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How to Start Composting: A Beginner's Guide

Composting is a simple, eco-friendly way to reduce waste and create nutrient-rich soil for your garden. If you’re new to composting, this guide will walk you through the basics and help you get started with ease.

Thank you to Maria Vaughan, of CORcompost for being such a valuable resource on the Simply B. Sustainable Postcast! Check it out here:

We asked her to how to get started with compost and here's the summary:

Why Compost?

  1. Reduce Waste: The average U.S. household generates 650 pounds of compostable materials annually. Over 60% of what ends up in landfills could be composted, saving municipalities money on waste collection and disposal.

  2. Environmental Benefits: Composting helps reduce greenhouse gas emissions associated with organic waste in landfills, which would otherwise produce harmful gases due to the lack of oxygen.

  3. Improve Soil Health: Compost adds essential nutrients to soil, promoting healthier plant growth and a more sustainable gardening practice.

What is Composting?

Composting is the natural process of decomposition of organic materials. In nature, leaves, plants, and other organic matter break down with the help of microorganisms, turning into nutrient-rich soil. By composting at home, you can mimic this process and convert your kitchen and yard waste into valuable compost for your garden.

Getting Started with Composting

  1. Save Your Scraps: "You can compost that!" Start by collecting compostable kitchen scraps. This includes:

  • fruit and vegetable scraps

  • coffee grounds

  • tea bags (no metal or plastic)

  • eggshells, and other organic materials like hair, fingernail clippings,

  • tree fiber: papertowels, napkins tissues (rolls too!)

  • if it grows, it goes!

  • don't add laundry lint bc it's full of microplastics from synthetic fibers (unless your clothes are all 100% cotton or natural than GO YOU!)

  • no aluminim, plastic, metal anything not natural is a no.

  • Optional: meats, cheese, bones (they may attract animals and take longer to decompose but otherwise fine!)

  1. Store them in a container on your counter Simple Tip:(A cookie jar, a metal coffee bin or a thrifted ice bin works great!) Don't have anything? Just throw them in a plastic bag and store in the freezer. (look ma no odors and definately no flies, if you are worries about this but I've never had an issue) .

  2. Set Up Your Compost Bin:

  • For beginners, a simple and inexpensive method is to create a compost bin using a piece of wire fencing. Form the wire into a circle and secure it with zip ties. This containment will help keep your compost pile together and allow for airflow.

  • Alternatively, you can use a five-gallon bucket with holes drilled in the bottom for aeration. (if you collect the "juice" that comes out its great for fertizer for plants/ garden!)

  1. Add Brown Matter: For every batch of kitchen scraps (greens), add an equal amount of brown materials such as dry leaves, straw, wood chips, or shredded paper (avoid glossy paper). Browns provide carbon, which balances the nitrogen-rich greens and helps prevent odors. Simple Tip: If you lack brown materials, purchase a bale of hay from a local feed store.

  2. Layering Your Compost: (Think Oreo Cookie!)

  • Start with a layer of brown materials at the bottom of your compost bin.

  • Add your kitchen scraps (greens) on top of the brown layer.

  • Cover the greens with another layer of browns.

  • Mix the layers to ensure proper aeration and cover the top layer with browns to prevent smells.

  1. Maintain Your Compost:

  • Aerate: Regularly turn or stir your compost pile to introduce oxygen, which helps the decomposition process and prevents odors. A simple compost aerator tool can make this task easier.

  • Moisture: Keep the compost moist, like a damp sponge, but not waterlogged. If it’s too wet, add more brown materials.

  1. Harvest Your Compost: In about six months to a year, your compost will be ready to use. It should be dark, crumbly, and smell earthy. Use it in your garden, and plants to enrich the soil and promote healthy plant growth.

Troubleshooting Common Issues

  • Bad Odors: If your compost smells bad, it’s likely too wet or lacks enough brown materials. Add more browns and turn the pile to introduce more air.

  • Attracting Pests: Ensure food scraps are well-covered with browns to avoid attracting animals. Avoid adding meat, dairy, or oily foods.

  • Slow Decomposition: If your compost is not breaking down, it may need more moisture, air, or a better balance of greens and browns.

Community Composting Options

If you lack space for composting at home, look into community composting programs or services like COR Compost. These services often provide drop-off locations or even pick-up services for your compostable materials, making it easy to participate in composting regardless of your living situation.


Composting is a straightforward and impactful way to reduce waste and contribute to a healthier environment. By following these simple steps, you can start composting today and enjoy the benefits of rich, organic compost for your garden. Remember, every small effort counts towards a more sustainable future. Happy composting!

Have a question, or want to show us what you've learned? Tag us or send us a message on Instagram or @corcompst #SimplyBSustainable

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