Just because you live in an apartment building doesn’t mean you can’t turn your table scraps into earth-friendly compost. You’ll be doing the planet a big favor: food that rots in plastic bags in landfills produces methane, a harmful greenhouse gas and significant contributor to global warming. Urban composting can reduce these dangerous emissions as well as improve soil texture and health by cutting down on the need for extra water, fertilizers and pesticides.
Pick a bin: Many composting containers are compact in size so they can be stored right under your kitchen sink. And some are so good-looking you could display them on your countertop. Ceramic, stainless steel or bamboo are good choices for composting in the city.
Foods to toss: Strive for a combination of ‘green’ and ‘brown’ waste when deciding which leftovers to put in the bin. Green items are generally wetter and include bits of fruit, veggies, eggshells, tea bags, coffee grounds, bread, cereal, pasta, rice and nuts. Brown waste is on the dry side: shredded newspaper, small pieces of cardboard, wine corks, tissue paper and paper towels and napkins that have food on them. Don’t add meat, poultry, fish, dairy products or grease of any kind.
Mix in moisture: Check your compost every other day to determine whether it needs a spritz (water is necessary for the organisms to turn food waste into compost). The pile should be damp like a wrung-out sponge. Add more green waste if compost seems dry and increase the brown if it’s too wet. You’ll also want to turn over your compost to give your scraps a bit of fresh air—stirring helps to speed decomposing and can reduce odor.
Check the temperature: The decomposition process works best when the mixture is between 104 F and 131 F, so consider investing in a compost thermometer. If the compost isn’t warm enough, add more green waste. To aid the progression, make sure foods are cut into small pieces. Environmental sustainability can be slow: it can take as little as three months to more than a year for scraps to break down and emerge as a dark, crumbly soil-like substance.
Spread it around: You can use mature compost to feed container plantings on a deck, counter or windowsill, or you can donate your environmentally sustainable creation to a local park or community garden. Some farmer’s markets also take homemade compost (check with green markets in your area).
Written by: Jennifer Kelly Geddes; Feature image courtesy of Julien Ducenne