How I Compost: Amira


Amira Izruna writes about living simply and sustainably in her home of Turkey on her beautiful site. I interviewed her to get the scoop on how she composts. Here's Amira:

One of the ways we reduce waste is by giving back to the earth (I like to think it's some kind of thank you!). We collect our food waste which is stored in the freezer, to avoid smell throughout the week. So once we've got a bag full of food waste, it's then ready for rotting. For the time being we just dig a hole in the back yard and pour it in, simple! To avoid unwanted pests we make sure not to include meat or any animal bones. I'm looking into getting a clay pot for rotting as used by many to help this composting process. If you live elsewhere, you may have local food composting 'bins' that you can use instead.

Above is a photograph of our weekly food waste. Mainly skins from our fruits, and a few leftovers. What a wonderful world we live in, that our food is colourful with biodegradable 'packaging'!

You can see more from Amira by visiting her blog, here. And if you want to learn more about this type of composting, I featured a super thorough overview about it here.

How I Compost: Shia


Shia lives in Germany, where she writes the blog Wasteland Rebel. She and her husband use a vermicomposting setup in their home (yup, that's a picture of Shia holding a baby worm, above!). Here, she explains how it works:

Oh, I just love to say it: we've got worms!! And you bet we got a lot of ’em! Around 3,000, and of course we named each and every one of them. Nah, not true, we didn’t name them. We are bad with names so we didn’t bother.

We live in a one bedroom apartment in the shopping district, so we were looking for an eco-friendly way to get rid of our kitchen scraps because throwing it in the regular waste bin is such a waste. Kitchen scraps don’t decompose properly in a landfill because the whole environment is too toxic for the necessary and important micro organisms.

A worm bin is called a vermicomposting system: a composting setup that uses worms to turn organic waste into fertilizer. It’s literally a bin with composting worms inside. You put your kitchen scraps and some paper into the bin and the worms will help to make compost out of these things.

However, both my husband and I are, um, not the most talented people when it comes to taking care of plants… so we give the worm castings (the composted material, which can serve as fertilizer) to a friend who happens to have a green thumb and grows her own veggies .

Vermicomposting is odorless, unlike the regular kitchen waste bin. Our worm bin smells a bit moist and like whatever we put in there recently: coffee, cabbage, or freshly mowed lawn because we just weeded the pots in our balcony. If your worm bin reeks, then something went terribly wrong…

It is the perfect urban composting system, and worm bins are easy to make, too! There are so many tutorials to get you started - YouTube is a good place to start.

Thanks so much for sharing, Shia!

How I Compost: Ella


Next up in How I Compost, NYC-dweller Ella tells us her composting routine. Here's Ella:

As someone who lives in NYC it's not as easy to do backyard or vermicomposting, especially with a lot of roommates (who do not compost). I am whole-foods vegan so pretty much everything I eat, if there are food scraps or leftover bits, can all be composted. I keep my bounty in the freezer in a compostable bag so it doesn't start to smell. I am fortunate enough to live in a spot that has a couple of compost options during the week. Wednesday mornings, near the subway entrance outside my apartment there is someone from the Brooklyn Botanic Garden who has a compost station set up. I drop it off then and additionally on Saturdays during my weekly farmer's market trip. The drop-off is free at both the farmer's market and the station outside my apartment. You can drop off compost at all the markets around the city all year round on whatever day the market is running (in the winter, too). I think in some areas of Brooklyn they're even rolling out curbside compost pickup, but it hasn't quite reached my neck of the woods.

Thanks for sharing, Ella! NYC residents can find more information about local composting here, as well as a guide to food scrap drop-off sites herePhotograph via the Union Square Greenmarket

How I Compost: Jane

Next up in the series "How I Compost," one of my favorite bloggers Jane has kindly agreed to share how she and her family approach composting in their backyard, with an eye toward keeping the process as simple and low-fuss as they can. Here's Jane:

When I began to focus on zero-waste and also to care about where our food came from, we became interested in composting as well.  

Of course there are a few different ways to compost. Worm composting speeds the process, specially made bins keep the process contained, and simple burying of compost works too (I didn't know this, but my mom has been burying compost in her yard for years). Some areas have curbside compost pick-up and many areas have some place that compost can be brought... like the farmer's market or a nearby farm.

We are blessed to live in a house with a yard... and we want that black gold for our own use.  Mr. Tribe built our compost bin of discarded pallets and wire (pretty much like this, but ours has two sections). This was a simple method and almost free. We add compost to one section until we decide to let that pile sit and really finish turning to dirt... at which point we start to use the other side. We also have a big round of chicken wire next to the compost that we put raked leaves and spent garden plants into (no weeds)... these are the "browns", which I'll get to shortly.

Strangely, the only item left behind by the previous owners of our house was a round plastic lidded tub with 2 ventilation valves that can open and close. Maybe someone will tell me what its real purpose is, but I thought it would make the perfect vessel for compost collection. It sits next to our sink (something my mom has commented on, "I've never seen compost sitting on the counter"). I'm not sure that is the most lovely spot for it, but it does encourage use. And I would have never known that my mom composts, if it hadn't been sitting there.  :)  that makes me think that it might be well-positioned for starting conversations. ;) A lot of people say that compost does not smell. Ours does (not outside, but inside)... especially cantaloupe rinds and banana peels (disgusting)... but as long as the lid stays on, its not a problem at all.    

The process of composting is quite simple. We only add non-meat items to our compost (that means no bones or dog poo either). I don't add cooked food waste (not that there ever is any), because we don't want to attract critters. (I save any unwanted compost items separately and bring them to the compost bin at whole foods. We also did that on vacation). We compost hair, dryer lint (because we only dry cotton in the dryer), food-soiled paper, peels, egg shells, coffee grounds, tea leaves, dead flowers, pits, seeds, finger nails, bits of yarn or twine, and a stray napkin or piece of toilet paper. Once the tub is full, it gets dumped onto the heap outside. a scoop of "browns" from the leaf round gets added... and a black plastic garbage bag that acts as a cover weighed down by rocks gets replaced. This black plastic concentrates the suns heat... which is a good thing, because heat speeds decomposition. A periodic shovel "stir" happens too.

When that black gold is ready, it gets added to our garden beds and grows the best vegetables!  It amazes me every time to think about how that organic waste nourishes new life.

Jane originally posted a full version of this post (as well as the photograph above) on her blog - you can read more here. Thanks so much for letting share a piece of your story, Jane!

PS - If you compost, I'd love to feature you for this series. Just send me a note if you're interested!

How I Compost: Christine

I'm so excited about today's post! Christine from the blog Snapshots of Simplicity put together this fantastic video to share how she composts. She's found that the method that works best for her is something often called "pit composting" - basically, digging a small hole and letting food scraps compost in it. Her video is so cute and helpful, and it has encouraged me to keep this method in mind for the future, when traveling.

You can also find a list of additional composting options here - there are so many tactics to try that hopefully you can find a method that works for your life, if you haven't already. Thanks so much for sharing, Christine!

New Series: How I Compost

I've spoken before about how much composting matters to a zero waste routine, or really just to any efforts toward sustainability. I've found composting to be pretty easy, but I've been wondering if it needs to be demystified in order to gain wider acceptance. I think there's a sense that composting is quasi-scientific, featuring precise ratios of food scraps to dead leaves and necessitating consistent tending.

While it certainly can look like this, it doesn't have to. There are so many different ways to compost, and many of them are quite easy. I've given a brief overview of some of the options for at-home composting methods before, but I thought it would be fun and interesting to see how others approach it in their lives - how they make it work, how they streamline their composting routine, their tips and tricks. So, I'll be featuring a few of these stories here in the coming months. Stay tuned for the first one, up this Thursday!