How To Compost Without a Garden or Yard

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"We always see advice to compost, but I thought I would tailor that to those of us who live in smaller spaces to account for the challenges we might encounter."

Choosing to compost our food scraps seems obvious to those who are on a journey of living more sustainably. If you have a garden to throw food scraps in or a compost bin that is picked up weekly, it’s a simple task! Yet, for many of us living in small spaces, it doesn’t seem feasible.

Composting shouldn’t be confined to those with outdoor spaces to do it and it doesn’t have to be either! 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’s used as fertilizer for your plants and it’s a great alternative to throwing all our food scraps into the trash.

When you throw your food scraps into the trash, it ends up in the landfill. While the mixed waste decomposes in the landfill, it creates the perfect equation for the greenhouse gas, methane, to be created and released 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 try to compost!

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, and fruit preserves like jam! There goes your taking out the trash twice a week. 

The most obvious benefit of composting is the fertilizer it creates. Even in small places, 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. By adding compost to your plants, it helps retain more water which reduces water waste and your water bill! Depending on the plant, you can add a small amount of fertilizer as often as 2 weeks to every 4 months.

Many people might think having a compost in a small space will make it smell like decomposing food. When actually, composting inside smells better than throwing it in your trashcan. It has an earthy smell, but it isn’t overpowering.

Composting in Small Spaces

There are several ways you can compost inside your apartment, small space, or area without a garden or backyard.

  1. Worm Composting Bin: This 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. Then put your red-wiggle worms (it has to be these ones) in and slowly add food scraps. You don’t want to add too many food scraps, but you can freeze your food scraps until your worms are ready for more. It takes a couple weeks to decompose.  Read an in depth explanation on how to make a worm compost at home here or you can buy a premade worm composter. 
  2. Bokashi: The Bokashi Composter is a container you can order online and it has a unique method to compost your scraps. It creates a nutritious tea by fermenting your compost which can 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. These would probably end up in the trash. 
  3. Electric Food Digester: This is going to be the most expensive option for indoor composting, an electric composter. You can put all your food into the waste bucket – cooked or uncooked. Make sure the composter is on, then 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 to have a regular counter compost bin with some compostable bags to line it before adding your food scraps. When you are ready to dispose of your compost, you can bring it to a local community or school garden. Even though we don’t have a plot there, they have been happy to accept our compost. Just double-check with the manager of the garden before you bring your compost.

No matter how you choose to compost, just remember it takes time to learn what will work for you, and the benefits of it far outweigh the work it takes to compost in our small spaces like apartments.

We always see advice to compost, but I thought I would tailor that to those of us who live in smaller spaces to account for the challenges we might encounter.

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