Many composters begin their at-home waste reduction process apprehensively, beginning simply to want to reduce how much food they’re throwing away or wanting to create a great, organic fertilizer for their beloved garden, and often enjoying the lessons composting teaches on the way (a little bit of science, a little bit more patience). Once you get the hang of composting, we recommend taking another step back to look and ponder at the upstream waste going into your compost bin and how you can prevent it from ever getting there.
Step 1: Track What’s Going into Your Bin
For a few weeks, observe what items are going into your compost bin. Is it a ton of junk mail? Loads of expired or freezer burnt food? A surplus of paper products? Recognize common items that end up in your compost bin and begin keeping track of them (whether in your head, online, or in a journal).
Step 2: The Three R’s of Recycling
We all know the 3 R’s of recycling: reduce, reuse, recycle. Treat this phrase like an in-order instruction manual, first reducing the amount of food (or organic materials) that need to go into your bin, reusing what you can (perhaps collecting veggie scraps in the freezer for a week and then using them to create a vegetable broth), and, then, recycling what remains through your compost bin.
Step 3: Make Small, Simple Changes
It can be overwhelming for you, your roommates, or your family to change their entire lives overnight. We recommend making one small lifestyle change at a time until it becomes a habit. Then, slowly add more changes in. For instance, if you notice a lot of expired food going into your compost bin, challenge yourself to wait to grocery shop until you have used as much food in your pantry as you can. Or, take a step back while grocery shopping and ask if you truly need to grab that extra bag of chips or if you can finish the half-open bag you already have at home. If expired food isn’t a problem, perhaps excess cardboard packaging, consider how you could order in bulk to reduce the containers and packaging that go to waste. Every small step is a step towards a brighter future, so go slow to not become overwhelmed.
Let’s Go Compost is a community-led effort to make compost bins free and accessible. We upcycle empty bulk ingredient bins into free, food-safe worm compost bins that are donated back to the community. Click here to get your own free worm compost bin.