"Worms In My House?"?!
Food waste, can be a difficult problem to tackle when you have limited space and resources, which is often the case in urban spaces. Moving from a house with a small yard and access to a compost system to a small apartment with no yard, I have found myself considering practical ways for limiting food waste and what that might look like in a variety of circumstances.
I’m not going to lie to you…composting in small spaces takes some effort. Simply throwing that banana peel in the trash instead of considering questions like, “Where am I going to put these decomposing food scraps?” or, “Do I want to have a bin full of worms in my house?” can be tempting. However, beyond reducing the amount of food waste that goes to landfills, there are some practical reasons that you might want to make composting in your small space a weekend project.
Urban composting, even if you don’t have a garden, can have many benefits. If you love plants and are starting an indoor jungle, you could use the compost to give your plants some extra nutrients to help them out. Composting your food scraps would also significantly reduce the amount that you’re throwing in the trash, saving you from smelly rooms and frequent trash runs. And if you don’t have to take the trash out as often, you’re using much fewer (plastic) trash bags. It’s a win-win.
Getting started with composting, however, can be a bit intimidating. I’m sure you’ve heard of ratios, troubleshooting, recipes, etc. You might have questions like, “What are greens,” “What are browns,” “What shouldn’t I put in my compost?” Well, not to worry…you can check out my Basics of Composting post (coming soon!) for essentials, tips, and troubleshooting.
Composting Ideas for Small Spaces
For the person with no yard, no time, and no use for composting.
If you don’t have a lot of time or space to set up your own composting system, municipal or community composting systems could be for you! Municipal composting is a city-wide composting program that consists of dropping off your food scraps and other compostable materials at a facility that will transform all of that organic material into compost that they will then distribute or use. Some cities, like San Francisco and Portland, have even established municipal food waste collection systems, and according to Earth Share, these kind of programs are on the rise throughout the United States. You can usually find out if your city has a composting program through a quick search on your city’s website. If your city or town doesn’t have this kind of system, there may be community gardens (or even neighbors!) that may accept your food scraps for their own compost.
TIP: Store your food scraps in a composting crock or in the freezer in a tupperware container with a lid.
For the person with no yard, a little time, and lots of houseplants.
Worm bins are ideal for indoor composting for a couple reasons. First, they don’t take up much space, which means you can squeeze them into tight spaces like corners, closets, or anything else in between. You also don’t have to travel far to get rid of your food scraps since it’s in your home, which means you can spend a minimal amount of time on the disposing of your food scraps. The best reason? You end up with a reasonable amount of compost that you can use on any sad houseplants. There also aren’t any bad smells as long as you keep a good ratio of browns to greens and don’t put in more than what the worms can eat. Worm bins are also relatively easy to make. All you need to make one is a couple large rubbermaid storage container with a lid, worms, green organic materials, and brown organic materials. This is obviously a very simplified explanation, so check out the video from Epic Gardening below for more details (https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=382&v=UaajjQ0FhM4)
TIP: Do not put food that is moldy in your bin. This will just create an environment for the mold to spread.
For the person with a small yard and a little time.
Tumblers are a great way to compost if you have a small yard or space to put it, but don’t have a lot of time to maintain the compost. Tumblers make it super easy to turn your compost and are also pretty mess-free due to their closed design. By turning it more frequently, you incorporate more oxygen into the mixture, which helps it decompose quicker. This means that the composting process takes much less time than a traditional compost pile. You can find tumblers to purchase, but you can also find DIY projects online that range from simple to more complicated.
TIP: Get coffee grounds from local coffee shops.