Autumn is the perfect time to start a compost pile or bin in your backyard (or inside, with a special composting bin). Even if you don't have a large garden or yard, you can still benefit from composting — it enriches soil and reduces the need for water, fertilizers and pesticides. And if you keep a small garden or containers, those plants will love the extra nutrients, too.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reports that 24 percent of U.S. municipal solid waste comes from yard and food waste — all of which could be composted. Basically any organic materials can be tossed into your compost pile, including leaves, grass clippings and any other yard waste that piles up as you rake and prepare your yard for winter. Food scraps can be composted as well but not all of it (keep bones, meat and fatty foods out).
The EPA also has a list on their Web site of what not to include in your composting bins — some of them being harmful to the plants you're trying to help. A few on the list include black walnut tree leaves or twigs, coal or charcoal ash, dairy products, pet waste and any yard trimmings that have been treated with chemical pesticides.