A Gift for Our Gardens: Holiday Composting Tips


The holiday season is once again upon us! The leaves are changing, and so is the weather. One benefit to San Diego’s reasonably warm winters? We can compost comfortably year-round! While cold temperatures slow the activity of the large and small decomposers munching away in your compost pile, our regional climate allows for efficient decomposition even during the shortest days of the year.

The holiday season provides a bounty of compostables, whether bundles of carbon-rich fallen leaves and dried up plants, or heaps of nitrogen-rich food scraps leftover from the festivities. These festivities can produce an outsized quantity of waste, granting us an opportunity to give a special gift to our gardens and local environments – the gift of nutrient cycling! Rather than condemning your floral centerpieces and newsprint-turned-wrapping paper to a life in the landfill, fill up your compost bin with an assortment of seasonal delights. Perhaps in this pile, the familiar aromas of coffee and citrus will be replaced with cinnamon and pine!

Here at Solana Center, we’ve created a list of holiday-specific scraps to ADDBEWARE of and AVOID in your compost bins. After all, our hard working worms (and their decomposer friends) deserve a present too!


  • Untreated wreaths made from evergreens or other plant matter (no frosted paint or preservatives) 
  • All natural bouquets
  • Poinsettia (no, they aren’t poisonous)
  • Paper wrappers for hot chocolate mixes and tea bags (check that they are not lined in plastic)
  • Tea leaves and organic tea bags
  • Coffee grounds and filters
  • Non-glossy paper from holiday catalogs and coupon pages
  • Paper towels and paper napkins (free of cleaning products)
  • Cardboard from packaging, paper towel and toilet paper rolls, etc (will decompose faster if torn or shredded)
  • Holiday décor including hay and straw (in small quantities), untreated sawdust, wood shavings, and pumpkins and gourds
  • Food scraps, especially the classics (fruits, veggies, eggshells, breads)
  • Uneaten cookies and pastries (in small amounts)
  • Fallen leaves, dead plants, pine needles and pine cones (will decompose faster if torn or shredded)


  • Plastic-lined cartons (like those used for soup or eggnog). While they may be cardboard on the outside, they are often lined with a waxy plastic on the inside. Check to see if your local waste hauler accepts these items for recycling.
  • Composting seeds can lead to a fruitful, though unintended harvest of those plants down the road. If you don’t want a latent pumpkin patch, neutralize those seeds by manual grinding before adding them to the bin or by using hot composting techniques.


  • Traditional gift wrap and holiday cards filled with synthetic dyes, inks, glitter and other inorganic materials
  • Meat, dairy, and egg whites and yolks
  • Foods cooked heavily in oil
  • Painted or treated wood products
  • Anything plastic or plastic-coated! Consider purchasing food and gift items that use compostable packaging to reduce plastic accumulation.

So are you hosting this year’s family feast, company potluck, or dinner and gift exchange with friends? With all the shopping, decorating, and gift-wrapping, the last thing on your mind may be collecting the abundance of kitchen scraps at the end of the night.

Depending on what you prepare, this will be much easier than you think! A good practice is to set aside a lidded (but not fully airtight) bin in your kitchen for collecting food scraps. The lid makes the bin less accessible as a breeding ground for fruit flies, and the entry of air prevents odors. Keep the collector on your kitchen counter or under the sink within easy reach. Just add scraps as you chop, slice (and taste-test) your meal! When your kitchen scrap bucket is full, empty it into your compost bin and fill it up again! It’s easy to make your own scrap collector: locate a trusty tupperware and poke some holes in the lid. Want a more polished look to your scrap collector? Pick one up at Solana Center!

If this holiday season also marks your first adventure into composting, check out these resources  to help you along the way.

 Don’t forget to Like us on Facebook and Follow us on Twitter @SolanaCenter to get more tips and tricks on becoming a sustainable and environmental steward.

From the Solana Team, we wish you and your families all the peace and joy this holiday season. Happy Composting!


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