Have you been thinking about composting, but held off because you don't have outdoor space, aren't quite sure how it works, or fear noxious odors or an onslaught of critters? Fortunately, composting is less intimidating than it seems, and once you have your set-up in place, it's a simple habit to keep up.
Here’s why experts encourage everyone to compost and exactly what you need to know to get started, including tips to keep your compost stink- and pest-free and how to maintain the right balance of materials.
The Benefits of Composting
Composting can keep more than a quarter of the typical household’s waste out of the landfill, where it would create harmful greenhouse gasses, such as methane and carbon dioxide. While it can seem like a small step to put your banana peel in the compost bin instead of the trash can, composting can have big impacts. San Francisco’s oft-cited, highly effective, curbside composting program has reduced equivalent greenhouse gas emissions by 93,437 metric tons annually. That’s the same amount of GHG emissions saved by keeping 20,000 cars off the road for a year.
If you have a garden, you’ll also reap the benefits with larger, more attractive flowers and vegetables and fruits with higher nutrients and protein levels, says Heather Williams, environmental scientist with CalRecycle.
Using compost returns nutrients to the soil, cuts down on the need for petroleum-based fertilizers (which have a negative environmental impact), and also reduces the need for pesticides by supporting healthier, more resilient plants, says Alexa Kielty, a zero waste specialist at the San Francisco Department of the Environment.
Plus, since compost absorbs moisture, your plants will require less water. “You’re essentially protecting plants from drought by using compost,” Kielty says.
Choose a Composting Method
No matter where you live—a home with a sprawling backyard or a compact studio—you can compost. Here are some of the most common composting methods and how much space and attention is required for each.