What Can I Compost at Home? Think Beyond the Usual

By Angela Taguein Thinking Sustainably

Composting fascinates me, since it’s basically magic. Turning food scraps into nutrient-rich mulch for potted plants and outdoor gardens is a terrific way to upcycle what many people consider waste.

Over the years I’ve focused my research to answer the question, “What can I compost?” Of course there’s plenty of information about using leftover pieces from preparing, cutting, and juicing produce. But composting isn’t limited to carrot peelings and bruised chunks of banana.

At-home composting is a unique and environmentally friendly way to dispose of perishable waste.The University of Illinois Extension Office says any organic material that can be broken down by bacteria and microorganisms is fair game for composting. (Just be sure to cut the scraps into small pieces so it breaks down more efficiently.)

Next time you’re headed to the trash can with these items, consider tossing them in the compost instead.

compost items

Breakfast Beverages

Both old coffee grounds and the contents of used tea bags can go right into the compost. They’re a part of the “greens” that provide nitrogen needed to break down the waste, and they should be added to the same layer as produce trimmings and grass clippings.


Eggshells and nutshells can also contribute to the greens layer. A layer of “browns” on top can prevent the shells from producing unpleasant odors. The browns include dead leaves and twigs, which provide essential carbon for the composting process.

House Plants

Food waste isn’t the only compost item that comes from the house. Dead plants, wilted cut flowers, pruning waste, and fallen blooms are all fair game for the compost pile. Add them to a layer of greens.

Hair and Fur

When you clean out your comb or groom the family pet, save those stray hairs! They can be added to the greens in the composting bin. During the spring months, you can upcycle hair from the dog brush by leaving it in trees or on fence posts for birds to use in nests.

Wood and Paper

Scraps from the paper shredder, sawdust from cutting tools, and even newspapers cut into strips can all join your compost pile. It’s best to add these materials in small quantities and mix them with other green items.


Once your compost pile has worked its magic and turned the waste into organic mulch, it can enrich trees, flowers, and even your vegetable garden. The organic material encourages the production of beneficial bacteria, keeps unnecessary waste out of the landfill, and reduces your carbon footprint.

Armed with this knowledge, you don’t have to wonder, “What can I compost?” anymore—just get started! Do you compost at home? Do your kids help? Tweet us @TomsOfMaine about why you think at-home composting is important for our environment!

Image sources: Flickr | Flickr | Flickr

This article was brought to you by Tom’s of Maine. The views and opinions expressed by the author do not reflect the position of Tom’s of Maine.

Why It’s Good

Composting reduces unnecessary waste buildup in our landfills and teaches kids how to turn trash into a treasure for the garden. You can also make it a family affair. After each meal or dog-brushing session, add to the compost pile as a unit.