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How to start composting: everything you need to know.

Everything You Need to Know to Start Composting

Now that our trash diet is well underway, I wanted to share with you what I’ve learned about composting.  This is the part of the program I was most excited about because I figured it would be an easy way to immediately start reducing our waste.  But before I get ahead of myself, let me give you a quick primer on how exactly it works.

See below for a visual step-by step guide:

how to start composting: everything you need to know


How to start composting: everything you need to know


How to start composting: everything you need to know
No really – that’s it!  I have no idea why it took me so long to jump on the composting bandwagon because there really is nothing to it.  Basically any food you can think of (plus a few non-food items like paper towels) can go in your compost bin so there’s no second-guessing yourself about whether you’re doing it right.


As I mentioned before, Seattle Public Utilities and The Glad Products company were kind enough to provide me with this counter top composting bucket as well as a supply of Glad composting bags.  I have really enjoyed using these two products but truthfully all you really need to start composting is a bin to keep food in.  Once it’s full you just dump it directly into your yard waste can (at least that’s how it works here in Seattle – check out the end of this post for other options).


I will say, though, that as a mama who deals with diaper pails and toddler potties all day, I’ve kind of reached my limit on dealing with sticky/stinky stuff.  Which is why I appreciate the bucket’s charcoal filter and the bags.  The filter does a pretty good job of keeping the food smells at bay with the bucket out on my counter and there’s really no odor at all when I store in in a cupboard.  I also like the added convenience (and neatness) of being able to put the compostable bags straight into my yard waste.


So are you wondering if I was right about how much composting would reduce our waste?  Click through for the answer as well as info. on how to get even more into composting and how to get the kids excited about it all.

In the first week of composting (and being better about recycling) our kitchen trash was reduced significantly – from our norm of at least 2 bags a week to just a little over 1 bag.  The majority of that change was probably due to our recycling efforts because the only food we used to throw away were things we couldn’t put down the disposal, like chicken bones.  What I noticed even more than our smaller trash pile was how much less water we were using by cutting back on the garbage disposal.

Also, C is really getting into composting and every time he asks to put his food in the compost bin I feel a small twinge of pride that my 2 year old even knows what that is.  And I bet you can guess what secret weapon I used to get him excited about it…



…books (of course)!  On our latest trip to the library I just happened to come across Compost Stew: An A to Z Recipe for the Earth.



It’s a bright and beautiful alphabet book all about composting and it’s got C jazzed to add to the compost bin after each of his meals.


photo via Sunny side up mama


To wrap up, I also wanted to point out that if you don’t have the option of emptying your food scraps into your yard waste, you can always start composting yourself in the backyard.  Check out this post by Sunny side up mama for some inspiration as well as another great book recommendation, this one for slightly older kids.  Also, Make and Takes recently did a great post on the why and how of backyard composting.


Does your family compost?  If so how do you do it?  Share with me in the comments below.


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{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Naomi July 28, 2011 at 5:24 pm

We do compost and it goes out with the City on garbage day. We have to use lined paper bags, not plastic. I don’t use the bucket, I don’t have a/c and I don’t want it to stink in the heat. So, instead I use small bags and put them in my freezer. During meal prep I bring it out and it stays out until the end of dinner. Everyone puts their stuff in it and back in the freezer it goes! No mess, no stink.


Sarah Berry July 28, 2011 at 8:42 pm

We’ve been composting for a few years now and were also shocked at how simple it is. We have a small silver can with a lid on our counter and a large compost bin from Lowes in the back yard.

I would add two crucial pieces of info to the post – NO meat, dairy, or oils should go in. These cause the pile to smell, attract animals, and don’t break down as well.

Second – about a year into our journey we noticed a significant amt of fruit flies in the large composter. I contacted my friend, a Master Composted at Cornell University, and she said that the ratio of kitchen scraps to paper and/or dried leaves/hay should be 1:3!!

That wasn’t realistic for us, but by putting our paper shredder next to the garbage and shredding and adding all non glossy mail, we fixed the problem!


llmyk March 8, 2012 at 5:27 pm

We recently got serious about our composting and we are amazed by how much we can compost, we save about a half of a bag to a bag of trash a week. Both of my children are involved (2 & 7) and it is all very exciting to them. Our city doesn’t pick up our trash in western PA., but thats ok, because I am excited to use it for my garden in the next few weeks :-) thanks for your post! I never knew about the glad compost bags…wonder how long it takes for those to break down?


Marisa March 11, 2014 at 12:40 pm

I started hot-composting in my back yard about 4 months ago and I’m very happy with the results. It inspired me to start seriously gardening since I had all this good, useable, organic material to amend my very alkaline, Arizona soil with. Our city doesn’t collect compostables yet either, but like a previous poster mentioned, my garden and I are both happy to turn it into good dirt for my veggies and herbs!


Carola April 8, 2014 at 11:04 pm

I’m from the Netherlands and we have to separate the garbeggshellsll the food leftovers, plastics, paper and other garbage go into different trashbins and they come pick it up every other week.
I started composting 2 years ago. At first in a pile, later on in a trashbin where I took the bottom off. Now the worms come help with the composting process, making the compost even ritcher in nutrients!
I only compost raw fruit and vegetables, paper, leaves, eggshells and coffeegrounds.


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