Get started with apartment composting

By on Dec 8th

When I was in Seattle for the Offbeat-empire-weekend-of-awesome, I commented to Ariel about how impressed I was at the public compost bins. I'm a big believer that one of the best things we can do for the earth is to compost. Then I casually mentioned that I had ordered a Bokashi composter to try out and she was all "Offbeat Home post?" Then I told Cat and she was all "Yes! Please!" So here we go.

Compost sign

What is composting?

Composting is, in layman's terms, taking your food scraps and turning them into super-fueled dirt to nurture plants and restore nutrients to the soil. It works by allowing the food scraps to decompose, often combining them with something else (newspaper, leaves) and adding a catalyst — air, worms, or bokashi bran.

better compost

What is different about urban composting?

The only difference between urban composting and non-urban composting is really space, as in we urbanites have very very little, especially here in New York City. We also don't usually have a front lawn or yard or other area where we could store large bins outdoors or have, you know, stuff that grows. We do our best, though.

indoor composting and gardening

Urban composting options:

City or non-profit programs

Tip: Put your scraps in the freezer in between drop offs. It prevents them from smelling!

  • Drop off your food scraps at farmer's market, organization, community garden, etc.
  • Try Googling your city, county, or area name or search out environmental organizations in your area
  • Usually you can only include veggie scraps and egg shells
  • Ask how to bring the scraps — I've seen scraps brought in plastic bags and either dumped out or thrown in inside the bag.
Wanna Compost in Williamsburg?

This is where I sometimes drop off scraps!


Truth: Composting is kind of gross. Totally worthwhile and important … but kind of gross.

  • This is probably the most common way to compost so there are a lot of resources around the web.
  • You get a box of worms
  • Combine veggie scraps and newspaper or leaves (green + brown) with the worms
  • It tends to be smelly
  • It involves worms

Tiger worms (7 of 7)

Aeration composting

I actually wasn't going to include this, because most of the ones I've seen are very large, garbage can type bins that need to be turned. Other than as part of a city-wide program, I hadn't seen anyone compost with them at home. Then I came across a post on it from my friend, Mike.

  • Get or make a special bin
  • Turn it on a regular basis

Buy an indoor composter appliance

  • Buy an appliance and it does it all for you!
  • Can take meat, fish, and dairy as well as veggies
  • Some say it's loud
  • You have to buy it
  • Uses electricity

Bokashi composting

  • Buy a bin and bran or make your own
  • Uses fermentation to break down the food scraps
  • Can include eggs, diary, AND meat!
  • Need to cut stuff into small scraps
  • Not so smelly
  • End up with liquid, which can't be used directly on plants for food. It can, however, be combined with other (dirt) compost.
  • Stay tuned for my experience …

What do I do with the finished compost?

Good question. A couple ideas:

  • take it to a community garden
  • take it to a park and sprinkle it around
  • nurture your street trees … they probably need some love.
  • sprinkle on any grass near by.
  • start a fire escape or window sill garden (not for Bokashi and some electrical units)

All of the above I have actually done or know people who have done, but I'm sure there are other, clever ways that you all rock some urban composting. Leave 'em in the comments!