You can compost that?

If you had told me a few years ago that composting would be one of my favorite living lightly hacks, I probably would have shaken my head and laughed. Compost is weird and gross and only for hippies, right?


In the same ways that I used to take pride in the things I figured out how to recycle, I now love playing the “I can put that in the compost” game with my family and friends. There is such a weird satisfaction in knowing that I put things in a bin with a bunch of other “garbage” and it turns into gorgeous, healthy dirt. And then it goes in my garden and helps things grow again! I mean, talk about the ultimate version of recycling!

two hands full of rich dark compost

So, here’s a quick lesson on composting: put your food scraps (fruit, veg, baked goods, etc. — just avoid meat and dairy because it gets stinky and attracts pests) in a bin along with yard clippings, leaves, and other organic materials. Watch it break down and turn into dirt!

If you only do that, it will work. There are fancy compost bins and special worms and things you can add to make it work better or faster, but if you literally just toss this all in a pile, it will work on its own. (Not my recommendation, but we used to just throw everything in a pile behind the shed at our last house!)

If you’re new to the composting arena, please feel free to google your little heart out and find some tips for best practices. But I’m more of a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants kind of gal when it comes to this, so I don’t have a lot of great factual information for you. That’s why we invented internet searches.

However, I WOULD like to share with you a list of things that I’ve put in my compost that you might not think to add:

  • Leftovers — yup, sadly we still have food waste at our house. It’s something I’m working on, but we’re not perfect (#progressnotperfection). When I do have to toss something because it’s gone bad, I try to compost it instead.
  • Paper — newspapers, non-glossy junk mail, your kids’ old artwork (shh!), bad print jobs and scrap paper with old grocery lists on it. Toss it all in.
  • Clothing — cotton, wool, and other natural fibers are great to throw in there. My daughter ruined quite a few onesies, and they are now somewhere beneath the veggies in my garden. Just stay away from things that are 100% polyester, vinyl, or spandex. Plastic/man-made fibers don’t break down.
  • Rags — just like the old ruined clothes, when rags are done for and too full of holes to use again, just toss them in the pile and let them break down! I would recommend washing first to get cleaning products off them, unless you’re cleaning with baking soda and vinegar or other natural products.
  • Fast food bags & Pizza boxes — Did you know that if these have grease on them, they shouldn’t be recycled? It can ruin the entire process and keep the entire bale of paper from being recycled. Instead, toss it in the compost!
  • Napkins and paper towels — same goes for paper products that can’t be recycled. They still don’t need to go into the trash! (Bonus: look into cloth napkins and unpaper towels when you’ve finished and composted your current stash of disposable ones.)
  • Toilet paper rolls and boxes — large boxes still get sent to the recycling, but small ones that fit and empty toilet paper rolls will break down nicely with the rest of the compost.
  • My dish scrubber — that’s right, my dish scrubber is compostable. This is something I’ve started looking for in products I buy. The dish scrubbers I use are made from walnut shells, so they can go right in the bin with my kitchen scraps when they wear out!
  • My deodorant tube and shampoo packaging — same as the dish scrubber: I found a deodorant that comes in a cardboard tube and a shampoo bar that comes in a compostable box. They go straight in the bin when I’m done with them! This is my new favorite product feature to look for when I need something new.

I’m still keeping my eye out for more things I can compost, and I’ll let you know if I come up with anything crazy! In the meantime, get that jack-o-lantern off your porch and start with him. You know it’s already starting to get soggy, so it’s a great start! Throw it in a bin or a pile with the dry leaves in your yard, and there you go! You’re composting!

Do you compost? How has it gone for you? Do you have tips for what has helped?

Did you know that you can put these things in yours? What’s the weirdest thing you’ve added to your compost?

Let’s keep the conversation going! Email me at livinglightlyinthesuburbs (at), or find me on instagram or Facebook @livinglightlyinthesuburbs.

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