When I was a little girl, our next-door neighbors had a compost pile. It wasn’t just any compost pile—it stood taller than me, was built out of solid wood and had three separate sections. You definitely wouldn’t want it as a candle scent and it attracted some bugs, but it was a well-oiled machine and my neighbor knew what she was doing. Every time I had a spare banana peel, I was instructed to bring it to the back of the yard and toss it in the pile.
Why does having a compost pile matter? Great question. Every time you throw away organic matter in your kitchen trash bag, things like vegetable and fruit skins, pits, egg shells, coffee grinds will break down in a natural process that emits carbon dioxide. Except, you’ve contained your organic matter into a plastic trash bag, which will sit underground in a landfill with all the other trash.
Let me break it down (pun intended)...
Compost: natural chemical reaction releases carbon dioxide, but then is removed from the atmosphere because it is contained in your compost, with proper ventilation and water, and absorbed by plants in the ground as part of a regular biological process.
Landfill: decay of organic waste in an environment without ventilation, and proper compost practices, and therefore emits methane, a greenhouse gas, which is extremely harmful to our mother Earth.
“It’s just not my thing.” Look, I get it. We have a lot to do in the short time we’re on Earth. But you might consider the harmful chemicals that seep into our water supply and the soil where our food grows. And hoping for a one-way ticket to Mars one day won’t solve the problem. Just like we wear our seatbelt in case of an accident, or incorporate more vegetables into our diet, composting is one more thing you can do to care for the health of your family and yourself.
As with anything, getting started is the hardest part. There’s lots of resources out there about starting and maintaining compost piles. Personally, it wasn’t until a good friend had her own simple system in our small, fenced in yard of our condo complex that I took the leap. Sometimes all we need to know is the simplest, fastest way to put something into action.
Start your compost pile- right now!
- Find a bin. If you want to explore open-air compost piles, or spend $80 on the fancy ones online that spin, that’s up to you. I found a cheap plastic tub (one was from a neighbor that wasn’t using it, another came from office storage that was being thrown out, and you can usually find something at your local Goodwill or thrift store).
- Drill holes into the sides and bottom of the tub. This is a key step to ensure that you have air flowing in and out of your compost bin. If you don’t have a drill, no need to go out and buy a brand new one—ask your neighbors, friends, or heck, call me up and I’ll lend you mine.
- Throw your organic waste in. The goal is to have a good mix of wet and dry. If you have too many fruit peels, balance it out with some fresh cut grass clippings, torn up newspaper or wood chips.
Here’s a cheat sheet:
- Fruit & Vegetable peels, pits and leftovers
- Egg shells
- Coffee grinds
- Dead cut flowers in that vase on your dining table
- Grass clippings
- Wood chips
- Those grocery store ads you get in the mail
- Other plain paper mail
- Old to-do lists (a personal favorite)
Just DON’T do it:
Lint from your dryer (although I hear it’s an excellent fire starter for the outdoor fire pit)
Dog poop or any kind of manure unless you don’t plan to use it for your garden in any way/shape or form. Even still...
Colored, glossy paper
Dairy or meat products (unless you want to deal with some serious pests)
- Occasionally shake up the bin, mix it around with some garden tools and give it a little bit of water. Fun fact about compost--it’ll break down whether you pay attention to it or not. It requires minimal effort. You'll be amazed at how much less you have for trash pickup days.
Once the soil has fully broken down, you can use it in your garden. Consider it soul food for your plants. Four steps seems pretty simple to me, but if you’re still having trouble, you can drop your compost off every Saturday morning from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Forsyth Farmers Market through COR Compost.
If you’re not in Savannah, do a search online in your local community and I guarantee you’ll find something. True story: I posted FREE compost on Facebook Marketplace in California and a tomato farmer picked up our compost to use on the crops for that season. Living proof that "someone's trash is another's treasure".
Pro-tip: Invest in a mini indoor compost bin that you can use in the kitchen until it’s ready to be brought out to your main compost pile. This changed the game for me. You can get one from the shop here.
Congratulations--you've made it this far and kickstarted a healthy habit, for yourself and the planet. Now, pat yourself on the back for taking a step in the right direction and cue, “Back to the Earth” by Jason Mraz (he’s an avocado farmer, he knows what he’s doing).