BACKYARD COMPOST PROGRAM - Lauren Maris, environmental program specialist for the City of Red Deer, aerates compost at the Civic Yards.                                Michelle Falk/Red Deer Express

BACKYARD COMPOST PROGRAM - Lauren Maris, environmental program specialist for the City of Red Deer, aerates compost at the Civic Yards. Michelle Falk/Red Deer Express

Red Deer Backyard Composting program compliments new green bins

Plus: Lauren’s top seven tips for creating the best compost

The Composting at Home program works well in partnership with the new Green Cart program, say City of Red Deer officials, as they launch the fifth year of the Backyard Composting program.

“We like to emphasize that backyard composting and the Green Cart program actually work really well together,” said Lauren Maris, environmental program specialist with the City of Red Deer. “You can compost what you can and get all that great compost to use on your garden, flowers and lawn, and then things that can’t go into your backyard compost like meat, dairy or salads with dressing, can go into your green cart.”

Maris added that one of the main reasons for the Composting at Home program, which started in 2013, was to keep organic waste out of the landfill. When food scraps decompose without oxygen, one of the byproducts is significant green house gas emissions. She explained that the program came out of the City’s original Environmental Master Plan.

Landfilling food scraps generates green house gas emissions of 0.80 tonnes of equivalent carbon dioxide (eCO2) per tonne of waste, according to a 2005 study on the Government of Canada website.

“We were talking with our waste management section about what actions people could take to be more environmentally responsible and what measures the City could take to help them reduce their waste,” Maris said.

The Composting at Home program acted as a bridge to help people divert their organic waste, until Red Deer got a municipal Green Bin program.

“Now that we’ve got curb side organics we’re looking forward to telling people how those two programs work together,” she said.

The City will be offering the Composting at Home program free of charge for 200 households, again this year.

Participants are provided with a compost bin, aerating tool and kitchen catcher. They attend a training workshop and receive ongoing support throughout the year.

“We don’t just want to give people the information and send them away, we find the best behaviour change is when you give people everything they need,” Maris said.

In return, they ask participants to commit to composting for one year.

Maris said people have lots of misconceptions about backyard composting. They expect it to be smelly, attract pests and be sticky to handle. She explained that these are actually signs that something is wrong with the compost, not how it should be.

“People think composting is that you just throw your kitchen scraps in a pile and it magically just goes away—it is easy, but it’s not that easy,” she said.

This year registration has been slower than previous years and Maris thinks it is likely due to the new Green Cart program launching in April.

“Last year the 200 spaces filled up within 36 hours,” she said.

There is still room available to register your household for the Composting at Home program this year. Workshops started March 15th and will run until April 14th.


  • 1:1 ratio of green:brown (green things are the fresh scraps and brown are dried leaves, grass clippins or dirt)
  • only barenaked fruit and vegetable waste
  • NO meat, NO dairy, NO oils or dressings (these fats and grease are what make composts smell and attract pests)
  • DON’T throw your weeds in (your backyard bin won’t get hot enough to kill them)
  • Water it (in Red Deer, it is too dry for the process to activate.
  • Keep your bin damp like a sponge that has been wrung out so that you can clump it into a ball)
  • Aerate it regularly to introduce air
  • Start in the spring (so you can collect and save those leaves that were left behind under the snow)