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Apartment Composting Part 1

December 2, 2011

A few weeks back when I created my 12 by 12 list of goals, I had my heart set on DIYing my own Apartment Compositing Bin. Composting is the biological break down or decomposition of organic material to be used as fertilizer for plants. Composting is the process of collecting nitrogen rich old kitchen scraps, adding carbon rich ingredients like dried leaves or dirt, and allowing it to decompose into compost for gardening and planting. Here is a quick list of what you can and cannot compost:

Fair Game:

vegetables, fruit, fruit peels, yard waste , peanut shells, ashes, wood

weeds, remains of garden plants, coffee grounds and teabags (!).

Off Limits:

meat of any kind (raw or cooked), milk, cheese, colored paper, fish

dead plants, inorganic material (aluminum, glass, plastic, metals),

household trash, oil, rice, pet droppings

Besides the clear benefit that you can use it to fertilize your garden, I  was interested in composting because I realized that 90% of my waste came from my kitchen. I’ve been thinking of ways to reduce my waste production, because it is ever important to think about how to remain sustainable. Each week my garbage bags were filled to the brim with onion peels, kale stems, and more often than not tea bags! It’s good that I eat a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables, but it also meant that I had to go outside to throw my trash away. My garbage can is located on the back of my porch, and it got to be a real pain once the cold weather came really quickly. I thought there has to be a better way for me to get rid of this perfectly useful waste, without having to throw it into the garbage outside and have it end up in a landfill.

There are a few different options for kitchen/apartment composting. You can DIY your bin our you can purchase it. Savvy Brown has an awesome tutorial for the DIY enthusiasts out there. If you are into doing things yourself, definitely check out her post! While perusing Marshalls on Black Friday, I came upon this beauty. $3 for my own tin? Yes, please!

There are various tutorials on how to create your own composting bin, but it would have cost me more than the $3.00 + tax I spent, so when I saw this I knew I had to get it! The two main features I like are ventilated top and steel frame.

If you are DIYing, drill holes into the top of your container. Alternatively you can use a nail and hammer to get the wholes. Under the top of the lid, you will want to line it with a sheet of charcoal paper. The charcoal paper will help contain the smell of the compost material and will also allow the ventilation of air. After you have secured your lid with the lining, it’s time to load your composting bin. I chose to go with the traditional composting. There are various way to make sure your waste decomposes (worming, verimenting, etc) but I rather not have any creatures in my home if I can prevent it. With this method, you simply load a mixture of ‘green’ items (kitchen waste- fruit and veggie scraps) and ‘brown’ materials (dirt, shredded paper, dried leaves) into your bin, mix, and let it do it’s own thing. 

loaded up on shredded paper from the office

Fill the bottom of your bin with shredded paper

After you load your shredded paper, add your browns, then your greens.

Place your cover on the bin, and wait for it to work!

The latter part of composting is figuring out what to do with all the good dirt! If you have indoor plants, compost soil is a great nourisher. Use the compost to amend your soil, giving those plants the nutrients they need to thrive. If you do not have any houseplants, I recommend you get some! Plants are beneficial for a variety of reasons (they remove pollutants and allergens from the air) and they look beautiful! Plants will immediately make your apartment feel more homely, and alive. After nourishing your plants, you can try donating it to your local garden farmer or community garden. These are popping up everywhere in Chicago, and I’m sure they’ll be happy to have the compost. Alternatively, you can simply dump the compost on a tree outside.

Now that I have my compost bin going, the hard part will be patiently waiting for the food to decompose. I am curious to see how long it will take for everything to break down. Hopefully it doesn’t get too smelly in the process. I’ll update when then things start to change.

So tell me, what do you do in your home to remain more sustainable and green? Ever thought about composting your waste?

I hope you all have a happy and restful weekend!!

Also, please call your loved ones to chat. Don’t wait.

 Chinye

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. December 4, 2011 9:34 pm

    We produce a container about the size of your Marshall’s bucket once a week. We live in an inner city but have a tiny back yard. It is large enough for a 4×16 raised garden bed and a 4×4 compost pile. The tub from our kitchen gets dumped out there and we turn the compost into the garden early in the spring before planting our herbs and veggies. If you do not have enough space to have a garden, check into community garden plots or maybe even get a few neighbors together and clean out an abandoned lot.

    • December 13, 2011 4:20 pm

      sadly, i do not even have a small backyard. there is a small patch of dirt where a bush tree grows, i’m thinking I can dump the compost there, but I am just wondering how long it will take to actually fully decompose. it has been about two weeks, and my can is full but the veggies and stuff have not finished decomposting…

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