If you’ve taken the One Less Bag Challenge, and you’re looking for ways to reduce waste, consider composting as an option. Page 13 of this EPA Report explains the various benefits of composting to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Even if you don’t have a yard or much space, there are a variety of creative ways to compost your food waste.
It’s easy to get started. Find a container (this is an example, not an endorsement — find what works for you) to put on your kitchen countertop or under the sink. Ideally, it will allow for air circulation, and some versions offer filter mechanisms to control odors.
What to Compost?
Include fruit and vegetable waste, coffee grounds, tea bags, napkins, paper towels, and even newspaper, though stay away from the glossy stuff. Eggshells are great, too, especially if rinsed and crushed. Avoid animal products like meat and cheese, which can attract undesirable varmints. We keep a pair of old scissors near our kitchen composter to cut up larger items, such as banana peels, helping the food waste to break down sooner.
My Bucket is Full. Now What?
If you’re in a small space, consider making your own composter or purchasing an Urban Composter. The latter is a larger bucket with a closed lid. Dump the food waste inside and give it a few squirts of microbes, which start to break down the food particles. The composter has a spigot at the bottom, and every few days, open the spigot to drain the liquid.
The downside of these composters is, the liquid can be stinky, especially if you don’t drain the liquid frequently enough. Also, once the food breaks down, it still needs to go into a compost pile, where it is mixed with soil or other “brown” matter for final decomposition. This is where it’s handy to have a gardening buddy who is excited to take your food waste off your hands.
Another option is an electric composter. These are pricey, but they work well and use little energy. Add food scraps and a scoop of sawdust pellets. The composter uses heat and a turning arm to circulate the compost. Once the food has broken down, it drops into a bucket you can empty in your yard or pass on to a gardening neighbor. This compost resembles the kind you might buy at the gardening center. In the spring, I mix it with some composted manure, though this isn’t necessary.
Vermiculture, or worm composting, is another excellent choice. Worms produce wonderful compost high in nutrition, but they need some loving care. If you’re going to try vermiculture, take a class (Jefferson County Public Works offers a free class periodically) or read a book on the subject. You can build your own worm composter easily for under $10. Worms can be purchased from bait stores and garden centers. Keep your worm bin in a cool, dark place like the garage, other outbuilding or on the back porch. A well cared for bin won’t smell and the dark-loving worms won’t craw out.
If you have outdoor space, you have many more options for a variety of compost systems. You can build your own or try the options listed here. The choices are endless, so find what works best for you.