Composting at home isn't as hard as you might think — here's how to do it

Justin Sullivan /GettyImagesChoosing to compost is an important step you can take to help the environment.

Composting at home sounds intimidating. You have to figure out where to store your food scraps, what food scraps can go into the compost pile, how to contain any odours, and what to do with the final product. Composting is a scientific process, so there are certainly specific steps to take to make sure it is done correctly. But it’s also totally possible and important to do, especially with households in the US wasting up to 40% of their food.

Here is how to start composting at home or in your apartment.

Choose your compost space: indoors or out.

Alan Levine/FlickrYou can use a compost bin indoors.

Depending on where you live, it might be more feasible to compost inside, especially if you live in an apartment or in a colder climate. If you have a garden or space in the backyard, composting outside might be your best option.

Either way, follow Safe Bee’s instructions to avoid attracting pests.

Set up a designated compost bin or pile.

Rebecca Murphy/FlickrIt’s easy to do outdoors.

If you decide to compost outside, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommends choosing a “dry, shady spot near a water source.” You can start a pile inside a bin, or you can start the scrap pile on the ground. If you choose the latter, building a small fence around the space can help control the size of the pile and keep pests at bay.

You’ll definitely need a bin if you decide to compost indoors, but you can pick one up at a hardware store, order it online, or follow Apartment Therapy’s instructions and make one yourself with a container and a tray.

Start your compost with earth or soil.

If you are composting outside, you can go ahead and throw your scraps on the bare earth. This makes it easy for earthworms to access your pile to help break down the food. It is helpful to add a layer of twigs to aerate the food pile, too. If you are composting indoors, put a layer of shredded newspaper at the bottom of your bin, then per the EPA’s instructions, add about a pound of soil.

If you’re up to it (and you’re not squeamish), you can add worms to your indoor bin, so long as there are holes at the top of it for breathability.

Scrap your leftovers.

Collin Anderson/FlickrThere’s something to be done with your food scraps.

Composting shouldn’t be an excuse to waste food, but for those times you do have some leftover peels or old eggshells, it’s time to put your bin to use. Science, of course, plays an important part here.

The EPA explains that compost is comprised of three parts: brown matter, green matter, and water. Brown matter, like twigs, dead leaves, and shredded paper, add carbon to the compost. Green matter, like food scraps, tea bags, and coffee grounds, provide your compost with nitrogen. For best results, and to control smells, the Natural Resources Defence Council recommends about a 2:1 ratio of browns to greens.

Know what not to throw in the bin.

WikipediaDon’t let your pet near your bin.

Dairy products, eggs, meat, oils, and lard will all smell horrific as they rot, and they will also attract pests.

According to the EPA, pet waste can carry harmful bacteria, germs, or worse. If you’re ready to toss in some diseased plants or chemically treated lawn clippings, don’t. They could contaminate the entire pile.

A little maintenance goes a long way.

Shawn Campbell/FlickrUse a shovel to mix the compost.

Putting the bin together is the hardest part of the process, and even it is not too difficult. Once you have a designated pile and you’ve mastered the 2:1 browns to greens ratio, you just need to mix the compost with a shovel about every two weeks.

Be sure to grab a handful regularly, too. It should be damp, but not wet. If it is too dry, mist on some water.

Put your “gold” to good use.

Alan Levine/FlickrAnyone can turn leaves, twigs, coffee grinds, fruit peels, egg shells, and more into black, organic soil.

Once the compost becomes a rich, dark brown and is light and fluffy, the compost is ready and often called black “gold.” You can add it to your garden or to plants around the house. If you find yourself with too much compost, offer to share with friends and family or check with local farmers, community gardens, schools, and offices to donate your surplus and spread the love.

Be sure to check your city’s waste management website, too, for compost drop-off options.

Business Insider Emails & Alerts

Site highlights each day to your inbox.

Follow Business Insider Australia on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.