So let’s talk about composting! The main questions I received when planning to downsize into a condo was about our garden. And for good reason. We put life into that garden and that garden gave us life in return. We do, without a doubt, plan to garden / grow food while living in a condo and in the future. I have a few things I’m starting to set up, but not a complete plan yet. (Sometimes these things take time.) We will also be building small beds for our balcony space. It’s not a big space, but it’s enough to grow a few things. And at the end of the day, a few things are undeniably better than nothing.

But one of the things I wanted to set up as soon as we got into our condo was some sort of compost system. Now a lot of people might scratch their heads at this— why compost when you’re living in a condo? Why compost when you don’t have a garden? Well, the reasons for composting go far beyond a personal garden. Just like the reasons for eating more fruits and vegetables go far beyond receiving nutrients. There are loads of layers involved in composting (literally).

Composting is good for the planet.

Really good for it. Like, other than giving up meat and dairy, composting might be one of the easiest things you can add to your daily life to very quickly improve the overall health of the planet. (I’m not sure, but)I feel like this isn’t common knowledge, but when you throw organic matter (fruit,  vegetables, grass, leaves, etc) into the trash it ends up in the landfill with all the rest of the garbage. The thing is, just like digestion, foods break down at different speeds (why it’s important to consider the order you eat food in) and instead of properly breaking down, they ferment all funky. When organic material ends up tossed in with the rest of the garbage it goes into the landfill. Once mixed in the landfill,  it doesn’t break down as it should in nature and sets off methane into the air. And we’re all aware of how awful methane is now, right?

So yes, something as simple as separating your food from your trash and disposing of it properly/composting it, actually makes a big difference when you’re worried about carbon in the air. Methane is one of the worst pollutants in the air– you could even say it’s far worse than carbon dioxide emissions. According to T. Colin Campell PhD “Molecule for molecule, methane is about twenty fives times more potent in trapping heat than carbon dioxide. But more important, methane, with an atmospheric half-life of seven years, disappears from the atmosphere far faster than carbon dioxide, which has a half-life of more than a century. So almost as soon as we eliminate sources of methane, it’s contribution to the greenhouse effect begins to wane significantly.”

So how do we dramatically reduce the effects of methane in the air? We compost. Well, first we eat a plant-based diet– as that’s the number one biggest factor in reducing methane, but composting helps too. And it’s so simple, we all really should make an effort to do it.

Can you compost anywhere?

I’d like to think you can. Of course, there are loads of different factors involved when it comes to easy access to composting. Cities like San Francisco passed a law to make disposing food waste properly mandatory. Awesome, right? But that’s one major city in the US. Most cities are from creating a system like this. But whether living in an urban region or suburban region, farmers and food growers alike need compost. Compost is part of healthy food-growing soil. It provides loads of nutrients for crops and gardens.

I know, even here in South Florida, there are loads of farmers who would appreciate buckets of healthy organic food waste being dropped off at their properties. So much so that many would be willing to pick it up. I know, because I contacted a few when we moved into this condo, haha. I’ve met with local farmers and owners of community gardens in lower-income suburban neighborhoods who have drop-offs being made to them. Composting is possible, just about everywhere. Sometimes all it takes is a question to the right person or a typed in question on the internet to find the right system in your own neighborhood.

My initial plan was to freeze our compost each day and have a weekly pick-up or drop off with a local farmer friend. Then I got lucky one-day searching local sustainability platforms on instagram and found a business that picks up your compost bi-weekly for you. While the friend option would have been great (and free), I liked the idea of using a company with a set system in place. It just seemed like the most reliable option for us. The company makes a bit of money (they charge 10$ a month) and I don’t have to worry about dropping things off — or really doing any work myself other than dumping our food scraps into a bin each night.

10$ is fine for us, but how I look at it– we’re rarely eating out, we never shop for clothes, we don’t even buy coffee out of the house, so I don’t mind spending the extra 10$ to support a local, sustainable business. But I know for some, 10$ might be a stretch. But again, there are other free options too. And hey, if there isn’t a system in place, it is absolutely possible to create one– for yourself– or for a local neighborhood. That’s how do-good community initiatives happen, right? Someone gives a crap and creates it? Sometimes you just have to reach out and ask.

CO2 Saved

According to drawdown.org (great site, loads of info), we could save at least 2.28 gigatons of CO2 being released into the air if we all composted. Then add on the 26.7 gigatons of CO2 we could save by going plant-based. AND the additional 39.3 gigatons we could save by not cutting down our rainforest for meat production— that’s a crap ton of CO2 that would no longer be a threat to our atmosphere. 68.28 gigatons of CO2 saved. THEN imagine if we all planted trees and grew food instead of lawns? Well, hot damn, we’d be really taking care of the planet, our resources, and all living things, wouldn’t we? That would be amazing.

Anyway, I’m digressing (dreaming). Composting really helps the bigger picture. It’s how nature intended our food scraps to be used– to go back in the soil and create better future food and plants.

On a smaller, nonglobal scale, composting is good for:

Composting in a small city apartment doesn’t sound so strange now, does it? 🙂 It’s definitely another thing we can do to decrease our own footprint even more. Something that’s easy and makes sense for so many reasons.

How much do you need to compost? What about trash waste?

Ideally, you’ll be composting all your food scraps as well as any natural fibers (think paper, cotton) you need to dispose of. For us, we easily fill 10 gallons (two 5 gallon buckets) every two weeks. But this is just mostly food. If we composted paper, well, we’d need more. We put all our easy thin scraps into the garbage disposal (think potato and apple peels), our bigger scraps (think banana and pineapple peels) into our bucket, and we recycle larger pieces of paper and plastic packaging we may have squired that month. Ideally, we’d compost all of it (except the plastic, you cant compost that), but we’re okay with this 10-gallon plan for now. With this system, we have close to zero trash each day/week/month (depending on the type of plastic that might come in from the supermarket produce). We now keep two small (hand size) baskets in our bathrooms for trash. In these baskets go dental floss and fruit stickers. There’s not much else. We’re pretty pleased.

Final notes:

No, it does not smell. I mean, maybe if I didn’t close the lid tight, or if I stuck my face up to the buckets then yes there would be a smell. But otherwise, it’s not a problem at all.

You cant compost plastic. Even the “compostable” bags that you buy in-store are not really great for composting. If you throw a compostable bag into a landfill, it does not compost. It’s basically the same as throwing a trash bag away (bummer, I know). And we’ve been told that even if you try to actually compost it, it takes forever to break down. So we don’t bother using them (saves money not to anyway). We just fill up a bowl with scraps, then dump it in the bucket.

Really (and now I’m really digressing) we should be able to compost human feces. The only reason we cant now is that we eat cooked and processed foods now and take so many medications. Otherwise? Our poop would be happy in nature providing nutrients for future food too. While we’re a long, long way to getting back to a system that natural, we’re not too far off from the idea of growing food and taking the waste to put back into the earth instead of in a landfill to pollute. This idea is very attainable for most.

I hope this post encourages you guys to look into some sort of composting system in your neighborhood. And if you can’t find one, well, I hope this post encourages you to try to create one. Maybe even suggest the idea to a local farmer– they might be into the idea of collecting compost and creating a secondary business from it! 🙂 You guys know this, but I truly believe it’s important that we start getting back to how nature truly works. We should be working with it, not against it. So let’s grow real food, then compost it. that sounds cool, right? 😉

Cheers friends!

10 Comments

  1. Super helpful. Thank you, Drea!
    I’m getting ready to start composting. I have found a place to drop it off!
    So, in your house – you fill the buckets, no bag, use a top. Do you clean it out after each pick up? Soap and water? Just a quick rinse? Does it matter?

    • Great question! yes buckets, no bag, definitely a top to keep bugs out and smells in. the service we pay for actually rinses out the buckets for us. They collect the buckets and bring us new ones every two weeks. If we were doing a drop off service then I’d probably give the buckets a quick rinse, depending on what was in there/sticking. Like, I def give the compost bowl on our counter a good rinse with sudsy water <3

    • oh, but I don’t think it matters— I think it would just help with smell, ick factor of weeks/months of build up!

  2. Growing up in a family of dedicated gardeners, I’ve never been able to stomach the thought of putting food scraps into a landfill. So even when I lived in less-than ideal locations for composting (postage-stamp yards or apartments, I’d just dump it in a hole in my yard or an empty lot in the neighborhood! This is easy in Florida because things decompose so quickly, but when I lived in AZ it all dehydrated and I realized the morning that I was moving out of my tiny duplex that needed to reduce it in size, so I tried burning it in my little fire pit… I’m amazed no one called the cops because it was 7 am in an urban area and SO smokey! Not a good idea in retrospect, but now a funny memory.

    Have you heard about the project in Vermont to harvest urine for phosphorus to be used in fertilizer? We’re running out of it quickly and urine is one of the greatest sources. So if you really want to complete the loop you can use that on the porch plants, haha. It honestly works very well if diluted properly.

    • I haven’t heard of the Vermont program specifically– but it doesn’t surprise me, haha. of course Vermont would do that, haha. I have def looked into urine + crops– as well as urine + detox– but thats a whole other rabbit hole, haha.

  3. Sydni Jackson Reply

    I tried composting a few years ago and we were ultimately disgusted with the way that maggots would take over after just a few days. Any tips to combat or deal with the maggots and flies??

    • Oooof, to be honest, I’m not sure at all! At our home we had one of those large rolls compost turning things and it was never too bad. Here, we don’t deal with any of that since we use the service. Sorry!

  4. Just curious as to why you don’t put all food scraps in the compost? Not sure what the current thinking is on garbage disposals, but in the past they have been seen as putting unnecessary load on waste water systems.

    • We totally would if we could! It really is going to depend on the week and the season. Like, when there is more pineapple consuming, our stuff just won’t fit into two bins. But when there are less of the larger things, I’m sure everything would fit. But don’t get me wrong, it’s very little that goes in the compost. Like, maybe the peel of a sweet potato one day. And the peel of carrots and apples another day. We’re still really figuring out the best system– we’ve only been doing it this way for about a month? Maybe more? I’m not sure. But like, this week for instance, our buckets are both pretty full and the pick up is tomorrow so we justtttt made it. Depending on space + cost, we might just have to add another 5 bucket. But for now, we’re pretty content with what we’re doing. It’s not perfect, but nothing is. But it’s pretty damn good 🙂

  5. We have it SO GOOD in Seattle. In a very large wheelie bin that is easy to get to the street each week, we can put all our yard trimmings and food waste…veggie scraps to pizza boxes to oyster shells. The city picks it up weekly and the resulting beautiful fertile mulch is resold to residents for garden use as desired. Yes, we are fined for putting any of these items into the trash. Our trash bin is the size of a double shoe box and mostly contains used tissues and floss. We do carry hankies but could do better.

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