Going green is becoming more of a priority in our society. With the many tools and thoughtful resources out there, it’s becoming a lot easier, too. Composting, in particular, is gaining traction, and you no longer need a backyard to do it. That means even if you live in an apartment, you can make the most of scraps that would otherwise be wasted.
The Science Behind Composting
When you throw away your trash, you mix two types of materials together: organic and inorganic. Mixing these creates an atmosphere of unwanted preservation, which means that the organic items are not decomposing naturally. By separating the organic from the inorganic, you help maintain the decomposition process and keep extra waste from sitting in U.S. landfills.
To Compost or Not to Compost
In the simplest terms, what you should put in an indoor compost bin comes down to organic materials – items that once lived or were made from a living thing, as long as it contains all-natural components. However, not all organic materials are right for your indoor composting. Vegetable scraps are ideal, but meat, dairy, bones, fats, and oils can spread disease and cause an unpleasant smell. Without these, your compost should take on an earthy, rich smell.
For your compost pile, you want a 50/50 balance between nitrogen and carbon. Nitrogen will come from your food scraps or anything wet and green, while carbon will be leaves, straw, or paper. Crushed egg shells, shredded paper bags, and cooked pasta are just some of the many items you can safely compost.
Just remember: When in doubt, leave it out of the compost heap.
Containing the Compost
One of the most common ways to compost is by using a worm bin, which is just a container with worms added (they conveniently eat the compost). If this isn’t your thing, there are many other small composters that are perfect for an apartment. Tumbling indoor composters are convenient for when you have to turn the compost. You can also find bins or pails that are sealed or have locks to keep in any odors. There are even electric composters, which can make the process move a lot faster.
If you have limited space, you could always keep your compost in a sealed bag in the freezer. Otherwise, it should fit in nicely with your other small kitchen countertop appliances.
Start composting by cutting strips of paper (black and white newspaper will do) and soaking them in water. Once saturated, coat the bottom of the bin with the strips. You can then start adding your food scraps into the mix. It’s as simple as that.
Just remember to:
- Chop or shred your compostable items as small as possible so they decompose faster and more evenly.
- Turn your compost pile weekly to aerate it – which also speeds up the process.
- Keep your compost moist, as a balance between air and moisture makes sure it all breaks down correctly.
Too Much Compost
As someone living in an apartment, you likely do not have a garden. However, if you have potted plants, you can use your compost as soil for those. Otherwise, you can offer your compost to any friends who love to garden, donate it to a community garden or school, find a local farm who can benefit from it, or bury it somewhere. Ultimately, you want to keep your compost as balanced and pure as possible for the most healthy results.
According to the publication BioCycle, Southern California – including Los Angeles, Orange County and San Diego – composts 3 million tons per year, about 50% of the state’s total processing capacity. You can help contribute to the cause when you call any of these cities your next home.