Community Composting: How to Start

Erin & Brice - October 5, 2020

Being at home has presented a great opportunity to try out something we have been wanting to do for a while now: composting. 

Composting is the process of recycling your organic waste into something useful. It requires sorting your organic waste into a separate bin, giving it an ideal environment in which to decompose, and then utilizing the finished compost for gardening or other purposes. 

There are many different ways to compost. For those with large yards and their own gardens, home composting can be ideal. For those in larger cities, industrial composting may be available, making the process pretty similar to your other waste streams like trash and recycling. For us, neither of those options were available, so we looked into something else, community composting. 

While our small city does not offer composting at the waste management level, a grassroots neighborhood composting program is available. A small group works to collect compost, break it down, and then distribute it to local gardeners, farmers, and ranchers. Composters have the option of dropping off their waste at a few locations around town, or having the team of “Rot Riders,” or bike riding compost collectors, pick up their waste.

We opted for the drop off option, here is what we’ve learned so far. 

What goes in our compost?

Coffee grounds, veggie scraps, fruits, bread, egg shells, and paper towels. Yard scraps can also be put in the compost, but we do not have a yard so don’t need to worry about this. Some of the things that cannot go in our compost are meat and dairy products, paper plates, oils and fats, and compostable utensils, bags, and take out containers. That’s right, many of those items labeled “compostable’ can really only be broken down in an industrial compost, so home composts and our neighborhood compost can’t accept them. 

It doesn’t smell (as bad as we thought it would). 

When we first began our composting journey, we were a little concerned about the smell. Would we need to keep it in the garage? Would it stink up the house? Keeping the compost outside is not an option for us, due to the wildlife in our area, and the potential for attracting them. 

To our surprise though, we didn’t really notice a smell, especially if we regularly dropped off the waste. It was so unobtrusive that we are able to keep our composting bucket in the kitchen without any issue. 

It has reduced our trash by a lot.

Since beginning to compost, our trash can has been filling up less and less often. As regular coffee drinkers and vegetarians, our amount of coffee grounds and veggie scraps is pretty high. Even just removing these few items from our waste stream has made a dramatic difference. It is nice to have to take out the trash less often and know that our waste is getting a second life. Composting can help us to #DontFeedTheLandfills and reduces methane emissions from landfills. We have enjoyed working in this new way to Leave No Trace. 

So how can you start composting? We suggest looking into options in your community, the opportunities may surprise you.

By the Subaru/Leave No Trace Teams. For over 20 years these teams have provided tangible solutions to serious issues facing our outside space and reach over 15 million people every year. Learn more about the important work of our mobile education teams.  Proud partners of this program include Subaru of America,REI,Eagles Nest Outfitters, Thule,Fjällräven andKlean Kanteen.

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