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How to Compost Without a Garden or Yard

Composting in a small living space or city environment can seem complicated. Here's how to make it simple.

Written by
Kaedyn Lashway

Choosing to compost food scraps is one of the best ways to start living more sustainably. If you have a garden to throw food scraps in or a compost bin that's picked up weekly, it’s a simple task. Yet, for many of us living in small spaces, it doesn’t seem feasible.

Luckily, composting isn't confined to those with outdoor spaces. If you live in a small space, don’t fret—you can still compost. It will look different, but it’s possible. Below is an overview of composting, the benefits of composting, and tangible ways you can compost in your apartment.

What Is Composting?

Composting is the natural process of recycling organic matter—like fruit and vegetable scraps or yard waste—that decomposes. It can be used as fertilizer for your plants, and is a great alternative to throwing food scraps into the trash. Especially since, contrary to popular belief, food waste doesn't break down in landfills.

While this waste sits in the landfill, it releases the greenhouse gas methane into the atmosphere. According to the US Environmental Protection Agency, landfills are the third-largest source of methane in the US, which makes it even more tempting to give composting a try.

If this isn’t motivation enough, keep reading to learn about more benefits of composting.

Benefits of Composting

Besides lowering your carbon footprint, composting has many more environmental benefits. Zero-waste might not seem ideal for all of us, but when you consider all the things you could compost, it seems more doable than ever.

Besides food scraps, you can compost paper, teabags, plant prunings, eggshells, cardboard egg boxes, used coffee grounds, hair, and even nail clippings. With all of these items going in the compost instead of the garbage, you'll only have to take out the trash once a week.

The most obvious benefit of composting is the fertilizer it creates. Many of us have house plants or small gardens that can benefit from the nutrient-rich, homemade fertilizer. It keeps you from having to pay for it and reduces the need for synthetic fertilizer. Depending on the plant, you can add a small amount of fertilizer as often as two weeks to every four months.

Composting in Small Spaces

There are several ways you can compost inside your small space without a garden or backyard. Here are three of our favorites:

1. Worm Composting Bin

A worm composting bin is one of the most cost-effective ways to compost in a small space because it doesn’t take up a lot of room and is relatively low-maintenance. Grab any 10-gallon plastic bin you want, add some damp newspaper, and throw a couple cups of soil on top to cover the newspaper.

Next, put your red-wiggle worms in (which you can typically purchase from local nurseries) and slowly add your food scraps. You don’t want to add too many food scraps, though. It takes a couple weeks to decompose, so freeze any extras until your worms are ready for more.

2. Bokashi

The Bokashi Composter has a unique method to compost your scraps. It creates a nutritious tea by fermenting your compost, which can then be used as a fertilizer.

The Bokashi actually breaks down more than what you can typically compost, like bones, meat, and dairy products.  The downside with this is after the tea-like fertilizer is created, you have some remnants that need to be dealt with.

3. Electric Food Digester

An electric composter is the most expensive option for indoor composting, but it's a great one. You can put all your food into the waste bucket, cooked or uncooked. We're a fan of Vitamix's FoodCycler, which makes your food waste a tenth of its original volume by the time the cycle is finished.

You simply put the waste bucket inside, lock it, and begin processing. When it’s done, you can take the fertilizer and add it to your plants, just like you would with the worm compost and Bokashi.

4. Community or School Garden

One of the easiest ways to compost in your home is collect your compost in a small compost bin, then bring it to a local community or school garden. Just double check before going to find out which are accepting compost. You can also download the ShareWaste app (learn about it here!), which connects you with a local compost host.