Food Better Compost.  Creative Commons photo by Flickr user Anne Norman.

Published on February 10th, 2009 | by Becky Striepe

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Composting for House and Apartment Dwellers Alike

The weather in Atlanta felt like Spring this weekend, which got me thinking about our Spring garden and, of course, our compost bin. Composting is a fabulous, cheap source of fertile soil. On top of that, keeping a compost bin prevents your food scraps from heading to the landfill where they break down and produce methane, a more powerful greenhouse gas than CO2.

While some communities, like San Francisco, offer curbside composting, unfortunately however, most do not. Luckily, it’s really easy to get your own bin going! Whether you’re living in a house or an apartment, there are great composting solutions out there. Here’s a roundup of some options, so you can have your compost ready in time to get that Spring garden going!

Composting Basics

No matter what scale bin you’ve got, there are a few basic things to keep in mind. Ideally, you’ll fill your bin with plant matter, like vegetable leavings from cooking, and you can toss in egg shells, too. Most bins don’t do well if you mix in meat or dairy products or anything fatty. That stuff tends to turn rancid, which is no good. Your typical compost bin needs to be turned or stirred from time to time to help everything break down. With those basics in mind, let’s take a look at some different bins for houses and apartments!

Back Yard Composting

If you have a house with a back yard, you might think about keeping your bin outside. We have a glass bowl in the kitchen to collect food scraps which we just dump into the bin every few days. If you want to keep it simple, you can do an outdoor bin using a few stakes surrounded with chicken wire.

Wiki How has another DIY compost bin option. For a basic bin, you’ll want to layer “brown matter,” like dried leaves, over the food scraps to help things break down. If you’re good about turning it, you should have usable compost within 2-3 months!

Back yard composting can be as costly or inexpensive as you want it to be. If you’ve got some spare cash, check out this awesome Tumbler compost bin over at Clean Air Gardening! Instead of using a shovel or pitchfork to turn your bin, you just spin the crank. It also collects “compost tea” at the bottom, which is great for adding nutrients to soil.

Apartment Composting

Apartment dwellers, don’t despair! Composting might seem like something you can’t do without an outdoor space to store a bin, but that’s not true at all. If you’re willing to give up a little bit of space under the sink or on top of the fridge, you too can keep your food scraps out of the landfill! Even if you don’t have plants that need the compost, you can dump that good, nutrient-rich dirt outside to give some neighborhood greenery a boost!

You might look into a bokashi bin, for your composting needs. Bokashi is a mixture of “effective microorganisms,” (EM) usually in some sort of medium like wheat bran. After you add your food scraps to your bokashi bin, you sprinkle the mixture on top. The EM helps break down the food scraps. If managed properly, the bin will have no smell at all! Most bokashi bins also collect compost tea, which you can drain out of a spout on the bottom and use as fertilizer.

If bokashi isn’t your speed, you might give vermi-composting a shot! Barb Finnin from Freshtopia explains how to get this setup going:

You can find the red wigglers online. Bait shops sometimes carry them for fishing, too. The worms tend to multiply, so after a while, you can help your friends start their own worm bins with your excess wigglers!

Do you already have a compost bin in your house or apartment? Please share your composting experiences!




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About the Author

Hi there! I'm Becky Striepe, a green crafter and vegan foodie living in Atlanta, Georgia with my husband and two cats. My mission is to make eco-friendly crafts and vegan food accessible to anyone who wants to give them a go. If you like my work, you can also find me on Twitter, Facebook, and .



  • http://www.msphillyorganic.com Msphillyorganic

    Studies that show a reduction in greenhouse-gas emissions from compost focused on commercial composting, with well quantified procedures, perfect ingredients, and best practices. Most people who compost at home are not using perfect compost methods and ingredients. They do not manage their compost piles professionally. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change found that commercial systems produce “significantly lower” emissions than landfills, but the greenhouse-gas emissions from home compost are similar to those from landfills. Just throwing your kitchen scraps into a compost system does not produce less methane than sending it to the landfill, except that you’re not using a truck to move around your waste. Please compost and do it well but know that your main reduction in greenhouse gas comes from not bagging and not trucking!

    • http://Web Stacey

      It isn’t that simple? What is the perfect way to compost?

  • http://www.greenlifesmartlife.com Caster

    I will be starting my compost bin this spring! Everyone should, keep spreading the word!

    greenlifesmartlife.wordpress.com/2009/02/17/todays-lesson-compost/

  • sara

    Thank you for posting this DIY apartment composting segment. I am very excited to begin and see the process first hand.

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    What a deal," I thought and purchased two of them. ,

  • http://www.earthwormworks.com/ Red Worms

    Some people are confused about the difference between worm compost and worm castings. Worm compost is compost made by worms in various stages of decomposition and some worm castings (“poop”)included. It makes a great soil admendment. Worm castings is just the “poop”, which is richer and is used as a fertilizer in smaller quantities.

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  • http://compostinginsingapore.wordpress.com Michelle Leong

    My fiance and I have recently started composting despite living in a small apartment flat. Our homemade compost bin was made in a matter of minutes and costs barely SGD$20.

    So far the results have been good, and we are so inspired that we’re planning to create our own vermicomposting bin soon.

    If you’re keen to start your own compost bin in your apartment, feel free to come by our blog at http://compostinginsingapore.wordpress.com

    We’re always excited to share the joys of composting! :)

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  • http://Web morgan

    I made a apartment compost today :3

    happy happy.

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    Hello,

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  • http://Web Sarah Grace

    Just wanted to say I’ve been working on apartment composting for almost a month now, with no prior experience in composting, and it’s going great! I took a large plastic coffee can, poked holes in the lid, covered the under side of the lid in charcoal filters, and started putting stuff in. I keep it out on my balcony. The filters I use are the ones for kitty litter boxes, so I can cut them down to size. I’ve put lots of things in, but the most important so far is the used coffee grounds! I cannot stress how well this has done as a dry substance in my compost. It hasn’t even been a month, and it’s almost ready to use! I’m happy knowing I’m not wasting as much, and it’s been a cool experience overall so far.

    • http://community.importantmedia.org/rhondawinter/ Rhonda Winter

      That is so cool to hear about your positive compost experiences. Compost making can happen anywhere. Do not understand why would anyone would want to just throw such valuable organic resources away into the garbage.

  • http://www.compostsak.com Compost Sak

    There are so many ways to compost people shouldn’t feel limited by space, lifestyle or even materials. Some situations do make it easier to compost but anyone can try and those that do try often get good results.

  • http://myhspot.blogspot.com Cassandra Jackson

    Hi, I am new to the compost making. I have sprouted some beans and they are doing very good they look healthy. But my question is when do you buy the worms or does the compost produce its own worms.

    • http://community.importantmedia.org/rhondawinter/ Rhonda Winter

      Worms will likely be drawn to your compost, if there already is a fair amount of organic matter in your soil. However, buying red wrigglers as a supplement will definitely speed up the decomposition process, and will provide you with organic compost in a more timely manner. Each worm eats ten times its body weight in organic material every day.

      • http://myhspot.blogspot.com Cassandra Jackson

        Thank Rhonda for your response. I just started my compost today. I placed it outside on my balcony and I live on the 1st fl. apt. I used a Ozarka water case holder. It has cardboard bottom with plastic covering to start my compost in. Do you think that the worms will still migrate there? I know that I will have to make a transition but I just wanted to get started with my compost.

        • http://community.importantmedia.org/rhondawinter/ Rhonda Winter

          I think that you will have to add a few worms to get them started. You can also try integrating a few scoops of a friend’s worm bin or neighbor’s compost’s pile, to help introduce other helpful compost organisms into your system.

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  • Thomas

    Where can I get worms that are NOT $50?

    Thanks, Thomas

    • http://community.importantmedia.org/rhondawinter/ Rhonda Winter

      Bait and tackle shops often have reasonably priced red wrigglers for sale, but I would first try asking a local community garden or neighbor for some compost worms.

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