How to compost if you live in an apartment

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Compost with composted earth

Image: Shutterstock/Marina Lohrbach

Can you compost even if you live in an apartment?

The answer is yes. If you’re ready to try composting, but hesitant because you live in an apartment, there’s great news! There are ways to compost while living in a small space like an apartment that won’t smell terrible or attract rodents. With up to 20% of our garbage being food and yard waste (generating thirty-six million tons in 2011, according to the EPA) which takes up landfill space and releases harmful methane, it’s even more enticing than ever to give it a shot. You can keep scraps out of the landfill while simultaneously making nutrient-rich compost for your houseplants, lawn or patio garden. Let’s walk through some steps EcoWatch suggests on how to do it, and you can follow these easy steps on the handy infographic from Sustainable America at the bottom.

What you’ll need

You’ll need a container with two lids, some newspaper or other non-coated paper products to shred, red worms (red wigglers or red earthworms, to be exact), and your food scraps.

Step-by-step compost making

First you’ll take your container with two lids. Poke some holes slightly smaller than a dime each in both the top and bottom of the container (only one of the lids, though) for drainage and ventilation. Then shred some newspaper and soak in water until moist, finally wringing the water out of it. Place the damp paper in the bottom of the container as liner, until it fills the container to about a third of the way up. Next you’ll add your red worms and a little bit of soil, allowing them to sit in the sunlight for a while. After they burrow down into the paper, you’ll be ready for the next step: adding your food scraps. Put your scraps in and gently bury them underneath the paper. (Every time you add more scraps, you’ll want to gently mix them in with the rest.) Last, you’ll need to find a cool, shady spot for storage without too much direct sunlight. Visit your bin and continue adding scraps until it seems there is more compost than food scraps, then let it sit for a while without adding anymore food scraps. This will allow it to become thoroughly compost. Once you’ve got the compost ready, take it out and begin the process again. Be sure you leave the worms in to reuse!

Is there anything I can’t add to my compost bin?

Yes. You should be careful to avoid adding meat or dairy products, anything with citrus, bones of any kind or pet excrement. Also, do avoid putting any type of chemicals or plastics in, as this will contaminate the process.

What if I don’t want to add worms or this process is too complicated for me?

You can try other methods as well, like counter-top composting (keep scraps in a tight container on the kitchen counter, and later find a place elsewhere to take it for full composting), or freezer composting (keep scraps in a freezer bag or container until you can take it elsewhere for full composting), or blender composting (make a food scrap smoothie to pour on your garden soil by blending it all up—be sure to remove hard parts like fruit pits though!) Add some shredded paper or old bread crumbs to give it a bit more substance before pouring it on.

Even if you’ve got limited space, you can use it wisely and contribute to a cleaner earth at the same time. If you think you’re ready, find out where you can score some red wigglers and give composting a shot today!

Kristen lives in the Michiana area, where she enjoys lake-effect weather, apple orchards and occasional South Shore rides into Chicago. She can probably tell you more about apple cider vinegar than you'd ever want to know. You can reach her at: http://lakesedge.wix.com/lakesidewriting

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