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 our 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!(1)
We need the world to compost!
Don’t think you can compost? We’ve got a whole set of resources on Everything To Know About Composting At Home, including more You Can Make Dirt interviews. All of this information about composting 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.
This series highlights families in various circumstances who have all found a way that composting works for their lifestyle. Hopefully, you can be inspired to give it a go and help our planet stay a little healthier.
A couple months ago, I had the opportunity to be on guest on The Sustainable Minimalists podcast with Stephanie. If you haven’t heard the episode, you can check it out here! Through our conversations, Stephanie shared about her experiences composting with her family. She lets her little ones help, and composting has become a part of her family’s everyday cadence.
Stephanie is proof that composting can be an incremental endeavor that we learn over time. You don’t have to be a master or know everything to get started. I’ll let her take it from here.
Can you tell us a bit about yourself, where you live, your family, etc.. the Stephanie 101?
I’m a wife and mom of two daughters, ages 4 and 1.5. We live 30 minutes west of Boston in a quiet, woodsy town with our yellow lab and two cats.
Before having children I was a high school literature teacher; these days, I blog and podcast about my loves for sustainability and incremental minimalism.
Tell us a little bit about why you decided to start composting?
Growing up, my parents didn’t compost; as such, I had hazy and misconstrued notions about the practice (ex. It’s dirty. It involves lots of bugs. It’s only for farmers and hippies.)
My in-laws compost religiously; as such, observing their process on visits to their home corrected any of my false beliefs. Nothing about what they did seemed dirty or excessively buggy or hippie-ish. Separating appropriate food waste and putting it in a bid in the yard appeared a sensible practice that didn’t require extra effort.
When my husband and I became homeowners, we struggled to maintain the multitudinous flower beds on our land. It felt foolish to continuously purchase soil in plastic bags from the garden store for my beds every year when I could make nutrient-rich loam at my own house, for free.
What method or methods of composting do you use or have you used?
I use the “Throw it in the Bin” method. Seriously!
The only “rule” I try to follow is the two-thirds Brown to one-third Green rule (put in twice as many brown items like paper, cardboard and dead leaves to green, food scraps items) but I’m not at all precise about it.
How do you store the scraps until they are taken to your compost pile?
I keep a small OXO container under my sink with a lid and carry it out to the larger compost bin in the yard whenever it’s full, which is generally nightly. The lid ensures that it doesn’t smell, and whenever the container seems excessively dirty I simply throw it in the dishwasher.
Prior to purchasing the OXO Container, we used old plastic recyclables to hold our compostable scraps (like quart-sized plastic yogurt containers). This was a frustrating practice because the container wasn’t big enough so we were forced to run out to the compost bin much more than necessary; as such, composting felt like work.
I’m home all day with a toddler and I can’t leave her in the house unattended. As such, I make it a priority to venture to the larger bin in the yard just once per day.
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?
For small items (ex. toilet paper rolls) I crush them up and put them under the sink to be taken out in the evening.
For larger items that won’t fit under the sink (ex. cardboard boxes) I enlist my children’s help in ripping them up (they love doing this, by the way.) Then we put these scraps in a paper bag and leave by the door or on the porch to head to the compost bin that evening.
For me, the key is to remove brown items from my house as soon as possible or at least once per day so that I don’t find myself annoyed by excess “stuff” lying around the house.
How does your family feel about composting?
Thankfully, my family is completely on board with composting. My 4 year old loves to help cook and understand which items are compostable and which aren’t.
My husband diligently separates compostables from non-compostables; however, it has largely fallen on me to add them to the compost bin at the end of the day. It’s his job to turn the pile every once in a while (but I often have to nag him multiple times before it gets done).
Have you experienced any benefits from composting, especially ones that might have surprised you?
This summer – for the first time! – I grew a small vegetable garden. There was something so rewarding about using the nutrient-rich compost we created as the perfect growing material for our garden and subsequent homegrown produce.
For me, composting is part of a larger passion, and that’s to reduce the amount of waste my family produces. I’m very conscious of how much trash and recycling we have each week. Since adopting a composting practice I’ve noticed a significant reduction in the amount of trash my family produces.
Anything else you’d like to share with readers about your composting practices, especially to help beginners gain confidence that they too can compost?
Composting can seem intimidating, especially if you’re already stretched for time. It can be daunting to add something new to your already overflowing To-Do List.
I felt this way, too, at first.
Know that there will probably be an adjustment period, but it will become so easy it’ll soon feel like second nature. These days, composting is so ingrained in the fabric of our lives it’s just part of the routine. Even better, nothing about it feels like extra work.
Where else can we find you and learn more about what you’re up to?
I host a weekly podcast, The Sustainable Minimalists, about eco-friendly living, minimalism, simplicity and slow-parenting. It can be found on iTunes or wherever you get your podcasts.