Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Lazy Person's Guide to Composting

You can compost! Even if you live in a tiny apartment. Even if you're not ready to share your tiny apartment with a few hundred worms or a few thousand fruit flies. Even if you don't have a few spare hundred dollars bills to plunk down on an electric composting machine. Even if you have a million other things to do. Even if you're just plain lazy. You can compost by participating in community composting efforts.

Here's how:
Image from Ditmas Park Blog.
Find a community composting project in your neighborhood. Ask Google. If you don't find anything, don't be deterred. A lot of community stuff like this isn't on the web yet. Ask at the info booth at your local farmers market, drop in at a community garden, call the local food coop, and ask customer service reps your Whole Foods or natural foods store. Crunchy people are always in the loop with composting.

Instead of tossing vegetable scraps, bread, grains, wilted flowers, coffee grounds, hair, pet fur, nail clippings, and a lot of other compostable things in the trash, save them. Store them in a paper or plastic bag, a coffee bag, a compostable bio bag (including the green bags that Whole Foods offers for produce), an empty juice or milk carton, or a plastic salad greens container. Tuck the bag or carton of compostables in your freezer where it won't decompose, get funky, and attract fruit flies.

Tip: Keep bread or old produce bags organized by storing them in a toilet paper tube near your food scraps.

If you want to hold your compost in something more sturdy, use a milk carton.
Next time you're headed out to your community compost collection site, carry your frozen compostables with you. It's a good idea to double bag them if there is a chance you'll be out long enough for things to thaw. Definitely double bag or put it in something waterproof if you are using a paper bag.

When you get to the compost collection site, follow the rules. If you don't know the rules, ask the person managing the booth. Some places require that everything be frozen. Some places let you dump the whole compostable bio bag or paper bag into a bin. Some require that you empty the contents of the bag in to a bin. Some gardens ask you to put your scraps into the actual composting bin and cover it with newspaper scraps. Do whatever they say will help them the most.

LES Ecology Center collection booth at Union Square Greenmarket. Image from The Power Brokers.
If you are in NYC, Grow-NYC collects food scraps for composting at farmers markets in four of the five boroughs. (More info on their composting program.) Some farmers have their own indie collections going too! We used to leave our scraps with a farmer at the Grand Army Plaza Farmers Market on Saturday mornings.

Now that we live in Providence, RI we drop off our food scraps at the collection site near our farm share pick up stand at Thursday Armory Farmers Market.

Check out this list of 75 Things You Can Compost, but Thought You Couldn't. According to the article, you can compost latex condoms, ripped up pizza and cereal boxes, and pencil shavings. Of course, it's always best to consult with the collection site before you put anything too weird in the collection bin. Some composting systems are more delicate than others.

Olivia Lane is a Blogger, Green Living Educator, and Health Coach trained at The Institute for Integrative Nutrition. She's also author of Baking Soda & Bliss: The Healthy & Happy Guide to Green Cleaning 

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