I'm going to be honest. My first attempt at composting consisted of dumping scraps into a metal canister and hiding it in the back of the fridge. I'm embarrassed to admit this went on for quite some time, even rivalling some of my shorter relationships.

Similarly to those trysts - it didn't end well. I figured I could wing it and that trash could be transformed into something useful with minimal work. If only the similarities ended there…

So what happens if you leave food scraps in a metal canister unattended in your fridge for months? Like most neglected dreams, it rots, and in this case liquefies. However, by following a few simple steps you'll have the hot, steamy compost of your dreams.

Let's start with the misconceptions.

First off, this idea that the perfect compost is just gonna come sweep you off your feet? That's the stuff of fairy tales. In the real world, you need to take control and figure out which composting method makes the most sense for you. You can call me Cosmo, because I've got just the quiz to help you find your perfect match. If the answer is Hot Composting, congrats you're in the right place.

Second, (oh - did you forget we were listing things?) putting food scraps in a cute canister is not composting. GASP. I know. Those funky canisters are just temporary solutions for holding scraps prior to adding them to a functioning compost pile.

If you need a metaphor it's Mr Right versus Mr Right Now. Third, and you would know this if you had taken the quiz ... If you're hot composting, you need an outdoor space. Don't dismay, this doesn't mean you're limited to a backyard; patios, balconies and even fire escapes are all options. Since we're talking about what you need - let's just jump into the full list requirements.


1. Two 5 Gallon Buckets

You need two, five gallon buckets and one lid. You can of course find these at any hardware store but they’re also plentiful on Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace for next to nothing. If you have the option to go BPA free it’s always recommended.

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2. A Drill with 1/4 inch drill bit

Yes, at this point in your life you may want your own set of power tools. If you’re not there yet, find your DIY friend (start with the one who keeps posting pictures of their home improvement projects) and ask them if they’ll loan you theirs.

3. Sticks

Don’t hate on twigs. You’re gonna need them. Scope out a public park, garden and grab a few handfuls. These guys will be the base of your soon to be booming compost.  

4. Soil

Get sneaky. Don't have a backyard? Same. What I do have is access to public parks, flowerbeds, maybe even some house plants? All you need to get that compost moving is a scoop!

5. Browns

These are your carbon elements, you can use paper (as long as it isn't glossy or waxy) or cut up home compostable packaging. But the fun doesn't need to stop there. You can also use dried leaves, grass clippings and more! Be sure to stock up on these materials, as they'll be making up the majority of your bin.

6. A Big Rock

This serves as a little extra security against outdoor critters looking for a snack. Sure, we'd like to dive face first into a free all-you-can-eat buffet, but that's just not the way the cookie crumbles. To deter free loaders chowing down on your compost place a heavy rock or brick on top of your lid.  



Begin drilling holes in the bottom of your first bucket roughly 1 inch apart. Repeat this process for the sides and the lid. Drill holes in just the sides of your second bucket - this time 2-3 inches apart not the bottom of this one. Then stack bucket #2 in bucket #1.

Drilling holes in both buckets allows the compost to aerate and eliminates the possibility of a vacuum seal once the buckets are stacked. Tada, you officially have a compost bin. Sure it's a far cry from your cute little canister, but we find love in the strangest places.

Next begin lining the base of your bucket with your sticks to make sure any liquid runoff will fall into the second bucket without blockage. 

Think of these twigs as your best friends, filtering the scum out of your life. Follow the sticks with a handful of brown materials.

Now you're ready for the scraps, the leftovers, the ones that just didn't make the cut. Were they a waste? Technically, up until a few minutes ago when you got your sh*t together and started composting - yes. But now, now they'll be recycled, turned into something useful and everyone will have grown from the experience.

Dump the scraps into your compost and pour in the soil. In a perfect world, you'd be using finished compost, but as your mother likes to remind you - you're old enough to know this world isn't perfect.

The soil introduces microbes and accelerates the decomposition process. Next up add three portions of brown materials. If you're unsure what a portion is, use the same container that held your scraps to measure it out.

With all your ingredients added, it's time to mix it up. Remember this feeling. You'll be doing it multiple times a week. On the upside, some major shoulder definition should be headed your way.

Finally seal the bucket and place the rock on top. While your romantic life may still be in tatters, celebrations are in order, you just made your first compost and at 120 degrees Fahrenheit - it could almost keep you warm at night.

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