If you’ve ever been in a position where you had to buy dirt, you’ve felt my pain. It’s like buying air. Or leaves. Or rocks. Things that are everywhere but if you want them to be in certain places, you have to buy them.
Our current house was new construction and the developer sold off the top soil which left us with a boatload of poor quality soil. I’m a pragmatic kind of person but my mom insisted on a few gardens, so we bought dirt.
Composting and I go way back but I hadn’t yet found a solution that worked for the long term. The compost pile I started in middle school was too far from my house. The compost I started in our city house was in a homemade garbage can/bin that turned into a smelly anathema. My next project involved vermicomposting, but the worms got too wet and nearly had a fatal exodus from their trays.
Online instructions seemed too complicated with layering, pH balance and whatnot. So after much trial and error I would like to present to you:
The simplest way to compost in the history of the universe
Hire a compost company. Someone just let me know about Community Composting here in Rochester, NY. They don’t serve my zip code, but if you’d rather let someone else take care of it, the current cost is $30 a month. You can learn more about them by clicking here.
Alternatively, if you’d like to do it yourself, here’s what you need to compost:
1. Organic Waste
2. A place to put it (relatively close to your house or you won’t stick with it!)
For a long time I was also deterred by the cost of compost bins I could buy online or the complexity of building one myself. I found this binon Amazon for $30. It takes about 2 seconds to set up and we’re about to buy another. You can even start in the winter – just put it into a circle inside and plop it in the snow. Instant compost bin!
Secret 1: Keep your compost close to your house or you will get lazy (or busy!) and abandon it
Ours lives by our side door.
Some people say you need to worry about fire. Once ours caught fire, but that was because someone threw a cigarette butt into it, so if you don’t light it on fire, it should be okay. If you live further south you may want to get a compost thermometer like this one just to be sure, but for small piles in Rochester I’m pretty sure they don’t spontaneously combust.
Some people are also concerned about bugs and smell but we haven’t found that to be a problem. For the one week of summer we get up here, it does smell a little and we do get some fruit flies loving on it, but if that’s a huge issue for you just throw some leaves or used paper on top. If you live somewhere warmer, you can put it further from the house since you don’t have snow to contend with!
As for collecting the food waste, you can compost any organic material. For our simple composting method, meat and cheese should not be added because they attract animals and flies (that lay eggs in rotting meat) but otherwise you can compost your little heart out including newspaper, paper egg cartons, junk mail, etc.
Secret 2: You don’t need to layer anything and it isn’t complicated – put it in a pile and it will turn into dirt (and I’m not the only one, check this out)
People get all complicated with compost because they want it to morph into dirt as quickly as possible, but it doesn’t have to. If you don’t care about how fast your food compostifies, then leave it. It’s not in a landfill – pat yourself on the back! Composting can be a long term investment and that’s okay. Whatever floats your boat.
As for collecting food waste, if it’s more work than sorting lights and darks you just haven’t found a system that works yet. We have this on our counter and it’s very pretty, but when it filled up I would start using the garbage again, until I discovered another secret.
Secret 3: All you need is a bowl to collect compostibles
This seems obvious but it took me a while to figure out. When our counter top container overflows or I’m cooking a lot, I put everything in a bowl and send my wonderful husband outside with several containers of compost. Something different might work for your family, but you don’t need anything to be complicated unless you want it to be.
Now that I think about it, we may need to refine our system a bit. Bea of ZeroWaste says that you should switch your garbage and your compost (in terms of the size of the containers) but we’re not quite there yet and I’m nervous to have a big compost container inside because we might be more inclined to let a larger container sit around and get stinky.
We’ve been using the Geobin Compost Bin religiously for at least a year now (before that it was off and on) and it’s working out for us. We didn’t have to buy much dirt last year and I don’t think we’ll have to buy any this year.
Bonus Secret: Your garbage no longer smells
We empty our garbage about once a week – true story. Of course we’re working on reducing that even more, but throwing food scraps on the compost pile is way less gross than emptying a huge stinky bag of mixed nastiness. And after the next blog post, you may never again need a plastic garbage bag… stay tuned!