Composting is a great (and easy!) way to reduce your household’s amount of waste, and the less we put into landfills the better. If you’re ready to make your home — and your ecosystem — a touch greener, take a look at these surprisingly painless tips for composting.

Choose a bin and location

There are generally 2 types of compost receptacles: bins and tumblers. The type of receptacle that’s best for you really comes down to space and personal preference. Just know that bins can usually hold more waste but might be difficult for gardeners who want to use it on their garden beds. Tumblers hold less, are stationary, but easy to turn and may be better-suited for gardening depending on where they’re placed.  

Know what to include and what to ditch 

Confused about what to toss into that bin? Some slam dunks are vegetable scraps, organic yard trimmings, paper towels, coffee filters and grounds, eggshells, ashes from fireplaces, sawdust, and houseplants. Items to avoid are meat and dairy products, fish and animal bones, pet feces, and yard trimmings treated with pesticides. These can harm your plants and may attract pests to the pile. 

Create a healthy mix

Compost is made up of both nitrogen-rich “greens” (grass clippings and kitchen scraps) and carbon-rich “browns” (leaves, dryer lint, paper, sawdust, non-waxy cardboard). There are many different recommendations for the “ideal” ratio, but a general rule to help the decomposition process is 3-4 parts brown to one part green.

Turn your pile

Depending on the pile’s size, once a week to once a month, grab a rake, pitchfork, or shovel and give that healthy mix a good turn! This helps with decomposition, eliminate pests, and aerates the compost. It also helps keep the pile moist. Although rare, large compost piles can catch fire if not properly maintained.

Be patient 

At-home composting is a process, and it takes time to break down. Depending on the size of your pile, this can take anywhere from a couple months to a couple years. But keep at it: eventually you’ll have created some amazing, nutrient-rich soil — all from materials that most people would have sent off to the landfill!

Use your finished product

Hooray! After taking the leap, choosing the right bin for your needs, getting the proper mix, turning and tending the pile, it’s finally finished. Compost that’s ready to use has a deep brown, almost black color — similar to bagged potting soil. The compost should be crumbly and have an earthy aroma. Once it looks ready, take this amazing product and use it wherever it’s needed: add it to household plants, garden beds, spread on the lawn, use it like mulch around trees and shrubs, and even make a compost “tea!”

Urban/municipal composting 

Just because you live in a city doesn’t mean you can’t compost. In fact, adding composting to your daily routine can be as simple as tossing waste into a different container. Look into requesting a “green” bin for curbside pickup from the city’s waste management company. Check to see if your city offers curbside composting. Then just add that bin to your weekly garbage and recycling pickup … it’s as simple as that. In many cities, residents can even include items that aren’t recommended for rural composters such as meat and dairy, greasy pizza boxes, chop sticks, and soiled cardboard to-go containers.

Don’t worry about odors

New composters may wonder if that little bin on the counter or in a cupboard will stink up the kitchen — or worse, the whole house. And the answer is no! Most of the small containers come equipped with charcoal filters to eliminate bad odors. San Francisco even offers residents a free indoor bucket to encourage composting.

Whether you’re a city-dweller or live far from town, composting is a highly effective way to reduce household waste and do one small part to help out our planet. And if you garden, it’s a boon for your plant life too.

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about Hannah

Hannah Fairbanks is a freelance writer living in San Francisco with her husband and 2 daughters. When she’s not writing, you might find her reading, packing bento box lunches for her kids, and making sure she gets in at least 10,000 Fitbit steps a day.