Reduce Wasted Food

Composting

Composting is a natural process where organic material is recycled into a soil additive. Organic material, like kitchen scraps and yard waste, that goes to our landfill emits methane, a potent greenhouse gas. You can help by reducing your household food waste with composting in your back yard. The composting process requires: carbon-rich material “browns”, nitrogen-rich materials “greens”, oxygen, water, heat, and time. 

Here is an overview of the steps for successful backyard composting:

  1. Choose a location with good drainage (no standing water after a storm) and near a water source. 
  2. Build or buy a bin that allows for adequate airflow and has structure enough to hold up heavy material while not creating an anaerobic pile. 
  3. Add a base of brown waste (list below) about an inch deep.
  4. Separate your kitchen scraps to be added to your pile. All organic material can be composted. To reduce the likelihood of pests and smells, keep to the advised list of accepted green waste below. 
  5. Mix browns and greens at a ratio between 2:1 and 5:1, then cover with a layer of browns. 
  6. Water as needed. A healthy compost pile will have a moisture content between 40-60%. To test this, take a handful from the middle and squeeze. It should feel like a damp sponge. If it’s slimy or when you squeeze water drips out, it’s too wet. If it doesn’t clump, it’s too dry. 
  7. Turn your pile with a spade every 7-10 days (more frequently in the summer and less frequently in the winter). 
  8. Check the temperature, before turning. Once the middle of the pile has reached 130 degrees F, the pile is curing and needs to sit for 3-4 weeks. Occasional watering is okay if the pile starts to look dry. 

Finished compost can take anywhere from 2-12 months, the more compost you have, the faster the process will go. Using a higher nitrogen content will slow the process, but it will also reduce smells and detract pests. Composting can be tricky, but also rewarding, for best results be patient and mindful of what goes in! 

Organic MaterialCarbon: Nitrogen Ratio
Carbon-Rich Sources
Twigs, Branches, and Wood Chips600:1
Fresh Sawdust500-600:1
Fresh Sawdust400:1
Cardboard350-550:1
Paper Products200-800:1
Office/Printer Paper170:1
Shredded Newspaper170:1
Bark130-1280:1
Paper Towels110:1
Wheat Straw100:1
Hay75:1
Corn Cobs55-120:1
Pine Needles60-100:1
Corn Stalks60:1
Peat Moss55:1
Straw50-150:1
Dried Leaves40-80:1
Nitrogen-Rich Source
Fresh Leaves37:1
Nut Shells35:1
Fruit Wastes35:1
Wood Ash25:1
Vegetable Wastes12 to 20:1
Coffee Grounds20:1
Grass Clippings12 to 25:1
Alfalfa Hay13:1


Do Not Compost These

  • Black walnut trees, leaves, or twigs
  • Coal or charcoal ash
  • Dairy products or eggs
  • Diseased or insect-ridden plants
  • Dryer lint or clothing
  • Fats, oils, grease (or any food cooked in them)
  • Food containers
  • Meat or fish including bones and scraps
  • Paper products (paper towels, bath tissue)
  • Pet feces or litter
  • Tea Bags
  • Yard trimmings with pesticides

Pictured, is an example of an upcycled compost bin. The materials used were old pallets, scrap corrugated metal roofing, chicken wire, and hardware (handles and hinges).

Compost Bin