Composting for Apartment Dwellers

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Composting indoors can be tricky but not impossible. Scroll down to get to the details immediately but first a quick review.

What is Composting?

Composting is nature’s way of recycling organic materials into a rich, natural fertilizer to enrich soil and help plants grow. It speeds up the decomposing process by providing an ideal environment for bacteria, fungi, and other organisms to thrive and break down the materials, creating a nutrient-rich soil.

What are the benefits?

  • Reduces waste: food scraps and yard waste make up about 30% of what we throw away

  • Reduces methane emissions: organic waste creates methane in landfills, a potent greenhouse gas

  • Enriches soil: compost contains vital nutrients needed by plants (nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium), improving soil health and stimulating growth in plants

What goes into compost?

Compost is made up of only 4 simple ingredients: browns for carbon (leaves, twigs, wood chips), greens for nitrogen (food scraps, grass clippings), air and water. All together they create an ideal environment for decomposition, making for the perfect fertilizer rich in nutrients. The EPA has an extensive list of what you can and cannot compost, as well as tips on how to compost at home.

How to use it?

How do you know when your compost is ready to use? You don’t want to use immature, or unfinished compost, as it can attract pests and damage plants. Eartheasy suggests grabbing a handful of soil to see if it has the following characteristics of mature compost: crumbly and smooth texture, sweet earthly smell, and a dark, rich color. Also included in the article are tips on how to use compost and how long it takes for compost to mature.

Composting Indoors

Composting outdoors requires a bit more time and labor than many of us have so if you want to start small, indoor composting is much easier to maintain. There are several ways you can do it – with a worm or bokashi bin, an electronic composter, or finding a community compost plot.

One of the easiest ways to compost inside is worm composting, which is natural, odor-free, and inexpensive. All you need are a couple of plastic bins, a drill to create holes, shredded paper, dirt, and, the most important part, worms. The EPA has a great guide for creating your own, or you can purchase an inexpensive, ready-made worm bin like this one which even comes with the option to include worms so you don’t have to find your own.

Bokashi is an even easier way to compost at home as you can use all kinds of kitchen scraps, including dairy and meat products, and is quick, odorless, and space efficient. Created by Dr. Teruo Higa in 1980, bokashi bran contains Effective Microorganisms (EM) which are a combination of different microbes that promote healthy plant growth. Bokashi differs from traditional composting since it is a fermentation process rather than decomposition. To put it simply, you mix food scraps with a specialized bokashi mixture (known as bokashi bran/inoculant/powder), cover for 2-3 weeks, and let the bin do the rest. Once everything is fermented, the final result is a pre-compost which is very acidic and must be processed before it comes in contact with your plants; the easiest way is to bury it in soil for 2-4 weeks while it transforms into a nutrient-rich compost. You can find more extensive explanations of the bokashi process here and here.

Both worm and bokashi bins are easy, odorless ways to reduce food waste. The main difference between the two is that the worm bin is an aerobic process, meaning covering isn’t required, while bokashi is anaerobic so the bin must be sealed properly. Worm bins require a bin more attention and upkeep than bokashi, but the starting costs for bokashi are pricer. While each method has their pros and cons, both are great ways to start reducing waste in your home.

Indoor Composting Supplies

Full Circle: Fresh Air Compost Bin

This countertop compost bin features Full Circle’s patented design that allows air to flow through your organic waste to slow down the decomposing process, so you can be spared of some odors and flies flocking to your kitchen.

 

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Planet Natural: Countertop Carrier

Perfect for storing table scraps, it includes a carbon filter to eliminate odors and rounded corners so that it is easy to empty and clean. Looks good on a countertop or can be mounted under the sink.

This also ships in environmentally friendly packaging.

 

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2 Buckets Bokashi Composting System with Kashi Blend

This starter kit is perfect if you collect a large amount of food waste and want to ensure continuous composting. However, for households that do not produce much food waste, a single bucket composting system may be a better choice to start composting. (see below!)

 

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Bokashi Starter Kit

Everything you need to start composting using the bokashi method! This kit includes our custom-made bokashi bin and tools (tray, scoop, collection cup) and a month’s supply of our farm-fermentted MO-kashi bran as well as instructions on bokashi composting.

–Christina Hara

 



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