Community Composting?

Want to make your community more sustainable, or collect free compost for your urban farm? Try community composting!

You’ve probably heard of community gardening – where members of a community can either donate their time, or plant their own beds of veggies into a communal garden spot in return for harvesting some fresh veggies throughout the season. But what about community composting?

While some truly unique and innovative start-ups have sprung up in large cities throughout the U.S. in recent years to help recycle food and plant waste into fertilizer, participating in these services may cost money that people don’t want – or can’t afford – to spend.

What if you could create a community composting system instead?

This is exactly what the Common Good City Farm in Washington, D.C. has done – and it’s a really amazing idea!

Here is how their system works, in case you wish to try something similar in your own community:

Our community composting system is open, meaning people do not need to be trained in order to drop off their food scraps. We have two trash cans on the outside of our fence where donations can be dropped off. I throw (untreated) saw dust in them and make sure the lids are on tight to keep the smell down. We do have signs hanging on the fence with items that we want in our compost. We also have those items posted on our website. Things that we accept in our compost include:

  • Coffee grounds and filters
  • Tea bags
  • Fruits and vegetables
  • Used paper napkins
  • Paper bags, ripped into smaller pieces
  • The crumbs you sweep off of the counters and floors
  • Paper towel rolls (ripped into smaller pieces)
  • Stale saltine crackers
  • Plain grains
  • Used paper plates (as long as they don’t have a waxy coating)
  • Nut shells
  • Old herbs and spices
  • Stale beer and wine
  • Paper egg cartons (the light brown ones, ripped into smaller pieces – though your local egg farmer also might want these.)
  • Toothpicks

Our open systems allow people to donate one time or several times, for free, and whenever they want. The farm gets about 668 pounds of food a week, which otherwise would be going to the landfill… This system of composting creates a closed circle system and is a great example of using community resources for low-input farming…


One emphasis I do have for this model is that you do not have to own a farm to do this. I would recommend this model for any community garden, or a group of neighbors who have a passion for sustainability. What you do need is a space to compost. I recommend asking a farm or community garden for space. You can also go to the city and ask about using empty lots. Make sure you have a plan of attack and that all details of the compost are figured out before you approach a potential partner. You will be surprised about how many people get excited about composting…

Learn more about the advantages and the drawbacks of this system at


Rose S.

An avid gardener since childhood, I love sharing my passion for gardening with others! I have gardened in a number of different climates and settings, from large fenced garden plots, to tiny patio and container gardens, and I firmly believe that everyone can learn to grow at least some of their own food - no matter where you live. Growing your own food can help you take control of your own health and food supply, and there has never been a better time to get started!

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