Tuesday, September 30, 2008

It Can Be Done: Composting Anywhere

To most people, unfortunately, composting is still considered a mysterious and sometimes gross practice. Until you start to do it!! Then all your preconceived ideas about composting disappear -- and you start to appreciate nature more and reap the healthy benefits.

Additionally, I am also often told "I can't do composting because I live in a tiny apartment and have no backyard." This excuse is no longer good enough to get composting.

At its simplest, composting is the act of taking organic material and helping it to biodegrade quicker -- largely food scraps and yard waste. You then return the finished "compost" back to the earth -- enriching the soil by adding nutrients, helping the ground to retain water, and lessening the need for pesticides and herbacides (distributed compost into your soil does this for you -- protecting you and your family's health and water), and providing food for worms which are necessary for healthy soil (they aerate the ground, keep the soil's pH at its best levels, and their waste nutrifies).

I proudly say that EVERYONE can compost. And if me, being a city girl in stilettos, can go out and toss in some food scraps and work it with a shovel, then anyone can do it -- it's like a little science project ... but incredibly beautiful.

And according to the Environmental Protection Agency, there's a lot to be composted, keep out of landfills, and replenish our soils in the process: Yard trimmings and food residuals together constitute 24 percent of the U.S. municipal solid waste stream. You'll also help you and your community save money by reducing this waste collection due to composting.

Okay -- if you have a backyard, composting can be done outdoors. Many forward-thinking cities now have composting education programs (usually through your recycling center) and offer a free or discounted compost receptacle.

If you live in an apartment, you usually have two options:

  1. Purchase an indoor, bug-free composter machine, like from Nature Mill. You can also do worm-based composting indoors -- see this link on how to do that.

  2. Create a community composting program -- your community being your apartment building or surrounding neighborhood. Ideally this would be in a community gardening area.

In a place that you think wouldn't be conducive to composting, New York City has a wonderful educational program and partnerships to encourage composting. See this link.

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