More Green For Less Green

Living more eco-friendly for less money


Composting (From a Condo!)

The compost pile (hmmm...doesn't look like much!)

Our compost crock

Since we live in a third floor condo, my husband wasn’t keen on composting at home. Then I found out they were starting a compost pile at work. Our building has a strip of forest on three sides of it, so we’ve got plenty of leaves and grass. Since the grounds team only has “browns” (leaves, grass clippings, etc.), I offered to add my food waste from home. We are going on our second month with this, and it is going great! To get started I needed a few things:
-Info on what to do
-Compost Crock
-Hand shovel (trowel)

I went to the library and check out several books on composting. My favorite was Composting by Liz Ball. My compost pile will be somewhere in between a simple pile (stack up yard waste and let it be) and a managed pile (yard waste, food waste, turned regularly).

The one thing we needed to buy was some type of container to hold the waste in the kitchen. We figured I would visit the compost pile only twice a week so the container needed to be smell-proof for the kitchen, but also leak-proof as I transport it by car.

As always, I looked for something around the house or from yard sales to repurpose first. With no luck there, I decided to check out the household section at Ross. Ross, Home Goods, TJ Maxx, etc. usually have a great selection of random containers. I ended up with a canister with a very tight fitting lid. (Bonus points for it being citron green which I am obsessed with.) A cookie jar would work to. Of course, you can always go commercial and buy a real compost crock with a smell-containing charcoal filter in the lid (Google compost crock for a variety of options), but I am too cheap for that!

So, armed with my $6.99 crock, the adventure started! Our rules are no dairy (save for egg shells) and no meat. These smell in a way that attracts animals we don’t want. We do have to think about the ingredients in leftovers. For example, buttered carrots can’t go in.

My job is bringing in the food, and my coworker’s job on the maintenance team is keeping me stocked with browns. He had the idea to cover the whole pile with pine branches. I have no idea if that is technically right, but to me I think that the prickliness of the branches and the pine smell both are beneficial for protecting the pile for animals looking for a snack. (Update- this actually is a HUGE hassle because now the pile has built up higher than the branches and when I dig down to dump the food waste I hit them and can’t get in very deep.)

Twice a week, I load my filled crock and trowel into the car and go to work (literally and figuratively). I like to rotate around the pile with my digging. I use the trowel to dig a hole in the pile, dump the food in, smash the food down a bit with the shovel, then load the dirt I scooped away on top again. Because I rotate around the pile, as of yet I have never found food added from a previous day. My biggest animal protection tip is to completely bury the food in the pile. Also bury flowers. If the flowers sit on top, it will attract bees.

This process takes all of five minutes twice a week and really doesn’t involve getting messy or even unpleasant smells. Two-ish months in and the verdict is that composting is really easy, we have much less household trash, and we have tons of warm fuzzies for being even more eco-friendly. I actually get giddy when I see worms in the pile and feel the warmth when I dig (both are signs of a healthy pile). Warm fuzzies, indeed!

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At February 2, 2009 at 1:06 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi! I just discovered your blog and I'm loving the tips here! I have a compost bin (more of a worm bin, really) and we collect food scraps for it. Instead of having a crock take up valuable counter space, we put our scraps in the freezer. No smell! We actually keep 2 containers in the freezer--one for our worm bin and one for the city compost collection. The city gets veggie scraps that contain seeds (like green pepper cores) or other things that might sprout when I spread the compost on my garden (like potato peelings). -mellogirl

At December 1, 2010 at 12:07 AM , Anonymous condo manila said...

Love your compost crock. I think I need one too for my condo.

Deirdre G


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