Composting, Different Ways

Composting (or, letting food scraps and other natural materials decompose into soil instead of sending them to a landfill) is central to making less trash and just generally being a good daily steward of the environment. I think there's a bit of a myth that composting is daunting/requires a major effort, but I haven't found that to be true. I used to hate taking out the trash, but for some reason I never mind taking out the compost. There are five main ways to compost, and I've chatted a little about each one, in case you're looking for a way that suits your home and lifestyle the best:


I compost using a pickup service that delivers and picks up a five gallon bucket of compost each month. I used to keep my bucket outdoors on my patio, but brought it inside when I realized it didn’t smell at all when kept closed. To minimize having to open and close the bucket, I keep my food scraps in a bowl in the fridge. When the bowl fills up, I empty it, wash it, and start again. One thing I like about using a service is that mine composts on a commercial level, so it can handle things that a home setup might not be able to (like oil, fruit pits, and citrus peels). Pickup services are a good option for apartment dwellers, and they make composting really easy. To find one near you, click here.


Yep, "vermi" as in "worm." In vermicomposting, certain species of worm are housed to eat and digest food scraps, decomposing the organic matter into rich compost as they munch along. One of the benefits of vermicomposting is that once you learn how to do it, you can set it up anywhere you move. If you want to learn more about how to do it, you can take a look at the way Colleen set hers up in the photograph above, here.


My parents purchased a backyard composter years ago, and it has been an easy, low-maintenance solution ever since. They keep a bin on their countertop for food scraps (this one is a lovely option, but any other container you have that's large enough and has lid would also work just fine), and when it’s full they carry it outside to the large composter (they use one like this, but there are many options available – even a loosely put together wooden box would work). One of the drawbacks of this setup is that meat, cheese, and other oils can’t be composted in their area because the richer food can attract animals. However, it’s a convenient and inexpensive solution – plus, they end up with rich soil to use in their garden. My friend Kathryn has put together a more in-depth how-to guide for backyard composting, if you'd like to learn more!


When traveling, I try to find locations where I can drop off small amounts of compost. For example, when I visit my boyfriend (who lives in Madison, WI), we corral our cooking scraps in a small bag and drop them off at a nearby public building that accepts them. Other friends of mine in Chicago bring their compost to local farmers’ markets, which sometimes offer to take compost scraps in exchange for a few dollars. To find a drop-off point near you, you can check my list (here), or do a Google search. (And, if you know of a drop-off point that isn’t on my list, will you share it in the comments? Spread that composting love around).


A few cities throughout the U.S., such as Seattle, offer curbside composting along with trash and recycling pickup services. If yours does, you probably already know that! If yours doesn’t and you find yourself with more yard debris (leaves, weeds from your garden, sticks) than your composting setup can handle, check to see if your city offers a compost pickup for yard waste only. Many do, and it’s often free. I’ve listed some of these programs on my composting guide, too.

Photograph by Colleen Doyle of No Trash Project, of her vermicomposting setup.