Even if you're already reusing pretty much any kitchen scrap you can, there's still going to be quite a bit going in the garbage bin. If you're lucky enough to have a yard, you've probably already jumped on the composting bandwagon, but for us apartment-dwellers, the idea of composting seems like some sort of faraway dream... and yet it's a much more tangible reality than you might think. If you're living in an apartment and you don't want to toss your carrot ends, potato peels and apple cores into the trashcan, read on.
Buying the Container
Perhaps the most important part of apartment composting is the container that you use. While you shouldn't be using a homemade container, even outside, because of potential animal problems, it's especially important when composting in an apartment because of the smell. A Bokashi system is a good choice, because it uses Bokashi -- a fermented wheat bran mix -- that helps the compost to get started. The bin itself is designed for indoor use and keeps odors away.
The other option is worm composting. It may seem strange to invite these critters into your home, but they're more than happy to stay where the food is, and they won't escape from their bin. You can order the worms and the bin online, and soon you'll be on your way! Another benefit to this method is that because the worms eat the material you want to compost, it doesn't have time to rot and create unpleasant odors.
When composting outdoors, you have much more flexibility about what you toss and when you toss it. Indoors, you need to be careful to keep your compost bin efficient.
Start with soil: a bin full of food scraps does not a happy compost bin make! A few inches of soil or dirt at the bottom is the way to begin every time you start a new bin, and then you're ready to start adding things to compost.
In addition to food scraps, you also need to add nitrogen, found in grass clippings or dead leaves. Collect some from your nearest park every week or so to help along your compost bin. If you don't have leaves on hand easily, you can also shred some newspaper or other paper you want to recycle; just keep the pieces small.
This is a general theme when it comes to composting, especially indoors: small pieces break down more easily, so be sure to cut up any food pieces before tossing them in.
Helping the Compost Along
Keep your compost happy by giving it ideal conditions to work. Add coffee grounds, which are great for compost, and avoid any meat or animal byproducts. Plant matter only! If you're not sure what not to compost, our guide might be of some help. In the same vein, there are some surprising things that you might not know can be composted.
Keep your compost bin in an area with good ventilation, but be sure to keep it in the shade: under the sink is great to keep it out of the way and in the dark, but keep the doors of any under-sink cabinets opened whenever you can -- while cooking, for example -- to make sure the bin is getting enough air.
What to Do with Your Compost
After about 45 days, your compost is ready to be used in a garden. If you have flower boxes or a terrace garden, use your compost to help your own plants along; just be sure to mix it with soil so that it's not too rich... it could kill your plants if used pure.
If you don't garden, you can give it away to friends! Any gardeners you know will be happy to get their hands on this all-natural plant food. If you don't have any gardening friends, ask around: put up an ad at your local organic supermarket or gardening store, offering the compost to likeminded people. Putting a little karma -- in the form of compost -- into the world never did anyone any harm!