Diverting Food Scraps this Holiday Season with a DIY Compost Bin!

Images and infographic by Gabriella Ulloa unless otherwise stated

Did you know food waste sent to the landfill is the third largest emitter of greenhouse gases? This is due to the fact that organics release methane – a toxic greenhouse gas, when in an anoxic environment. In California alone, nearly six million tons of food scraps are sent to the landfill each year, accounting for nearly 18% of materials sent to the landfill. However, you can make a difference this holiday season by diverting your waste and reducing your carbon footprint! 

With Thanksgiving coming up this week, have you ever thought about how to sustainably discard food scraps from all the yummy organics used to make Thanksgiving dinner? Rather than quickly throwing out apple cores and potato skins in the trash, try starting a compost bin to divert your waste from the landfill. 

Creating a compost bin can sound daunting, but it is actually a lot simpler than it sounds and can be done using a few materials from your house and backyard. 

  1. To start, find a container with a removable lid that you can drill some small holes in. It is important that your container has a lid in order to keep in any bugs that may be attracted to the compost and prevent them from circulating outside of the compost.

  2. Begin drilling holes in your container. Make around twenty holes on the lid and the bottom of your bin in order to help circulate the air and drain the moisture. It is also beneficial to make some holes along the sides of the bin. Your bin should look similar to the one pictured.

  3. Once this is complete, the first layer of compost can be added to the bin. The first layer consists of branches and sticks. Begin layering branches and sticks on the bottom of the bin, these materials will help to drain out moisture and keep the air filtering throughout the bin.

  4. Now it is time for the second layer which consists of browns: dry leaves, straw, old newspaper, or other brown material. Be sure to break these materials into small pieces in order to aid with quicker decomposition. Browns are carbon-rich compost materials and help to balance with greens which are nitrogen-rich compost materials.

  5. The third layer consists of soil. Begin placing a thick layer of rich soil on top of the browns.

  6. Once this is complete, you can begin placing your organic food scraps on top such as fruit and vegetable scraps.

  7. Finally, add soil on top of your organics in order to help them decompose and mitigate the smell generated from the decomposing food. Then, add a small amount of water to your compost to keep it moist.


Be sure to place your compost bin in an area that receives a lot of sunlight in order to aid with faster decomposition. Purchasing or finding earthworms to bury within the compost bin can also help with even faster decomposition! Here are a few key tips to maintaining your compost: 

  1. Designate a sealable container in your kitchen where you will accumulate food scraps to place in the compost bin. Once this is full, most likely every few days, you can take it outside and dump it inside the compost. 
  2. When emptying new compost into the bin, be sure to stir the compost with a shovel and water the compost if it looks dry. 
  3. It may also be helpful to place an infographic near your compost container in the kitchen (see the one below) about what goes into composting in your kitchen so family and friends can easily navigate which food scraps can be composted. 

Start reducing your carbon footprint today and be sure to have fun during your compost journey this holiday season! 

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