There are several ways to compost and it’s important to figure out which way will work best for you and your family. Backyard composting is the original, the classic. The great thing about backyard compost is that anyone can do it, and it is super affordable! We recommend this option for a multitude of reasons, but especially if you eat mainly vegan/vegetarian and have a garden this is the perfect option for you. But meat and dairy eaters or nongardeners- stick with us! Backyard compost can also still be a great supplement to one of our composting programs.
As we learned in Composting 101, we have a lot of waste in the US, and composting is the single most effective way to reduce your impact.
With backyard composting, overall you’ll want to have a mixture of both “browns” (dry, carbon-rich plant materials) and “greens” (moisture, nitrogen-rich plant materials). Every time you add greens to your compost, be sure to also add browns. The optimal brown (carbon) to green (nitrogen) ratio is 30 to 1. While composters aim for that perfect ratio, the composting process will still happen, just not as efficiently.
We’ve got a complete list of what does and doesn’t go in your backyard compost here. It can be a bit confusing at first, but we’ve also included an overview of why you can’t put certain things in the backyard, to hopefully help it stick! But we’ve also got a couple of Pro tips for you:
- Make sure to avoid putting any meat, meat drippings, seafood, and dairy products in your backyard compost. (This includes veggies cooked in butter, milk, etc!) These products can cause animals to be attracted to your compost pile. But have no fear- both our composting programs will take all of these products if you have them.
- Be wary of “compostable plastic” and “biodegradable” items like disposable plates, cutlery, wipes, and more. These items are bioplastic that will not break down in your backyard compost (or take a very, very long time to do so), and most composting facilities won’t accept them either because of the toxic chemicals used to bind the plant-based materials to themselves. Opt for reusable instead!
Different Types of Backyard Composting
There are all different types of composters you can have in your backyard, from tumblers to bins to worm composters to the classic pile. Choosing a style really depends on personal preference, including factors like how much time you’d like to dedicate to composting, the type of yard space you have, whether or not you have budget to purchase a unit (rather than DIY it), the amount of compost you need, if you like worms (more on that later), and just how down and dirty you’d like to get with your compost.
What’s important to note: with most composting styles, you’ll want to make sure your compost is aerobic – meaning air is introduced to help break down the compost. This can come in many forms: from spinning your tumbler-style machine to turning your pile with a pitchfork. But it’s super important to do it because if it’s not aerated the compost will release methane gas while breaking down, just like a landfill.
There’s another style of composting you may be less familiar with, called vermicomposting. It’s where you use worms, oxygen and moisture to safely break down organic material. Essentially, worms do most of the work to break down your compost. If you can stomach the worms, vermicomposting is really a great option because it’s pretty effortless and doesn’t require you to turn it (like traditional methods), can be done indoors or outdoors (depending on season), doesn’t require nearly the same ratio of browns to be added, and can be a fun family activity to take care of the worms!
Regardless of which method you choose, we’re so excited you’re ready to join the movement and start a backyard compost. Sign up to commit to compost and donate to receive our exclusive Earth Day Everyday Countertop Compost Bin!