any bowl or container will work. If you prefer to take food scraps out to the tumbler once every few days or once a week, you’ll like want a compost container that has a charcoal lid to prevent smells from escaping into your kitchen. You could also keep food scraps in a container or zip top bag in the freezer until you’re ready to take them out to the tumbler. 

Cost Estimate

  • Varies greatly depending on the level of sophistication of equipment used for the bin and processing

Level of Effort

Moderate |Collect your food scraps in a bucket or bin and add to your compost bin regularly.

Pros

  • Simple to use
  • Can be budget-friendly
  • You get to use the compost

Cons

  • Outdoor piles require a bit of management because they can attract animals if they are not properly managed.

Examples Of Others Composting In An Outdoor Pile

DIY Container Solutions

There are a variety of do-it-yourself open and closed container solutions for composting. Many of these are very budget-friendly and simple to create. As I’ve interviewed so many families about how they compost at home through the Bring Your Trash To Life series, I’ve been regularly impressed by the many different ways people create containers and maintain open piles using materials and things they already have at home. 

Although the opportunities are endless, I’ve seen one family that created a double bucket system to start composting before they bury in their gardens. Another family uses an old garbage bin and a laundry hamper to hold compost materials in their backyard. Composting is much easier than you might think and can be really accessible with a little creativity.

Equipment

  • This depends entirely on how you decide to set up your compost system. However, most will require: Countertop collection bowl or container – If you plan to take the scraps out each day, any bowl or container will work. If you prefer to take food scraps out to the tumbler once every few days or once a week, you’ll like want a compost container that has a charcoal lid to prevent smells from escaping into your kitchen. You could also keep food scraps in a container or zip top bag in the freezer until you’re ready to take them out to the tumbler. 

Cost Estimate

  • Varies greatly depending on the level of sophistication of equipment used for the bin and processing

Level of Effort

Moderate | Although it depends on the type of system you use, it will likely be similar with respect to effort and difficultly as a tumbler bin or open piles. 

Pros

  • Typically affordable
  • Low waste materials to create
  • Can make something that works specifically for your circumstances

Cons

  • Could require some trial and error depending on how the system is set up.
  • Outdoor piles do require a bit of management because they can attract animals if they are not properly managed.

Examples Of Others Using DIY Compost Systems

Holes In Ground

If you’re feeling particularly creative or ready to dig a few holes, I love the idea of creating composting holes underneath pavers in a garden or yard. Essentially, you dig holes in your garden or yard, place a container with aeration holes in each ground hole, and then cover the holes with pavers. 

As you generate food scraps, add them to a hole with some other browns and dirt to create an environment in the ground in which the organic matter can effectively decompose.

Fill one hole before moving on to the next. After a few months, remove the container from the first hole and it should be filled with nutrient-rich finished compost that you can feed to plants and gardens.

Equipment

  • Shovel to dig the holes
  • Durable containers with holes in them that are slightly smaller than the holes and small enough to fully fit under a paver (old tree and plant containers from nurseries work well for this)
  • Pavers

Cost Estimate

  • You may already have a lot of these items on hand. Cost will depend on whether or not you need to buy containers (though you can probably use things you already have) and the cost of the pavers. 

Level of Effort

High | This method requires an initial project to dig the holes. It also requires regular maintenance to move the pavers, add food scraps, and return to covered containers after the organic matter has decomposed. 

Pros

  • Low cost if you already have these items in your garden
  • Doesn’t require extra space if you already have a garden
  • Looks nice as an intentional design element in a garden or yard
  • Won’t attract animals
  • Replenishes soil around it as well

Cons

  • More effort than many types of composting
  • Requires regular maintenance

Vermicomposting

Vermicomposting is a compost system that uses worms in an enclosed space to break down food scraps and turn them into nutrient-rich worm castings. This is a popular method for composting indoors and also for those who have concerns about smells attracting pests. 

Equipment

Some people create their own DIY worm compost bins using things like plastic containers in a cabinet in their kitchen. You can also buy pre-fabricated vermicompost systems online like this Worm Factory 360 and system that has received good reviews. 

Regardless of how you build your “worm house”, you’ll need to buy worms. Most people use Red Wiggler worms which can be purchased online. 

Cost Estimate

  • $45 – $300

Level of Effort

Moderate | Setting up the system may take an initial investment in time and energy. It’s not hard but does require a bit of research if you decide to do it yourself. You also have to manage the worm bin regularly to ensure that the worms are living at the right temperature, have the right amount of food and moisture, and are generally thriving in their little home. 

Pros

  • Can work indoors and does not create smells
  • Can be used in a small space

Cons

  • Requires regular management to ensure the worms don’t die
  • Doesn’t compost large volumes of food scraps at any particular time
  • Requires an initial investment that may be cost prohibitive

Examples Of Others Vermicomposting

Bokashi Composting

Unlike most composting methods that rely on oxygen to process compost through an aerated process, Bokashi composting uses a fermentation process that relies on anaerobic microorganisms. Bokashi composting happens in an airtight container by mixing food scraps and a bokashi bran mixture that faciliates the fermentation process. After the food scraps have been partially decomposed through bokashi, you can bury the food waste in your garden and let it finish decomposing while feeding the soil around it. 

Equipment

Cost Estimate

  • $50 – $150 initial investment, plus recurring cost of Bokashi bran

Level of Effort

Moderate | Setting up the system may take an initial investment in time and energy. It’s not hard but does require a bit of research if you decide to do it yourself. You need to manage the contents of the bin, adding bran and food scraps over time. 

Pros

  • Food scraps can be composted indoors
  • Works in a small space
  • Can compost all types of food (including dairy, meats, and oils)

Cons

  • Requires active management to ensure that the food scraps are decomposing
  • Requires regular purchase of the Bokashi bran to process each batch of food scraps

This list of ways to compost at home is not exhaustive. There are so many different ways to create or find an environment where your food scraps and other organic matter can decompose in an environment rich with oxygen and produce nutrient-rich soil amendment for your garden, house plants, and yard.

However, at least one of these compost methods will most likely work for just about everyone and be pretty easy to execute.

Do you compost at home? Do you use one of the methods above? If so, tell me what you use and how it works.

If you don’t compost at home, I’d love to hear what’s holding you back. Maybe I can help answer some questions or dispel some myths to help find a way for you to compost at home with your family.

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Sharvi

Monday 30th of November 2020

The blog on composting is very helpful, we also have an informative blog on how to make compost at home step by step. https://urlife.co.in/articles/heal/sustainability/how-to-make-compost-at-home-with-kitchen-waste

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