Local Company Does All the Work of Composting for You

Posted on | 2 Comments

Note: We were provided with a chance to experience Compost House in order to facilitate this review. Read below to get a special code for your own free trial!

When a guy named Joseph McMillin started a food and recyclables company out of Wofford College’s entrepreneur program met Gary Nihart, a Clemson grad who worked with facilities to help start the composting program that the university currently uses, an idea of food waste recycling was born, specifically composting food waste.

Joseph and Gary decided to create Compost House, which would be a branch of Atlas Organics, a company that the two men had already started. These two guys are smart for several reasons but mostly because they came up with a really neat idea of not only composting food waste and scraps on a commercial level but helping regular families to do the same – and to reap the benefits of composted soil in their own gardens and homes, creating essentially a sustainable community culture.

What is composting?

Composting is essentially recycling vegetable and food scraps into usable and healthy soil by decomposing it. These food scraps, including egg shells and coffee grinds, mix with soil and other scraps like grass clippings or newspaper shavings even, to break down quickly and turn into what gardeners call “black gold”, dirt that is excellent for growing plants and flowers.

Composting requires all those food scraps plus leaves, grass clippings, and water in order to quickly decompose into usable soil.

The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that food scraps and yard waste account for 20 to 30 percent of what we throw away. So, if compost all that waste, we would be able to keep so much more out of landfills, which is a big win.

Is compost soil really better?

At the risk of sounding super hippie-ish, my family has composted our food scrapes for the past two years. But honestly it was by accident because our new house already had a big compost bin so we figured, why not use it?

I had wanted to start a garden and had heard of the benefits of composting for healthier soil so we gave it a shot.  I threw kinds of food scrapes – onion peels, ends of carrots, potato skin shavings – plus eggshells, tea bags, and coffee grinds into the bin and truly, to my surprise, they made some awesome soil.

When it came time earlier this spring to plant my garden, my dad, a landscaper by profession, had bought some awesome-looking dirt for his garden (yes, dirt can look great to a gardener) and offered me some because he’s a great dad. I accepted and used some of that dirt for my plants and then used my composted soil for other plants. Guess which ones thrived? My poor dad couldn’t grow much at his place with his nice dirt, while I my plants were doing great in my composted soil.

I was sold. So when I had to the opportunity to try a company that quickly transforms all kinds of food scraps into black gold, I jumped at it.

Composting at Home

While local businesses and some schools use Atlas Organics to convert food and paper waste into useable soil, families can also do the same thing.

When you sign onto to become a member of Compost House, depending on where you live, you either pick up five gallon buckets or have them delivered to you in order to start your own compost.

All you need to do from there is line with bucket with the bag that comes with it and start chucking leftover food – anything from half-eaten mac and cheese to spoiled fish – and food scraps, paper towels, newspaper clippings, and coffee grinds into it. Once you have it filled, you can either bring it to a drop off site or Compost House will come and get it.

Every month you can choose to receive 10 gallons of compost soil back or build up those credits and have it delivered (or pick it up) at a later month. For instance, say you compost all throughout the winter but really don’t want the soil until springtime rolls around. That’s fine – you can get up to two buckets of compost per week until you’ve exhausted your compost credits.

My Experience Using Compost House

I had lots of questions when I started using Compost House, namely, can I have the buckets picked up and delivered on a regular schedule?

Well, yes and no. Compost House does doorstep service for several zip codes in the Greenville area and they come at designated days. Unfortunately, my zip code didn’t qualify so I had to go to the Swamp Rabbit Café & Grocery to pick up and return my buckets, which, honestly, wasn’t terrible because I love the Swamp Rabbit Café and go there often.

But good news – Compost House is starting doorstep service to new zip codes, including where I live in Simpsonville, on November 27th! Big win.

My other initial question was about what you can put in the compost bucket. In my experience composting with my outdoor bin, putting leftovers, meat and dairy into the bin was a big no-no. Those things attract the wrong kind of outdoor critters.

Leslie Rodgers, the Education Director & Compost House Coordinator, patiently explained that while that logic is definitely true for outdoor compost bins and that they basically need to be treated like vegans, Atlas Organics “has a very large facility” and that they “see about 1 million pounds of food waste a month using a system that maintains a high temperature throughout the breakdown process. This sanitizes any meat products as well as kills off weed seeds etc.”

Being a parent of young children who would rather do anything but eat a full meal, I loved this concept. Knowing that I could turn leftover food into useable soil helped me to chill out and realize I didn’t have to fight my kids every, single meal. At least if they didn’t finish something in three days, I could use it for something else instead of throwing it in the trash.

Speaking of kids and trash, Leslie does lots of education about composting and informed me that some schools in Greenville County have started using their services, which makes me happy. If you’ve ever been in an elementary school cafeteria and watched uneaten food get trashed every day, you wonder if there is some way to use that for another purpose.

Integrating Composting Into Our Home

A five-gallon bucket is large and it took me over a week to fill it to a respectable amount to go drop it back off, which was super easy because I just dumped the contents into a big bin that was labeled at Swamp Rabbit Café (and then went inside and bought a bunch of stuff…).

The girl who gave me my buckets of finished compost had actually taken a tour of the Compost House in the recent past and was raving about the company, not knowing that I was writing a review. She said it was super cool how they process everything and essentially keeps tons of waste out of dumps and turns it into something usable.

I found Compost House to be something that could easily integrate into a family of any size, living pretty much anywhere. My kids know what composting is already and loved the idea of throwing lots of stuff into our bucket. It’s a terrific learning tool for them to understand life cycles and recyclables and plants and seeds.

Even if you just have a few herbs or plants on a balcony, using the composted soil for them would do wonders. You don’t need to have a huge garden at all.

The soil I got from Compost House was used towards the end of my fall planting for my garden and it worked beautifully. I had moved some very small arugula plants that I swore I was probably going to kill but miraculously they not only survived my amateur transfer but are currently thriving. They are pretty happy with the soil.

Worth it Financially?

When you choose to compost, you are putting your garbage to work, which is a great thing.

“Because we can compost so much of your typically kitchen/dining waste, that’s putting 30-60% (depending on home cooking and eating habits) of your household waste in our compost bucket,” said Leslie. “We create something else that you need – nutrients for your plants. The average family spends about $240 a year on plant care products. Compost is really all that you need. It has nutrients, water retention properties, root structure support and unlike fertilizer, it doesn’t just run out.”

Doorstep collection is $24/month and Compost House will drop off five-gallon buckets for you and pick them up weekly. They will return 10 gallons of composted soil per month at your request. If you choose to do the drop off and pick up yourself, Compost House charges $14/month.

There is no contract, it’s month-to-month on an automated payment for ease of use.

“For the customer on a tight budget, since you can plant directly in our compost, the compost back could be the sole source of soil for household plants or garden boxes,” said Leslie.

The environmental impact of composting creates healthy soil, which increases local food sources. More healthy food means more access for all members of the community. Healthier eating and gardening encourages more time outdoors, all around holistic health.

Want to Try?

The people at Compost House are super passionate about dirt, which is kinda crazy but also pretty awesome. They have taken on this movement and started it on a local level right here at Clemson.

“We all care deeply about spreading sustainability and to us the only way to make the massive impact we desire, is to make composting easy, affordable and accessible to all members of the community,” said Leslie.

For Kidding Around Greenville readers who want to try Compost House, they are offering a special promo code just for you. When you sign up, use the code “TRYME” for a free one-month trial. Go here to sign up.

Simpsonville service will begin the week of November 27th, in perfect time to catch post-holiday waste. If you sign up by Dec. 1st and live in Simpsonville, you are eligible for the free first month trial and an extra month’s worth of finished compost.

Has your family ever considered composting?

About the Author
Kristina Hernandez is a mom of two girls, freelance writer and photographer. Originally from New Jersey, she is in love with the Upstate and could not imagine raising her kids anywhere else. She enjoys hiking to waterfalls, kayaking, camping, cooking, and exploring all that Greenville has to offer. And she really loves baby goats. Follow her on Instagram at @scadventurer.

Sign up for our email newsletter.

Notify of

Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Regan Sinkuler
6 years ago

Has the code worked for anyone else?Tried and it said not valid also saw nothing about joining for a free bonus month if you live in Simpsonville. Should I contact them directly?