How to become a Rot Star: Composting 101

Compost is easy to make and easy to use. Even if you don’t have indoor house plants to add your fresh soil to, you can contribute to your local environment by dumping the finished compost in a nearby park and letting nature use it. Compost has the same needs that any living being has: food, water, oxygen, and space.

What is compost?

Compost is decomposed organic matter. It’s nature’s way of recycling decaying materials (e.g. leaves and vegetable scraps) into a soil amendment that gardeners love. Compost brings a freshness back to the soil, new nutrients and soil microbes that aid plant growth.


Compost pile at the UH Campus Community Garden. Composting was initiated in the garden during the summer of 2014.

Food: Good compost requires two major types of nutrients—carbon and nitrogen. Carbon (or browns) includes paper products and dead plant waste like dry leaves. Nitrogen (or greens) is comprised of things like food scraps, coffee grounds and grass clippings. Combine these at the proper ratio and your compost pile will do well. John Ferguson from Nature’s Way Resources, a local composting company, recommends keeping this rhyme handy: “Two parts brown and one part green keeps everything healthy and smelling clean.”

Water: Without water, the small organisms working on turning your food waste into black gold would die. Your compost should be kept as moist as a wrung-out sponge.

Oxygen: Anaerobic bacteria are what cause a compost pile to smell. To promote the smell-nullifying, aerobic bacteria in your pile, it should be turned periodically to increase the amount of oxygen reaching your pile.

Space: Compost doesn’t require too much space to succeed. That’s why apartment composting is possible!


Compost bin at the UH Office of Sustainability.

Studies say that about 40 percent of America’s food waste ends up in a landfill. If you must create food waste, the best thing to do with it would be to compost it, because conditions in landfills are not ideal for recycling organics back into the soil. Trash in landfills either decompose very slowly or not at all, depending on the type of landfill it is. If food waste does manage to decompose, it creates methane, a greenhouse gas.

Backyard composting is as easy as building a bin of whatever size fits your needs and adding materials to it. It’s also easy to make your own indoor composting bin for your apartment/dorm, with or without adding worms. You can also choose to splurge on a Bokashi bin, like the one UH student David Figueroa won at our RecycleMania event, How to be a Rot Star!

UH student David Figueroa, winner of Bokashi compost bin.


pat greer

Pat Greer from Pat Greer’s Kitchen speaking to attendees at How to be a Rot Star: Composting 101 on March 10, 2015.

Almost a dozen people braved the weather to check out our compost bins at the campus garden and hear Pat Greer from Pat Greer’s Kitchen speak about food waste. John Ferguson from Nature’s Way also joined us to speak about composting. If you ever want to see a compost pile in action on campus, come visit the garden!

-Angelika Fuller


2 responses to “How to become a Rot Star: Composting 101

  1. Pingback: How to become a Rot Star: Composting 101 | UH Office of Sustainability | WORLD ORGANIC NEWS·

  2. Pingback: Sustainable at the table: 10 ways to dine mindfully at UH | UH Office of Sustainability·

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