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How to Compost in an Apartment

We so often think of "zero waste" as the avoidance of single-use plastics and packaging. But there's another pretty major waste stream that deserves the spotlight as much as anything else: food waste. Somewhere between 30 to 40% of our food supply in the U.S. becomes food waste, and food waste contributes to 8% of global greenhouse gas emissions. So first and foremost, we should all try a little harder to only purchase the food we're pretty confident we can eat before it goes rotten. And when all else fails, we should have a way to dispose of our food waste properly. But that's easier said than done for someone who doesn't have curbside compost pickup nor a backyard.

About a year ago I resolved to start composting despite living an apartment. I reached out to local gardening groups and composting organizations for suggestions and was met with no helpful information. I was directed to community gardens with 5-year waiting lists, and was told: "just give your scraps to your neighbor." Uhh... I live in the city, don't nobody have a yard. A year later, a lot of new resources are available for apartment dwellers, and it's actually pretty easy to pick up urban composting! Here are some of your options:

Share your scraps with your neighbor

Okay, I scoffed at this initially, but there are online resources and apps making this option more viable than it used to be. Both ShareWaste and MakeSoil can connect scrap donors with scrap acceptors.

Bring your scraps to a local drop-off hub or community garden

Both of the aforementioned websites can help you find your closest drop-off spot. You can also find a nearby community garden through the American Community Gardening Association website.

Keep your scraps in the fridge or freezer

If you plan to compost via options 1 or 2, you might not have the opportunity to offload your scraps every week, so you'll need to store them in a way that keeps them from getting too smelly. Keep your compost canister in the fridge! Or if you will be holding on to your scraps for several weeks, keep them in the freezer.

Storing your scraps in the freezer is also a great option if you want to reuse your scraps for veggie broth down the road!

Start a worm farm (vermicompost bin)

This is my preferred method. I like that I can compost in my own home, and don't have to rely on anyone else (other than the worms, that is). Watch this video about my worm bin!

If you want to start your own worm bin, here are some options:

You can find red wiggler worms at your neighborhood nursery.

For more about apartment composting, including the Bokashi method (composting via fermentation), here is a great resource.

Fellow apartment-eurs, we'd love to know how you're practicing urban composting, or how you're planning on getting started! Reach out to us on Instagram or comment below!

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