In 2012, I will: COMPOST More


We all have our 2012, “I wills” right?  I’m not one much for New Year’s resolutions, but even without realizing it, I somehow always have things in the back of my mind that I want to strive for in a new year. It just helps to have a starting point to launch from somehow. So, regardless of whether or not you want to call them “resolutions,” per say, in 2012, I do plan to do more of something, and that something is composting.

In my mind, it’s always been one of those really “greenie” green things that involved getting your hands dirty and some form of earthworm and wasn’t even relevant since I’m an apartment dweller without an inch of garden to my name.  I also generally didn’t even know what I would compost, if indeed I suddenly decided to compost.

Turns out, composting is really easy, even clean if you’d like it to be, and there are some surprising things that you can be and should be composting. If you feel a bit lost like I did, here are some basics on how to compost.

What do You Compost In Exactly?

While most of us envision piles of compost out in the back yard, you don’t need a back yard to get in on the composting action!

For containing small amounts of compost at a time to save yourself running outside so frequently, you can easily find inexpensive countertop composters.  You can also use a DIY version, using an empty covered container in the freezer.

For the larger compost pile, if you don’t have access to backyard, you can purchase an indoor compost kit.  For outdoors, you can build your own wood compost box or purchase a tumbler.  Basically, you simply need something that’s covered, will keep out any stray critters, and will allow you to stir it up or tumble it as necessary.

What Are the Benefits of Compost?

Outside of creating fantastic garden fertilizer (it does!), which is what most of us think of when we think of composting, there are many reasons why you should consider composting if you haven’t jumped on the compost train yet.  You ready for a few of my top reasons? Here goes!

  • Reduce your home waste drastically (generally by 25%)
  • Save money on garbage bills
  • Save money on garbage dump-runs
  • Lessen your contribution to landfills
  • Improves your soil and its ability to hold water (decreases water consumption), improve soil pH (suppresses plant pathogens) and even destroy a variety of pollutants

By far, the two biggest reasons are related to waste and soil improvement: you reduce your own waste and you create a fertilizer that improves soil and helps grow healthier, heartier plants.  If you’re an apartment-dweller without a lawn, let alone a garden, don’t let that deter you.  There are always ample community gardens (even University gardens) who would be more than happy to take that nutritious compost off of your hands.

Where can I compost? Home, office you name it!

Of course you can compost your own food waste in your kitchen, but why stop there? Even outside of the home, you could consider getting your office on board with composting.  In fact, 12% of all municipal waste comes from food scraps and thrown out leftovers. Tossing your shredded paper and leftover apple peelings into a classy countertop composter could go a long way toward greening up your office.

Bring the neighborhood together by organizing a block-wide composting initiative.  You can help provide the information, even organize a “Build-A-Compost-Maker” get together/backyard barbecue weekend.  You’ll all go home with a backyard composter and a new support group in your green endeavors.  Plus, you’ll have the greenest, and probably healthiest, gardens in your area!

What Can You Compost?

Finally, there are some really surprising things that you can compost. Whether you’ve got something from the kitchen, the office, or your last party and you’re wondering if it might be okay, check with this list {adapted from Planet Green}:


  • Coffee grounds and filters
  • Tea bags
  • Used paper napkins
  • Pizza boxes, ripped into smaller pieces
  • Paper bags, either ripped or balled up
  • Crumbs
  • Plain cooked pasta
  • Plain cooked rice
  • Stale bread
  • Paper towel rolls
  • Stale saltine crackers
  • Stale cereal
  • Used paper plates (the ones without the wax coating)
  • Cellophane bags (be sure it’s really Cellophane and not just clear plastic)
  • Nut shells (except for walnut shells, which can be toxic to plants)
  • Old herbs and spices
  • Stale pretzels
  • Pizza crusts
  • Cereal boxes (torn into small pieces)
  • Wine corks
  • Moldy cheese
  • Melted ice cream
  • Old jelly, jam, or preserves
  • Stale beer and wine
  • Paper egg cartons
  • Toothpicks
  • Bamboo skewers
  • Paper cupcake or muffin cups


  • Used facial tissues
  • Hair from your hairbrush
  • Toilet paper rolls
  • Nail clippings
  • 100% cotton cotton balls
  • Cotton swabs made from 100% cotton and cardboard (not plastic) sticks


  • Bills and other shredded documents
  • Envelopes (remove the plastic window)
  • Pencil shavings
  • Sticky notes
  • Business cards (not glossy)


  • Contents of your vacuum cleaner bag or canister (unless it contains something hazardous, like broken glass)
  • Newspapers (shredded or torn into smaller pieces)
  • Subscription cards from magazines
  • Leaves trimmed from houseplants
  • Dead houseplants and their soil
  • Flowers from floral arrangements
  • Natural potpourri (not the kind with “fragrance“)
  • Used matches
  • Ashes from the fireplace, barbecue grill, or outdoor fire pit

Party and Holiday Supplies

  • Wrapping paper rolls
  • Paper table cloths
  • Crepe paper streamers
  • Latex balloons
  • Raffia
  • Natural holiday wreaths
  • Christmas tree (chop it up with some pruners first)
  • Evergreen garlands

Do any of you compost? Was there anything on this list that you didn’t know you could toss into your compost pile or something I missed?Share away in the comments!

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