Composting 101

What is composting?

“Composting is a process for converting decomposable organic materials into useful stable products” (thanks Wikipedia!). This mean that you can take your kitchen scraps and yard clippings, and turn them into a fertilizer-type soil additive to use on your garden, lawn, trees, or planter boxes.

Why should I compost?

If the free nutrients for your garden aren’t incentive enough, perhaps you’ll be motivated to compost knowing that it helps the environment. It’s been estimated that 13% of our nation’s trash is food, and once you add in yard clippings, that number jumps up to 20 or 30% (read more at Grist and OSU’s Composting Guide). That’s a lot of landfill space! It’s important to keep that out of landfills, because as the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) explains, food and other organic waste materials aren’t exposed to any oxygen in landfills, so when they decompose, they produce methane, a greenhouse gas. And the EPA also notes that compost has a lot of other environmental benefits such as “improving soil health and structure, increasing drought resistance, as well as reducing, and even eliminating, the need for supplemental water, fertilizers, and pesticides” (read more from the EPA here).

What can I compost?

There are a number of lists online that guide you as to what yard waste, kitchen scraps, and household items work well in a compost pile. Check out the few I’ve listed below:

How do I get started composting?

I’ve found it helpful to read a lot of guides (like everything I’ve linked to above) and watch a lot of videos (like those I’ve put below) to get a better idea of how to get started composting and learn about what type of compost bin might work best for us.

And if you have any other questions, send an email to and the more experienced composters on our team will be happy to help you out!

Locally yours,


Annie Hauck-Lawson, associate professor at Brooklyn College and co-editor of Gastropolis: Food and New York City, has produced a number of helpful videos on composting to get you started. Check out the links below:

1) Intro to Composting – a better way to discard cooking scraps

2) Compost Bins to Buy & D.I.Y. Options

3) Compost Bin Maintenance

4) Composting Straw Fort and Cold Frame Part 1

5) Composting Straw Fort and Cold Frame Part 2

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