This post is sponsored by PepsiCo Recycling.

It’s true. Being passionate about the environment makes you more attractive. A 2015 study conducted by PepsiCo shows that more than 50 million Americans said they would be “turned off” by someone on their first date who doesn’t recycle.

So even though your roommate might have a few questions the first time he or she finds you collecting food scraps under the sink, by the time you explain how easy and rewarding practicing sustainability is, they’ll know that this simple habit called composting can turn into something attractive, cool and therapeutic.

photo courtesy of PepsiCo Recycling

A mind-blowing 50 percent of all produce in the United States is thrown away. If you think this statistic is really messed up, there’s good news: You don’t have to sit idly by; anyone and everyone can help combat this issue. Where food waste is concerned, composting is a great place to start, even for college students living in a tiny dorm. For me, composting in college is so much more than just an easy habit — it’s a way to reduce my burden on the planet, give back and be my best self. 

Before getting down in the dirt, it’s important to evaluate which resources are available to you and which composting option is the best for you. Two methods to consider are 1) contributing to an existing bin, or 2) using a pickup service. Want to learn more about what these methods are and how to get started? Read on! 

Why You Should Even Compost In The First Place

I know you might not be completely sold on composting yet, so simply put, you owe it to the planet. Food scraps don’t belong in a landfill. Organic matter makes up 21.6 percent of municipal waste and accounts for 20 percent of our nation’s greenhouse gas emissions. This certainly doesn’t have to be the case, especially when the simple solution is right in front of us. Diverting this material from the landfill not only reduces harmful gases but returns viable nutrients to the soil. Creating rich soil via composting promotes healthy plant growth and reduces the need for chemical fertilizer. And if that doesn’t sell you on composting yet, two in five people want a significant other who cares about the environment. That’s right – turns out being considerate to our environment can land you a date.

Secondly, you owe it to yourself. Composting can be a therapeutic process. Every time I add something to the compost that otherwise would have rotted in a landfill, I feel a little bit better. Knowing you’re reducing your burden on this planet is a liberating feeling. Composting is a habit to take pride in and to brag about to your friends. You care about making our planet a healthier place. If you don’t find that attractive, I invite you to reconsider.

1. Contributing to a Community Bin

If you’re lucky enough to go to a school with a composting program already in place, take advantage of it! My college has compost bins right next to the trash and recycling bins around campus and in on-campus housing, which makes life so much easier.

If you’re in a similar situation, there is no excuse for not composting your food waste. All you need is a container. I’ve been using an old coffee can, but most plastic or metal containers will work just fine. I keep this container conveniently under the sink, emptying it into the communal bin every few days. Remember to clean it out every so often to prevent any moldy situations.

For those of you who live off campus or in a Greek house, you can even compost directly into your garden — your food scraps will turn into soil without you ever having to transport them anywhere.

What Goes Into Your Composting Bin

snack, Fruit, citrus, peeling orange, orange peel, Peel, peeling, orange
Jocelyn Hsu

The short answer is pretty much any food scrap you produce. This includes fruit and veggie peels, egg shells, coffee grounds and tea bags (remember to remove any metal staples!). But food waste isn’t the only thing; you can and should also add shredded newspaper, cardboard, used matches and even nail clippings. For a more complete list, see this article for 100 things that are perfect for composting.

2. Look into a Pickup Service

Liana Glaser

If you’re just getting into composting, another option is to look into a composting pickup service. The commitment is super minimal, but impactful. When you sign up, you’ll receive a bin and begin adding your scraps. Once a week, your bin is picked up and you’re given a clean one. The company will compost it for you, and the cycle starts all over again. If a fear of getting your hands dirty is holding you back from getting into composting, this is proof that composting doesn’t have to be labor-intensive and messy. If this type of service works for your lifestyle, more power to you. Enter your ZIP code here to find the closest pickup service to you.

If Your Campus Doesn’t Offer Community Composting

You have the power to make sure other students are composting on your campus as well. Whether you want to start your own composting bin, fund a pickup service for your campus or just want to spread the word about the impact composting can have on the environment, an easy way to get involved is by submitting a proposal to PepsiCo Recycling’s Zero Impact Fund (ZIF). It’s designed specifically to fund sustainable initiatives on campuses all over the country.

From now until December 19, 2017, students can submit a proposal to win up to $10,000 for their school to make their eco-campus dreams come true. Last year, Johnson County Community College used its ZIF prize money to expand composting efforts, which is clearly a school after my own heart. If you want to make composting part of your campus culture, applying for ZIF is the way to go. Think of all the ways $10K could help your school reach its sustainability goals … you could establish a composting collection location on campus or increase access to composting in campus cafeterias.

Don’t Stop With the Compost Bin

Fruit, fresh fruit, outdoors, biting into fruit, bite, peach, beer, tea
Julia Gilman

Remember, the best thing you can do is prevent waste from being produced in the first place. And that might look different for everyone.

Do you find yourself wondering how to get more life out of your food scraps? Utilize your food scraps and get creative: boil vegetable scraps to make broth, bake bread butts for some killer croutons, and use coffee grounds in your next body scrub DIY.

Would packing your lunch more often cut down on wasteful takeout containers? Try some meal prep recipes.

Do you buy certain vegetables hoping you’ll spontaneously grow to like them and then watch them rot in the fridge? Take time to think about your eating preferences and be realistic.

Living a more sustainable lifestyle begins at an individual level, but you shouldn’t stop there. I encourage you to do some soul searching, brainstorm with your roomie and bring your green ideas to life on campus by applying for the PepsiCo Recycling Zero Impact Fund, in partnership with your professors or university admins, and earn some serious cash to create serious change on your campus. It’s time to get started and I can’t wait to see the change you bring to your school and the world.