The College Composting Guide

Burying organic waste in landfill is a big problem and it’s not just because of the resources we lose. When organic waste is dumped into landfills, it undergoes anaerobic decomposition (due to the lack of oxygen) and generates methane. When released into the atmosphere, methane is 20 times more potent of a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.

Composting is the easy fix to this problem and doesn’t require an elaborate backyard system. Of course, making and using your own compost is ideal, but for those of us in apartments and dorms, that isn’t easy to do. Luckily, some towns- including Charlottesville, VA- have drop-off and collection centers for home composters. In this post, I’ll share with you how I compost in Charlottesville and my reasons for doing so.

How to compost:

The first step is to buy reliable compostable bags. I order Unni Compostable Bags off of Amazon. These bags can easily hold up to a week of compost without deteriorating.

You should then locate the compost drop off sites in your area and try to make a routine of visiting them at least once a week. In Charlottesville, you can drop off your compost at the City Market and the McIntire Recycling Center. Buildings and cafe’s around the University of Virginia also compost like Campbell Hall (the Architecture School), the Fine Arts Cafe, and West Range.


If you can’t make it to a composting drop off site every week, you can always tie off the composting bag and throw it in the freezer to minimize the smell.

What can you compost?

Fruits, vegetables, nuts, grains, egg shells, flowers, coffee grounds, meat, bones, fats, cooking oils, greases, milk, yogurt, uncoated paper (napkins/towels), and plants. You can also compost biodegradable cups, food containers, and egg cartons (these are usually labeled as compostable or biodegradable).

Note: With commercial composting you can compost more material than with backyard composting. For backyard composting, you should avoid dairy, meat, citrus fruit, bones, greases and oils, and compostable cups/containers.


I’ve made a habit of grabbing a composting bag every time I cook and whenever I clean out the fridge. Just make sure you remove any stickers or labels off of the fruits and vegetables before you compost them.

Why I Compost:

Composting has led me to live a more sustainable life in more than just the obvious way. It has made me more aware of the amount of food I waste and the type of products I buy. I now plan out my groceries and meals for the week as to minimize the amount of food I let go bad and the amount of food I simply don’t eat. I also make purchasing decisions based on the packaging. I try to avoid plastic and styrofoam packaging and aim for cardboard and biodegradable packaging. Overall, composting has pushed me to take the time and effort to actually care for my waste. It’s made me more aware of my consumption and disposal behavior and has been one of the most rewarding changes I have made to my daily life.

Emily Saul is a member of Green Corner Consulting committee in Green Grounds. 


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