Humans create a lot of waste. The incessant creation of garbage is a fact of human, and especially urban, life and begets the never-ending question of what to do with it all. Fewer and fewer of us feel comfortable just seeing it all trucked to a pit in some less-fortunate place. It feels socially and environmentally irresponsible to have no input in how my kitchen waste is repurposed.
First, lets answer the question of “What is Compost?“ Basically, compost is organic matter that has decomposed into a rich soil amendment. It is a host to beneficial organisms that help to further break down newly introduced organic material so that it is readily available to your plants when they need them. Basically, it gives you a way to repurpose your food scraps rather than simply throwing them away!
I don’t compost at home (though I do in my office.) Sometimes I think about the fact that I don’t compost and I question how I can call myself an environmentalist, or even a gardener. It is such an easy way to re-use food waste, and can help you save money, the environment, and can be a free fertilizer for your plants. When I think of the kitchen waste I produce, I’d say that roughly 25% can be composted, while 50-60% could be recycled. The remainder is straight-up trash, unfortunately, though we do our best to limit this portion. We juice like CRAZY– meaning our house is filled with raw pulp that is absolutely chock full of nutrients and easily compostable.
So why don’t I compost at home?
Probably the same reasons that you don’t. No space, no time, no use for it. Here’s how you (and I) can get past these issues!
- You don’t need worms, you don’t need a giant bin, and if you do it right, you don’t even need to worry about the smell, pests, or rodents! In fact, it’s fairly easy to keep compost out of site, even in the smallest of spaces. There are dozens of indoor compost bins in a range of sizes, from the sleek and modern, to the rustic, to the basic plastic bin! Here’s my favorite list. Many of these even have charcoal filters to help avoid any bad smells. *DISCLAIMER* These bins are not conventional compost bins! They are more of food scraps “holders” that can be used to jump start the composting process before moving to a bigger, conventional bin! You can also DIY your own vermicomposting bin– easily! This is slightly different than the “food scraps” bin mentioned above, as the whole process can occur right there!
- Here are a few methods of apartment composting thanks to Apartment Therapy.
- This literally isn’t even an excuse! And it’s one that I have used. Fact is– it takes as much time to compost as it does to throw out your trash or recycle! It’s merely a separate bin. The only aspect that can be slightly more time intensive is turning the compost– luckily these small bins don’t quite need turning like large bins do! At most, you may have to “stir the pot” a bit, so to speak.
- Think you have nowhere to put your compost? I’ll prove you wrong. Here are some ideas for how to use your fresh compost!
- Use it in your houseplants and garden.
- Offer it to neighbors with gardens!
- Take it to craigslist! There’s always someone in the market for some free compost.
- Check with local schools, gardens, and museums, or community parks
- Alternatively, you could see if anyone would like your un-composted scraps
- See if any farmers’ markets or other local areas serve as drop-off points.
- Utilize a private compost pick-up services
What can you compost?
*SECOND DISCLAIMER* If you know of any high heat composting facilities in your city, you can compost any type of food waste (so long as you drop it off there)– including oils, meat, and dairy. However, these facilities are few and far between, and often only accept bulk waste, so do your research before deciding this will be your method!
How Compost Helps your Soil
- Compost contains nutrients that your plants need for optimum growth, such as nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium.
- Nutrients are released at the rate your plants need them. In early spring, as your plants are slowly starting their growth, the microoganisms in compost are slowly releasing nutrients.
- The organic matter in compost binds with soil particles (sand, silt, and clay) to form small aggregates, or crumbs.
- Increases water-holding capacity of soil. Compost can hold an amount of water equal to 200 percent of its dry weight, compared to 20 percent for a low-humus soil.
- Acts as an inoculant to your soil, adding microorganisms and larger creatures such as earthworms and insects, which are nature’s soil builders.
- Neutralizes various soil toxins and metals, such as cadmium and lead, by bonding with them so they can’t be taken up by plants.
- Acts as a pH buffer so plants are less dependent on a specific soil pH.
I’m honestly super embarrassed that I don’t compost. I think it is incredibly environmentally irresponsible not to, and honestly doesn’t align with the type of person I would like to project myself as to the world. How can I set a good example to my readers, friends, and followers, if I’m not upholding the type of lifestyle I preach?
I’m happy to say that I have helped a few friends begin composting, and I even perform the job of bringing the compost from their homes to the Heritage Square Museum garden periodically. I work for a company called EcoSets which promotes composting on commercial film productions, and I did my part to get my office composting, so I’m not completely slacking, but my apartment is still sadly compost free. I’m planning on following my own advice and investing in a bin of my own. Updates to follow!