Two Backyard Eco-Improvements for Under $100

I wanted to add some eco-friendly improvements to our backyard this summer and a silver lining of the quarantine was having the time to actually work on them. Two of my goals were to reduce waste: water waste and food waste. Through our inexpensive improvements, we were able to reduce water usage to water our plants AND reduce food waste entering the landfill.

Our compost setup (the small bin is for compost that we are no longer adding to – just turning).

DIY Compost Bin Setup

We followed this tutorial from The Spruce and put our compost bin setup for $44.

Supplies needed:

  1. 32-Gallon garbage can with lid ($15)
  2. 24-Gallon garbage can with lid ($0 – we already had)
  3. Landscaping bricks ($6 for 6)
  4. Smaller bin with sealing lid for food waste ($5)
  5. Pitchfork for compost turning ($18)
  6. Bungee cords ($0 – we already had)
  7. 1/2″ drill bit ($0 – we already had)
This is an inexpensive bucket that we keep next to our garbage can. The tight seal keeps any smells in and our dog out! It is a reminder before we throw something out to say “hey, can we compost that?”

We keep our compost bins along our rear fence line and keep a stock of leaves from the spring cleanup on hand to mix in. You need a mix of browns (dry materials) and greens (wet, food materials) for adequate breakdown and having the leaves on-hand meant we had less to haul out to the curb for pickup and it’s easily accessible to add into our compost.

Our three month old compost breaking down! You shouldn’t really incorporate sticks (they don’t break down), but I wasn’t that particular when raking, so some are still in here.

We set this up in April and after three months our compost is breaking down nicely. This is a look at our original barrel (which we are no longer adding to, just turning to facilitate breakdown) and I’m hopeful by this fall that it will be ready to spread on our lawns and in our garden beds.

Our rain barrel is tucked on the side of the garage. I hope to paint it something pretty at some point later this year once we empty it and disconnect it for winter.

DIY Rain Barrel Setup

We constructed our rain barrel for $53. I probably could have spent less if I tried to configure the barrel itself myself, but we still built a functioning rain barrel without too much hassle. We used this tutorial as a guide.

Supplies needed:

  1. A large barrel (55-gallon) ($30 for one that already had been sanitized on the inside, had a vent and intake valve added and a spigot attached on Facebook Marketplace)
  2. A diverter attachment for our gutter ($15 for one that has a screen that keeps leaves/debris out of the rain barrel).
  3. A coping saw ($0 – already had)
  4. A 5′ garden hose ($8)
  5. Large landscaping rocks or bricks to elevate the rain barrel ($0 – already had)
The diverter directs water along the outside edges of the gutter – while leaves and debris flow down the main gutter. The gutter then flows out into the side yard and the water (debris-free) heads into the rain barrel.

Our rain barrel is located on the side of our garage and captures the rain off of our family room and garage – I cannot believe how quickly the rain barrel fills up. We have two good rain events and it is FULL. It’s a nice way to supplement for watering the plants during dry days without having to use fresh water. I anticipated adding one in the backyard, as well when we have more plantings in the backyard, but based on how quickly this system refills, I may end up just walking the watering can back to the backyard. It does take a longer time to fill up a watering can as the water is not pressurized, but if I alternate out filling an extra watering can while I’m watering with a full one, it won’t add too much time to the chore.

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