Zero Waste Lifestyle: How I Compost in My Apartment

Zero Waste Lifestyle: How I Compost in My Apartment

Recently, I’ve been really into reducing my food waste. Did you know Americans throw away nearly half their food every year, waste worth roughly $165 billion annually? That’s insane, and I don’t want to be a part of that anymore. So, I decided to invest in a compost pail. I’m super happy I did too! I recently got my compost pain and couldn’t be happier with it. It’s made out of stainless steel, has a convenient handle, and is small enough to fit on my counter top. Don’t be fooled though: It can hold up to 1 gallon of food scraps in it! Both my parents (who don’t consider themselves zero wasters, mind you) have already started using it. They don’t mind it at all. Why? Because it has a built-in charcoal filter which will last 6 months and prevent nasty odors. I haven’t smelled a thing since buying and using it (unless I open it up to put in more food scraps). Tomorrow (and every Saturday after that) I intend to bring it to my local farmer’s market. They collect food scraps there and turn it into compost. Since I live in an apartment, and I know my parents would not be up for having a full-on compost bin (complete with worms and all), this is the easiest solution. The most important part is that I’ve cut most of my waste down already just by having this one handy device in my home. Want one of these in your casa? Here’s how I compost at home and how you can too.

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Composting in an apartment

Technically, I don’t actually compost at home. I bring my decomposables to the farmers market, where it will get turned into compost. That said, if you live in an apartment too, the compost pail I use will surely come in handy. It will make composting so easy and reduce your food waste to pretty much zero. It also comes with a replacement filter and already had a filter in it when I unboxed it. I also ordered one extra set of filters (so now I have 3 filters – each will last for about 6 months, which means I have 18 months of coverage – 1 year and 6 months!). You can get a 12 pack of filters for cheap and you’d be set for 72 months (aka, 6 years!). Pretty good value, if you ask me.

How I Compost in My Apartment

  Also, if you prefer something a little more pretty, these compost pails are available in ceramic as well. One is plain white and one is decorative with cute flowers and butterflies on it (though I believe this one is smaller in size – its capacity is 3/4 a gallon, compared to the others which fit 1 whole gallon). If, for some reason, you really cannot afford this pail, then you can also store your food scraps in a sealed container of any kind and keep it in the fridge or freezer. This will help prevent odors and is what I did before I got my compost pail (I reused an old plastic Chinese food container). 

Here’s how I compost at home:
  • The easiest way to compost at home is to just take your food scraps to a farmers market. Almost every farmers market will have someone there more than willing to take the scraps off your hands and compost it for you. At mine, there’s a booth set up especially for it, and the man who runs it is super grateful to anyone who contributes to his compost pile. This is the method I use. Just visit your local farmers market and ask if they have somewhere to donate food scraps (and other decomposable items which you can collect, like paper, cardboard, hair, etc. – all mentioned in ‘what to compost’)!
  • Some farmers markets may also give you compost in exchange for your food scraps (and other decomposables). You might not have a need for this if you live in an apartment, so it’s completely up to you if you want to take the compost. It makes really great fertilizer for any houseplants though!
  • I really recommend bringing a wooden spoon with you and a reusable bag. The wooden spoon will help you scrape out any remaining scraps that might cling to the pail without getting your hands dirty. I use the reusable bag to shop around as well as carry my compost pail conveniently. While it does have a handle, it can get a little tedious carrying that around when you also want to shop at the farmers market!


What to compost:

Now that we discussed how I compost, lets talk about what I compost (or can compost). Not everything on this list goes into my pail (simply because I live in an apartment, not a house), but I felt it was important to include everything you can compost in general.

  • Fruit and vegetable scraps (ex: the ends of carrots, potato peels, strawberry crowns, banana peels, etc.)
  • Hair and fur (yes, it’s biodegradable! I take any hair that clumps up in my brush and put it in my pail) 
  • Coffee grounds (I don’t drink coffee but my folks do!) 
  • Tea leaves or tea bags (I always make sure I buy tea bags that say they’re compostable – some are made using plastic!) 
  • Egg shells (I wash them out gently with water before I add these in) 
  • Nuts and seeds (pits of fruit, for example) 
  • Yard waste (leaves, twigs, grass clippings etc. Since I live in an apartment, this doesn’t apply to me – plus I don’t think it would all fit in the pail anyway. That said, it is biodegradable) 
  • Houseplants or wilted flowers in vases (I’ll probably just add my houseplants to my compost pail when they die – instead of throwing them in the trash!). 
  • Fireplace ashes (I don’t have a fire place, but still, biodegradable) 
  • Sawdust and woodchips (I’ll probably never have to put this in there, but yeah) 
  • Cardboard, paper, shredded newspaper (just make sure they’re not coated in plastic!) 
  • Hay and straw (Again, not something I’ll ever need to worry about, but felt it important to include) 
  • Cotton and wool rags (at the end of my cotton facial wipes, I’ll definitely be composting them!) 
  • Any 100% natural material/fabric (like my bamboo toothbrush – I will compost that too)

What not to compost:

Literally, these are things I will never put in my compost pail, even if I do have access to them. And you shouldn’t either.

  • Dairy products (like yogurt, butter, milk, sour cream, eggs, etc.)
  • Meat or fish (bones and scraps included) 
  • Pet waste (like feces) 
  • Yard trimmings treated with pesticides (these might kill beneficial composting organisms!) 
  • Disposable feminine products (if you’re still using these btw, consider switching to zero waste period products!) 
  • Disposable diapers (consider switching over to cloth diapers for your baby) 
  • Fats, grease, lard, or oils 
  • Diseased or insect ridden plants 
  • Plastic lined cartons (or plastic anything for that matter) 
  • Coal or charcoal ash (might contain substances harmful to plants. Bamboo charcoal – like the one I use to filter my water – is okay to compost though!) 
  • Black walnut tree leaves or twigs (apparently this plant releases substances that may harm other plants)

Zero Waste Lifestyle: How I Compost in My Apartment

Do you compost in your apartment? Do you have your own compost pail?

For more tips on composting, check out my ultimate guide to composting in an apartment.

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By Ariana Storniolo (Palmieri)

Ariana Storniolo is the founder of Greenify-Me, a blog dedicated to zero waste and sustainability. Her work has also been featured on Going Zero Waste, Green Matters, Mother Earth Living and several other online publications.


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