STANFORD UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF EARTH SCIENCES - EARTH SYSTEMS PROGRAM

Sustainable Choices

Compost Your Waste

Simplicity:
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Carbon Impact:
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Money Savings:
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Health Helper:
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Overview
Did you ever stop to wonder where dirt comes from? Well, an easy way to find out is to start a compost pile in your back yard. Composting is a process through which microorganisms break down organic matter (kitchen vegetable scraps, yard waste, lawn clippings) and convert it into soil. Through this cycle, so-called waste materials can become healthy, nutrient-rich soil—perfect for replenishing our gardens or potted plants. Thankfully, many simple and effective methods exist for composting on a small-scale in your backyard or apartment. Contrary to some misperceptions, composting does not have to be smelly or complicated. By using the resources below, the average family can remove its food and yard waste from the landfill and create healthy soil for its garden.

Tips & Tricks
Start composting. Evaluate your yard space and living situation and choose a composting system that is right for you.

Buy a discounted compost container. Often, local governments will offer discounted composting containers to their residents. Check with you local officials to learn if such a program exists in your area.

Start a city-wide system. Ask you local government officials if there is a municipal composting system in place. If not, encourage them to start one. Cities such as San Francisco have curbside composting that will collect kitchen scraps for large-scale composting.

Get wriggly. If you live in an apartment, try worm composting. It can be a good option for small, indoor spaces.

Web & Print Resources
How to start your own compost:
www.composting101.com/
www.compostguide.com/

Worm composting:
www.cityfarmer.org/wormcomp61.html
www.urbanext.uiuc.edu/worms/neighborhood/index.html

Learn about composting in your region:
www.epa.gov/epaoswer/non-hw/composting/live.htm

Books:
Let it Rot: The Gardener’s Guide to Composting, by Stu Campbell
The Rodale Books of Composting: Easy Methods for Every Gardener, by Grace Gershuny
Worms Eat my Garbage: How to Set Up and Maintain a Worm Composting System, by Mary Appelhof

Fun Facts

Finished compost soil is roughly 25–30 parts Carbon to 1 part Nitrogen.

The inside of a hot compost pile can reach 170°F.

Over 5% of landfill waste is food. Source

Red wiggler worms reproduce very fast. Each worm can produce about 10 new worms each week.