Composting 101

For decades, the term “compost” was only synonymous with yard trimmings and stinky fertilizer. Recently, though, its reputation has blossomed within the Austin city limits, with more and more households becoming aware of not only its positive impact on the environment, but ways to become directly involved with it.

What Is Compost?

Have you ever tossed away scraps of food to unclutterer and thought, “This is biodegradable. Why am I throwing it in the garbage?” Well, that is compost. Yes—it’s essentially that simple! Compost is defined as “decayed organic matter”, something that undergoes the natural process of rot and- while doing so -creates a rich stimulant for soil. It is not, however, a “fertilizer”, the difference being that compost feeds soil while fertilizer feeds plants…but the two can make a harmonious pair.

Compostable materials are present in nearly every room of your home, and some of them may come as a surprise. Here’s a short list of lesser-known soil-friendly scraps:

  • Tea bags
  • Tissues (used and new)
  • Grains/Nuts
  • Chips
  • Chopsticks
  • Egg shells
  • Crayons

To see a full chart of compostable materials, visit:

Composting promotes healthy microbes that aid plant growth and help the soil retain moisture (click here to know the science behind the decomposition).

Many components go into the art of composting, utilizing step-by-step methods present in any natural decomposition. The proper mixture of these “ingredients” guarantee a scent-free and satisfying compost bin. Find more tips on layering compost here.

Why Is It Important?

 Organic materials have undergone the natural cycle of growth, decay, fertilization, and re-growth for centuries before mankind arrived, and composting is an inexpensive and easy way to boost the planet’s sustainability.

On top of the perk of a less smelly trashcan (we all know how those vegetable scraps get ripe after a few days, especially in the Texas heat!), joining the composting community has a handful of benefits:

  • Takes valuable organic waste out of landfills
  • Allows more space in landfills for non-compostable material
  • Eliminates the need for chemical fertilizers

Imagine the organic waste, piled high in dump trucks every week, transformed into healthy, well-nourished soil for gardens and yards and plots of land. To learn more about benefits and information, click here and visit the folks at Compost Matters!

Where Do I Start?

There are two types of composting methods- outdoor and indoor -but you don’t have to have a dirt patch to effectively get involved. To begin your composting adventure, you can buy a custom compost bin at your local gardening shop or hardware store; to save $20 and maximize your recycling karma, you can even make your own compost bin (click here for the tutorial)!

For those city-dwellers who don’t have a patch of grass to call their own, wonderful local businesses like Compost Pedallers can sweep in and pick up your full bins, no problem!

Local Classes

Austin is nothing if not an eco-friendly town, offering free composting classes to beginners! Here are just a few of the local opportunities to take advantage of in the month of April:

  • April 11th: Free class at the Barton Creek Farmer’s Market
  • April 19th: Free class at Hope Farmer’s Market
  • April 25th: Free class at SFC Farmer’s Market

View a full list of classes and register here. Happy composting!