Composting is a simple and effective way to reduce and repurpose food and yard waste, yet it’s far from a mainstream practice in the United States. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), food and yard waste make up around 30 percent of what we throw away. With so much compostable waste unnecessarily going into landfills, there is no better time than now to change our habits.

So, what exactly is composting? And more so, how can it help you, your home and the environment?

What is compost?

We’ve all heard of compost. But what, exactly, is it? Compost is a mixture of mostly decayed organic matter used for fertilizing and enriching soil. Composting transforms otherwise-discarded food scraps, twigs, leaves, coffee grounds, and many other things to a rich soil that add extra nutrients to plants and outdoor gardens and beds.

There are so many benefits to incorporating this natural process into your lifestyle. According to the EPA, composting food scraps and leftovers reduces methane emissions from landfills, therefore lowering your carbon footprint. Additionally, composting reduces the need for chemical fertilizer, enriches soil, and lowers the risk of plant disease and pests in the garden.

Why should you compost?

According to, the average person produces 475 pounds of food waste per year. When you compost, you’re reducing your own carbon footprint on the earth.

Composting strips waste of its methane emissions (a powerful greenhouse gas), therefore, even if you throw away compost remains, you’re reducing the amount of waste going to a landfill and the amount of methane that’s released into the atmosphere.

The U.S. Composting Council says that if everyone in the U.S. composted all of their food waste, the impact would be equivalent to removing 7.8 million cars from the road. That type of impact can’t be overlooked.

What you can and can’t compost

There are a few different techniques for composting, and depending on your living arrangements and preferences, you may want to compost inside or outside.

Next time you’re making your morning smoothie or whole food juice in your Vitamix, take a look at the organic material that’s left over. Perhaps there’s a banana peel, pepper seeds or leftover lime zest. Can these items be composted? If you’re new to the process, it can be tricky to know what you can and cannot use.

  • Items that can be composted include: coffee grounds, banana peels, dryer lint, egg shells, shredded newspaper, tea bags, grass clippings, hair and pet fur, fireplace ashes, and fruit and vegetable peels/scraps.

  • Items that you cannot compost include: lime peels, meat, fat, grease, oils, dairy products, and yard trimmings treated with chemical pesticides.

If you’re not sure if an item can be added to your compost pile, it’s best to leave it out. The addition of one wrong ingredient can bring disease and pests to surrounding plants, or create a foul smell, rendering the whole batch of compost unusable.

If you recycle, buy reusable, bulk or secondhand items, and donate your used clothing and housewares, composting is the next logical step to help reduce waste and limit your own carbon footprint. Now that you know the impact of composting, you’re ready to begin. Check out Composting Series Part 2 Article for details on how to get your compost operation started outdoors, indoors or with the FoodCycler FC-30.