Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Composting - Is it worth it?

Composting is often presented as once of those things good environmentalists or serious gardeners do in their backyard . But from the purely economic perspective does it really pay?

Composting contrary to popular belief doesn't have to be hard. In is basic form you putting your vegetables/fruits/coffee grounds and some yard waste into a pile with some dirt and then you let the entire thing decay into a black/brown mess which is just full of nutrients for your soil. You can take the lazy route where you just pile it up and ignore it except for the occasional turn with a pitch fork and wait up to a year to get your compost. Or you can give it some more attention and balance nitrogen/carbon/moisture and air flow to get your compost in as little as three months (for more details see here).

On the economic side you are spending around $20 for a small pitch fork as all the basic equipment you need. Then after that your spending your time to turn the pile to produce a bag or two of composted material per year (at least) saving yourself perhaps at most $8 per year. So yes you can save a tiny amount of money, but if you value your time at all you are likely losing money on the deal.

So if you aren't doing it for money, you are basically just doing it for environmental reasons. I personally do it because it is fairly easy to do and it makes my wife's garden produce veggies like mad. Who said you can't save the planet and still be selfish?


Q Cash said...


Or, if you are really lucky, you have a crazy neighbour who has turned composting into an art and asks for all the fallen apples off our apple tree, all my grass cuttings and all my leaves, AND takes our "wet" garbage as an added bonus. In return, he lets my wife and I use what we need each spring from his pile. A sweet deal if there ever was one. And, I don't have to remember that green container when I put out the trash :-)

The soil he lets us use seems to be pretty excellent in that most of our plants actually grow.

Canadian Dream said...


I wish I had that situation (ie no work involved in composting) but I'm still happy as I've been talking to friends & family and taking notes on who has apple trees and berry bushes. I'm so going to be up to my eyeballs in fresh (and free) fruit and veggies this summer/fall.

By the way, how is early retirement treating you?


Anonymous said...

Atrociously written article. A proof read might be nice.

Canadian Dream said...


That is what happens when I write a post in 20 minutes at 5:55 am with no caffeine and I'm so sick I thought about not going to work. I almost forgot my drugs kicked in just before I put the post on line so my head was extra fuzzy.

In all seriousness I do plan on going back over this one and cleaning up later.


Mr. Cheap said...

Is the $8 / year the saved cost of garbage or is it the saved cost of buying high-quality soil / fertilizer?

Canadian Dream said...

Mr. Cheap,

The $8 cost is only for the compost. You are correct if you have a fee for the amount of garbage you produce you would also save on that. In my case, it's included in the city taxes.