Home Composting for Zero Waste Living (in a House or Apartment)
Remarkably, we throw away up to 40% of the perfectly edible food we bring into our homes! According to the Environmental Protection Agency “wasted food is the single biggest occupant in American landfills.” Globally, food waste is responsible for an estimated 3.3 gigatons of greenhouse gas emissions.
And vegans aren’t off the hook either! Certainly, animal agriculture is the main contributor of greenhouse gas emissions, but even when we waste vegan food, we’re contributing to methane created in landfills. So, even though we may not be contributing to greenhouse gas emissions by the food we eat, we ARE contributing to it by the food we waste!
That’s were composting comes in! Wherever you live — whether in a house or an apartment, whether you have outdoor access or not, whether you garden or not…you can do it!
Here are some top tips for starting to compost at home. (But for LOTS more, listen to the related Food for Thought podcast episode below.)
- Decide what type of compost bin is right for you. I’ve been using the Envirocycle Tumbler Composting Bin for 15 years and recommend it! It’s fully enclosed so it can put in a garden, on a patio, deck or a balcony; it comes in mini (17 gallons) or regular (35 gallons); and it’s super easy to use!
- Decide where to place your compost bin. Keep it near the kitchen for easy access (or in the kitchen in the case of an indoor worm bin.)
- Remember the basic principles of composting: food, oxygen, and moisture. The microorganisms (bacteria, fungi) and macroorganisms (worms) that break down organic matter need all of these to thrive and do their job. “Food” means nitrogen (green materials such as fruit and veggie scraps) and carbon (brown materials such as dry leaves, cardboard boxes, paper bags). “Oxygen” comes from stirring the pile or rotating your tumbler. “Moisture” comes from water or wet green materials.
- Create a system for your veggie scraps. Whenever I’m prepping a meal and invariably have scraps, I throw all of those that can be made into a stock directly into a soup pot, and I throw the rest into my compost pail.
- Learn what green and brown materials you can add to your compost bin. Green: fruit and veggie scraps, lawn and grass clippings, flower cuttings, nut shells, fruit pits, grains (including rice, pastas and breads), coffee grounds, and tea leaves. Brown: cardboard, brown paper bags, paper towels, newspapers, toilet paper rolls, bedding from hamster/gerbil/rabbit cages. (Supporters receive a beautiful graphic detailing everything that can go into a compost bin. Become a supporter today for perks like these!)
- Chop green and brown materials into smaller pieces. The smaller the scraps, the faster composting takes place. It just means chopping the veggies smaller before putting them in your compost pail and using something like a microshredder to shred brown materials.
- Keep a good balance of green to brown materials. As a rule, add 1/3 green to 2/3 brown materials.
- Learn what NOT to add to your compost bin. Animal products, tea bags (many have plastic), glossy papers, bioplastic “biodegradable” cups/bags are just a few of the things you don’t want to add.
- Donate your compost! If you don’t have a garden but are creating beautiful compost (as per all my suggestions in the podcast episode), donate it to community gardens, local garden centers, friends, or to the local park!
- Give away your veggie scraps! If you just aren’t ready to compost on your own but still want to reduce your food waste, here is a handy guide to finding out how you can arrange to have your veggie scraps picked up and hauled away! Some cities offer green waste pick-up, and some innovative companies are picking up people’s veggie scraps for them!