What the F*ck is Compost and Why Should You Care?
(n.) Compost is decayed organic material used as a fertilizer to help plants grow.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, food is the biggest ingredient in American trash. Currently, more than 35% of the average garbage can is filled with kitchen scraps – the ones that should be composted instead of ending up in landfill. When you compost, you help keeps these materials out of landfills where they take up space and release methane, a potent greenhouse gas1.
“Wait, hold on. I thought methane was good?” you ponder.
Well, you are partially correct. Let me explain.
Natural gas consists primarily of methane. When methane is produced from non-fossil fuel sources such as food & green waste, it can take the carbon out of the air (which is a good thing!). Methane provides a great environment benefit, producing more heat and light and energy vs. fossil fuel (coal & or gas refined from oil). It also produces significantly less carbon dioxide and pollutants that produce smog and unhealthy air.2 However, when methane is released into the atmosphere before it is burned, it becomes harmful to the environment. Essentially, methane becomes 26 times more potent than carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas and is a significant contributor to global greenhouse gas emissions.
(Have you fallen asleep yet?)
Just a few of the many other benefits of compost are:
- Reduction in garbage volume
- Provides a rich, natural fertilizer and in turn cuts back on use of chemical fertilizers
- Improves soil aeration and drainage
- Helps control weeds
- Decreases the need for costly watering
You should care simply because of this – the earth is your home and you should take care of it as much as you can.
I’ve known about composting and its benefits for a while (mom always talks about it but you know, 50% of the things she says still goes in one ear and out the other). I never gave it much thought before since I thought it was only possible for people who either a) have a backyard/balcony/patio or b) have a garden. Well, it turns out I was wrong. Maybe I should’ve listened to my mom more.
All I needed to do was stop being L A Z Y and do some research! It is possible for someone like me who lives in a city apartment with no backyard, no patio, and no room to start a garden!
Ways to Compost (in an Apartment)
Today, I will be specifically talking about easy ways to compost if you live in an apartment.
1. Collect & Drop Off
If you don’t have a backyard/balcony/patio, this may be the easiest method yet! You can collect your kitchen scraps in a container and take it to a local food-scrap drop-off location!
There are a couple ways you can store kitchen scraps without stinking up your apartment. One is to put them in any container and stick them in your freezer – this method is F R E E! The other way is to purchase a ceramic or stainless-steel compost pail and keep it on your counter if you don’t have room in your fridge. Either way, once your container is full, it’s time to drop it off.
Note: It is important to check the rules for the drop-off location where your taking your scraps!
If you live in Houston, check out this link to see which location is closest to you! If you live in another major city in Texas, check out this link that lists where you can compost. If you live anywhere in a major city in the U.S., you can easily do a Google search (“food-scrap compost drop-off”) or check out your city’s Department of Sanitation’s website.
This method is what I just started to do! It’s easy AND free. Literally the hardest part is driving down the shitty roads of Richmond Ave!
2. Countertop Food Digester | Electric-assist Composter
OK – this method LOOKS awesome… and is also a great method for people who have minimal outdoor space. However, this doesn’t necessarily compost your food waste – it just converts it into something that you could immediately put on your patio planters. If you don’t have patio planters, I’m sure your apartment complex has some garden beds that you can take your processed food waste to! One other benefit to using one of these electric-assist composters is that they can process even avocado pits to chicken bones overnight.
I think the only negative thing I see about this is that they are a liiiiitttleee bit pricey ($299.99 USD). If you’re interested, check out this one by FoodCycle. I may actually purchase one soon. If I do, I’ll update this post and let you know how it goes.
There are other methods too…
I can list other methods such as worm composting but since I haven’t done it myself, I don’t feel confident discussing it. I’ve watched YouTube videos of how people are accomplishing this in their apartments. It seems simple enough, but also time consuming and have a lot of requirements e.g. controlled temperature, etc. I eventually DO want to do this but I have more research to do… and maybe when I move somewhere that has at least a patio or balcony. When/if I switch to this method, I’ll be sure to share my worm adventures.
What & What Not to Compost
I know it’s a little confusing on what you can and cannot compost, so here’s a small list of common food/kitchen items:
- Coffee grounds and coffee filters
- Crushed eggshells
- Fruit & vegetable craps
- Nut shells
- Shredded newspaper
- Tea & tea bags
- Toothpicks & burnt matches
- Paper towels (if not soiled with grease/fats or dairy)
- Meat, fish, egg, or poultry scraps
- Dairy products
- Fats, grease, lard, or oils
- Citrus peels (in worm composts)
Click here to see a longer list of what you can and cannot compost. If you don’t see the item you’re looking for here, just use your best friend Google.