Composting in the City
Did you know that about 40% of produce is thrown away before it ever hits the grocery store shelves? According to the USDA, on average a household in the United States will waste 31% of the produce bought. Let's talk about where your fruits and veggies go when you throw them away. They head down to the local landfill, where they sit with materials like plastic, styrofoam, and clothing to decompose and add to this little problem we have called global warming. It is, the single largest component filling up our landfills.
I am sure you are thinking right now that fruits and veggies are natural materials so they won't sit in the landfill for millions of years, slowly polluting our water systems and soil. Well you aren't wrong, but you aren't correct either. Food normally does break down incredibly quickly with the help of bacteria and air. When we toss food away with the rest of our garbage, its tied up in a plastic bag that completely cuts out that good bacteria and air flow...which stalls decomposition and keeps that food around longer. The food that isn't tied up in plastic, plays a huge problem too... as this food breaks down, it becomes the methane. So much methane, that it has become the third largest source of methane production in the USA. Right behind our cars and coal. Yes. You read that correctly... it is the third largest production of methane!
So what can we do? We live in a society today that is go. go. go. We have tons of food from all over the world at our finger tips and yet, we still waste almost half of it. Part of this is because we are so busy. Chris and I have the greatest intentions to come home and cook dinner every night, and as vegetarians, the majority of what we eat is fruit and vegetables. But some nights, we just want to go out and eat a pizza... leaving that lettuce to slowly start the process of going bad. So if this happens to you, ITS OK! You are certainly not alone! But instead of tossing those brown (at times really brown) bananas in the trash, here are somethings that you can do instead.
Bananas, avocados, citrus fruit that are past their prime can be used to make beauty products (which you can find a couple recipes of under "Live Joyful and Glow"), dessert breads like banana bread, or juices.
Alright... what is composting? Composting is a natural process of recycling organic material such as leaves and fruit/vegetable scraps into a rich soil amendment that leave gardeners singing praises! And it is so easy to do!
If you have a backyard (I am infinitely jealous!) you can definitely compost. It takes up so little room and really can be incredibly low maintenance depending on how long you want to wait for this gorg soil. First get container that you can keep in your kitchen to put food scraps/food that is past its date in. This way you won't have to go out to the backyard every time you cook! You can either purchase a composting bin that allows for air to circulate in it and has a filter on top to keep it from being smelly or an airtight container that keeps the smells at bay. I recommend lining it with old newspaper because it can get a little juicy.
Items that can be composted:
Used coffee grounds
Loose leaf tea
House plant trimmings
pretty much anything "green"
Things to avoid:
meat products (fish and bones included
fats like oils
Ok so you have your bucket of used food products, now lets make a spot in your backyard to dump this stuff. Designate a corner or spot (it doesn't need to be more than a couple feet wide and long). If you want to get fancy you can build a three sided box that lets you pile up your old food. Take your bucket of old food, dump it in the spot. Next layer any yard clippings, dead leaves, or straw on top. When your bucket fills up again take it back out and dump it. Continue the laying method of "juicy" from your kitchen and "dry" from your yard; stirring occasionally!
But what if I live in a tiny apartment in a big city??
I got you.
I too, live in a tiny apartment with absolutely not ground space to call my own. There are a couple of ways you too can compost, depending on your comfort level.
The first way, that has the most ownership, but may make you uncomfortable. It's called vermicomposting and uses worms in a bucket of old green food to turn it into soil. I contemplated doing this when I was serving in the Peace Corps, but the idea of having worms living in my apartment, kind of freaks me out. Never say never, but as of right now, it is not what I want use! If you are more comfortable with this idea than I am (go you!) here is a link that says step by step how do to it!
Ok now that we've got the "hands on" method out of the way, through a little research, I have found that most major cities in the USA have composting programs! In DC, we have multiple ways you can compost. From dropping your old food off at our farmers market to programs that provide a bucket and will come and pick it up weekly! If you want to check out your local farmers market to drop off at, you can use the same methods of airtight container, purchased composting bucket, or do what my galpal does and freeze your scraps to keep them from getting smelly!
Chris and I have our picked up. We eat a lot of veggies and with our work schedules, finding time to drop it off at the farmers market really doesn't work for us. So we use Compost Cab. It cost $32 a month (a little more than a dollar a day) and they will exchange our full, juicy container for a clean new one. No fuss or mess. its awesome!
Here is a website that list other programs around the country to have similar programs:
There is a ton we can do to help in small ways, if you are able to compost at home, take that dirt you make and feed your garden! If you live in a big city, these compost help local gardens. Overall though, it cuts down on greenhouse gases and waste in our dumps. It also takes a little pressure off to eat all those veggies when you have a nutty week! Until next time, #livejoyful