The Browns in Your Compost

Great things to use are dead leaves, grass clippings, or any yard waste: paper; and cardboard. It might be a good idea to shred these items before composting and make sure you keep a 2:1 ratio of browns to greens.


Having a healthy compost requires keeping a proper balance of carbon to nitrogen materials and while most people will use leftover food or food scraps for the nitrogen portion, there are many many different options for the carbon side of things. A good rule of thumb for determining if something is carbon or nitrogen rich is by its color. For example, if something is brown, there a good chance it is carbon rich and if something is green, then there is a good change it is nitrogen rich. Of course, you should not follow this blindly however it is something to keep in mind which is why today we are going to be looking at some of the most common carbon rich items to use as well as some tips on how to use them.

Yard Waste

The most common sources of carbon people use in their compost are dead leaves, grass clippings, twigs, or any yard waste that is dead. This is great during the fall when there are an abundance of leaves which you can also store for later use.

Paper/Paper Towel

Paper is also a very commonly composted, especially if it is shredded or soiled from something. While paper can also be recycled, we have an entire article over whether composting is better than recycling which you can check out. Paper towels should especially be composted as they cannot be recycled however make sure they are do not contain chemicals.


A very common source of cardboard that is used in composts are pizza boxes. This is because pizza boxes a very common use of cardboard however are many times coated in grease leaving them non recyclable. However they can easily be composted and so can most other cardboard items.

Some Final Tips

Firstly, you should always try to break anything you compost into smaller pieces which will not only help your compost decompose faster, but it will also help aerate your pile. Also, always be sure to maintain a 2:1 ratio of browns to greens in your compost so everything decomposes correctly and you can maintain a healthy compost. Please post any questions you have in the comments section below and any other brown materials that you have used in your compost. Happy Composting!