At Pildora, we’re always exploring new ways to engage with the zero-waste movement and reduce our footprint on Earth. It’s not a perfect system, but we’ve come a long way. One important step in creating a positive impact is composting, which is accessible to anyone with a little extra kitchen space.
First, what is composting? Simply defined, composting is the reuse of food scraps and kitchen waste to create nutrient-rich fertilizer for plants and gardens. Composting makes a huge impact, both locally and globally. The food waste that ends up in landfills doesn’t decompose properly and turns into methane, a greenhouse gas. By composting, we turn food waste into a natural resource to support the health of plants and avoid creating harmful emissions.
Today, we’re talking with sustainability consultant Celeste McMickle of Celestial Solutions about how to compost in your home, especially in a small New York City kitchen.
There are two main ways to compost:
- Compost at home using a worm bin.
- Collect your scraps and drop them off at a designated composting facility.
Method 1: Composting at Home
Composting with worms, also called vermicomposting, requires a little more set-up and maintenance, but works well if you have plants or a garden around your home that could benefit from natural fertilizer.
The first step is to acquire a bin, either by purchasing or building one. (Here is a list of the 12 best composting bins.) You can store your bin under your sink or outside in a shaded area, but keep in mind that ideal temperatures for worms range from 40 – 80 degrees. You want to imitate a habitat where worms can live — namely, a dark, moist environment where they have enough access to food.
You want to line your compost bin with wet newspaper or fall leaves, or “bedding,” and food scraps. Kitchen scraps that appeal to worms include fresh vegetable peels, fruit peels and lettuce. Worms can’t handle the abrasive quality of citrus, and you should never put meat or animal products in a compost bin. You should also avoid adding cooked food to your bin.
You can purchase worms locally or online at a store like Planet Natural. Keep an eye on your worms once they arrive! You want to make sure that they are thriving, with just the right amount of food. It’s important not to overfeed them. You can often tell if your worms are unhappy if they try to escape the bin due to a habitat imbalance.
If you’re traveling, give your worms a good feeding before you go, but don’t stress. The worms can eat bedding temporarily, if needed.
Once your compost has turned into rich, dark soil, you can use it in your garden beds or planters. Spread your natural fertilizer and watch your plants thrive! Then you can begin the process again with a new batch of food scraps.
Method 2: Collect your scraps and take them to a composting facility.
If you don’t have a use for fertilizer or don’t want to use a worm bin, simply collect your food scraps and save them for a composting facility. This is a great solution for home cooks, as it’s convenient and requires little set-up.
We recommend that you cut up your scraps as you’re cooking and add them to a container in your freezer. Placing scraps in the freezer will ward off any odors in your home and help you accumulate steadily.
Similar to the worm bin method, you want to avoid meat, animal products and cooked food. Unlike in worm bins, citrus peels are fine for composting facilities. In Christina’s freezer, she stores eggshells, banana peels, paper towels, citrus and avocado peels in a stainless steel bowl. Check with your local composting facility for specifics on what they do and don’t allow.
To find local food scrap drop-off facilities, check online or ask around at farmers markets. Some neighborhood gardeners or farmers may even have a use for your food scraps in their own compost bins! In New York City, the Department of Sanitation has a handy food scrap drop-off map with 150 locations around the city for easy drop-off.
When you’re dropping off, gather your scraps in a reusable deli container or a compostable bag. You can also purchase composting receptacles online on Amazon or through other retailers. We brought food scraps to a large bin in Union Square, where workers would later transport them to a composting facility. We simply emptied the food scraps, recycled our bags and went on with our day. Easy as can be!
We hope you’ll try out composting for yourself and see how simple it is. It’s one of those seamless changes that will take little time while having an enormous impact on the environment. Do you have any tips or composting experiences to share? Connect with us on Facebook and Instagram and tell us more!