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Composting 101

What is it?

Composting is the process of recycling organic matter that can later be used as fertilizer for agriculture. Composting creates an ideal environment for natural matter and materials to decompose at a much faster rate. Organisms such as bacteria, fungi, worms, sowbugs, and nematodes, help in this process. The end result of the decomposed matter usually looks like fertile soil that can then be used in gardens and farming. Composting can happen at many levels including the industrial level, community level, and personal level. (Reference 1)

Why is it important?

  • Landfills

    • By separating compostable items, landfills will become less occupied with valuable materials that can be used to create enriched soil for farming or gardening purposes. (Reference 1)

  • Water

    • Compost can hold anywhere between 5 to 20% of its weight in water which means when you add compost to soil it not only improves how water penetrates the soil to help plants but it also penetrates deep enough that the water will eventually reach local springs to help replenish it. (Reference 2)

  • Methane

    • Keeping organic matter out of landfills helps reduce methane from being released into the atmosphere. When organic matter is left in landfills the organisms that help in the recycling processes are unable to survive leaving the organic matter to rot and release methane. (Reference 2)

Common Items That Can Be Composted

Compostable items can be sorted into two categories:

Brown Matter:

  • Shredded newspapers

  • Shredded cardboard

  • Shredded paper

  • Nutshells

  • Crushed eggshells

  • Dead leaves

  • Hay and straw

Green Matter:

  • Fruits and vegetables

  • Grass clippings

  • Coffee grounds

  • Houseplants

Composting at Home

There are a few ways to compost at home.

Cold Composting

  • For this method of composting, you can pick an area on your property where you can pile up the organic matter you wish to use as compost. If possible, using wood pellets in the area can help create a better-suited environment. Once you have decided on an area, you can leave your compostable matter and wait for nature to do its thing! In order to maintain this method, you will be required to turn the pile with a shovel every few days to make sure that there is enough oxygen in the pile. This is the slowest method and requires an adequate amount of outdoor space. (Reference 3)


  • This method focuses primarily on worms, specifically red wigglers. By introducing red wigglers into your compost pile it will help speed up the composting process resulting in being able to use your compost much sooner than if you were to use the cold composting method. This method can be used both outdoors and indoors depending on your preference keeping in mind that if you wish to use this method inside you will need to make sure that you have a big enough bin covered in holes so that the worms can breathe. (Reference 3)

Electric Composter

  • An electric composter is the least stinky and easiest to maintain. This method requires you to purchase an electric composter and leave it in your kitchen where you can turn it on and leave it to the machine to get the job done. Electric composters are great for people living in small spaces or who do not have access to a backyard or plot of land. The only downside is that some machines can be quite pricey. (Reference 3)

Aerobic Composting

  • Aerobic composting relies on the microbes in garden soil to help create compost from organic matter. For this method, you can use a storage container of any size you can fit in the spot you have designated for your compost. All you will need beside the container covered in air holes is garden soil and a towel. The towel will act as a liner for the soil to sit on and the organic matter can be buried in that soil. This is another great method for someone living in small spaces however it does tend to smell more than the electric composting method. (Reference 3)

The Ratio

The ratio between what is considered brown organic matter and green organic matter can vary depending on what method of at-home composting you use. Using the best-suited ratio to start off your composting journey can help ensure that the rest of your journey is successful. For indoor composting, the typical ratio is 3:1. Three parts brown matter and one part green matter. For outdoor composting the common ratio is 1:1. This means that you should start your pile off with 50% brown matter and 50% green matter. (Reference 4)


  1. Hu, S. Composting 101. NRDC. 2020.

  2. Rominger, A. The 15 benefits of composting for the environment, the economy, & our communities. Grown Ensemble. 2020.

  3. How to compost at home: the ultimate beginner guide. Pela. 2022.

  4. Here’s how to start composting at home. Home Hardware.

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