Sustainable Living: Why – And How – You Should Compost

In our Sustainable Living series, we look at how tenants and homeowners are changing their apartments to be more sustainable.

The average American generates about four pounds of trash per day and approximately 254 million pounds of trash per year, creating hefty amounts of unnecessary waste in our landfills. Many people compost instead to convert organic waste and divert it away from landfills toward eco-friendly plant use. You too can help the environment and compost your waste easily in the comfort of your apartment. Here’s why and how you should do it.

What is compost?

Compost is decayed organic matter. After mixing a lot of compost waste in a compost pile, organic matter breaks down naturally into a nutrient-rich fertilizer that helps plants grow. Compost can also capture and eliminate more than 99 percent of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) from the air.

What foods can be composted?

Almost anything that comes from the ground can be composted. You can compost fruits and vegetable cores, ends, peels, rinds, scraps, and pits. Grains also sprout from the soil, which means you can add bread, pasta, and cereal to your compost heap. 

Additionally, you can use non-food items in compost. Compostable items can include grass clippings, dried leaves, hair and fur, clean paper, paper towels, cardboard, shredded newspaper, tea bags, crushed eggshells, nutshells, woodchips, toothpicks, burnt matches, coffee grounds, and lint.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommends that people not compost items such as meat, dairy, and oil products that cause odor problems and attract pests. Additionally, coal, ash, plants sprayed with pesticides, and plants with diseases are not suitable for composting because they contain substances harmful to plants and soil. Most composting experts advise a balance of plant waste and waste containing paper, cardboard, and hair or fur.

Sustainable Living Why – And How – You Should Compost

Who can compost?

Anyone can compost. Whether you live in an apartment with or without a yard, there are many ways to compost your waste. After you convert your organic waste to compost, you can use your compost to help your plants grow or give your compost to a community garden.

How can I compost?

Store your compost pile in a container on your kitchen floor, in a kitchen lower cabinet, in your freezer, or in your backyard. There are also indoor composters you can purchase in stores and in online marketplaces. You might worry that converting food scraps to compost in your home would smell bad, but you can avoid the odor by getting a compost bin with a lid. 

If you don’t have a yard or own any plants, and if you want to start composting, you can either:

1. Bring your compost bin to a compost collection site

If you don’t have a garden, community gardens often accept compost from people who live nearby. Additionally, many cities offer compost collection at farmer’s markets and designated drop sites. On collection day, bring your compost to the market and dump it in a communal compost tub. 

2. Sign up for a compost collection service

Some cities collect compost through trash and recycling services, often in a designated bin. You can have your compost picked up from your apartment or house with a low monthly fee. Some private collection services will even provide you with a bucket.

Is composting worth it?

Composting is great for sustainable living, and you can do it easily in your apartment. Based on your preferences and budget, you can drop off your compost bin or use a pickup service. While at first these processes may seem like too much effort, you can really make the switch to being more eco-friendly with just a few simple actions. Instead of throwing your waste in the trash, just add your compostable items to a compost bin. You’ll produce less waste, lower your carbon footprint, and maybe even help some plants grow.

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