Nothing Says "Happy Earth Day" Like a Big Pile of Compost

There are many ways to celebrate the Earth Day: plant a tree, sign a petition, say hello to a polar bear, go fly a kite, buy a bus pass. And I’m going to suggest one more: start a compost pile.

I have been composting at my household for years, primarily because I have lived in areas that supported city-wide composting programs. It all started in San Francisco, where I was persuaded to try composting by a friend who had recently discovered the benefits of it. After some initial digging into what was acceptable for the compost collection versus our recycling container or regular trash, a system was easy to follow. The biggest surprise was how much we had previously thrown away that was, in fact, compostable. Our household waste became a topic of discussion, and we made it a challenge to see how little we were able to throw away each week. Now, after sorting out recycling and compost, we have almost nothing left for the garbage can. It is miraculous and it feels good.

This year, with the start of a garden in our yard, we started our own compost pile outside. We bought a tall container from our local hardware store and put it out back. We now just walk across the yard to dump our goods when meal prep is over or the refrigerator gets cleaned out. Then we mix in grass clippings and leaves from our yard. I love seeing steam rise from the center when I turn over the pile every couple of days, and have been amazed by how efficiently the materials break down in a matter of weeks. I am excited to put our natural waste back into our own yard as we spread the compost over the garden. It’s the cycle of life right before my very own eyes.

Still not convinced? Here are three more things to think about for those who need one more push:

  1. Try to picture this: a typical household in the Twin Cities area throws away more than 10 pounds of compostable material every week, or 520 pounds per year. It adds up in a huge un-environmentally friendly way.
  2. For many, including myself at different points in my life, it seemed impractical to compost without having a garden to spread it on. The truth is that compost can also have excellent effects on indoor plants, flower beds, container gardens, or anywhere life thrives. For those cooped up in apartments or where gardening and yard work is out of reach, composting is one tiny step towards keeping our planet happy.
  3. For those of you who are worried about the smell of a compost bin on your counter, please believe me when I tell you that compost done right does not smell. It is imperative that you exclude any animal-based products (with the exception of egg shells) from the compost; keep it moist (at our house, we like to give our compost a little beer); and maintain a good balance of food scraps versus dry yard materials or wood products.

Ready to get started? Here are some Twin Cities-based composting resources to check out:

  • Eureka Recycling in Minneapolis has some great resources and provides in-depth analyses on the benefits of recycling. For those without a yard, their research on worm bins is a good read. They also provide a synopsis of composting within Minnesota and things to know before becoming an at-home composting practioner.
  • ReThink Recycling, a campaign to help Minnesota citizens make "environmentally responsible purchasing and disposal decisions in their daily lives," is sponsored by Solid Waste Management Coordinating Board.
  • Green Noise: Red Worms for Composting offers locally-produced redworms in the Twin Cities Metro Area, in quantities of 500 or 1000, to pick up at Amelia Flower and Garden Shoppe in Minneapolis.

And here are some on the Internet:


Alicia Jabbar is a self-described foodie, cook, and advocate for local and delicious foods. Alicia spent several years living in San Francisco, but last year spent seven months living and working on a farm on the East Coast. Now she's in Boulder, Colorado, where she is pursuing an opportunity to become an organic farmer. The single best aspect about food, she says, is the community it engages and the conversation it creates. We couldn't agree more.