Girls like me are more interested in their compact than their compost. That said, I have discovered the joys of a pastime that I previously believed was strictly for the eco-nuts in rubber gardening shoes—I'm now one of them. Yes, I'm thrilled to say I've joined the club.
My husband was appalled when I arrived home with an enormous black composting bin one rainy Saturday morning. "Where on earth is that going?" he asked. "I haven't really worked that out yet," I said as I looked around our small manicured backyard. "Well," he said, "I'll leave that in your expert hands." Did I detect a note of sarcasm? I stood in the downpour, wondering if this monstrous bin would offend our summer brunch guests, staring at it as they tucked into their tofu scramble. Not a good idea.
I finally decided to wedge it down in a corner where it is almost out of sight. The only annoying thing is that I have to walk across our yard every time I want to empty the scrap bucket. I've become so lazy—so accustomed to everything at my fingertips. It is crazy that I worry about extra inches around my waistline and yet am miffed at having to walk fifty yards twice a day to my attractive bin!
I love composting. I'm thrilled that I don't have to throw out any food scraps. I can't bear the thought of my food waste adding to the already maxed-out landfills. So this is how it works. I throw all fruit and veggie scraps, tea bags, coffee grounds, egg shells, and bread into a cute little compost crock that sits on my counter. When it is full, it goes on its journey to the end of my yard, where it is emptied into the black monster. I cover each layer of old food with a bit of dirt, shredded newspaper or some dried leaves and make sure the whole thing stays moist (in the hotter months, I spray some water into the bin a couple of times a week). A few months later, all of that waste turns into odorless soft brown dirt, which is commonly known as compost. It seems to be a bottomless pit, because however much I put in just disappears.
There are a number of great composting bin alternatives now available. The main choice will be whether to get a spinning barrel or a regular bin design. The disadvantage with the spinner is that you have to wait until it's full—you can't keep filling and spinning because at some point you have to let the whole thing sit and compost for awhile!
The advantage is that the materials will compost faster as the pile is being oxygenated via the spinning process. If you get the conventional black bin monster, like mine, you can go on filling it daily, but you do need to turn the compost once a week and add an activator. You can purchase all of the above plus accessories from Real Goods (www.realgoods.com). If you live in an apartment that has any kind of outside area, suggest getting together with the other residents of your building to share one.
You could also consider vermicomposting, which is a method that involves dirt and earthworms. The compost is created really quickly, as the worms eat the scraps and produce the sweet-smelling mixture within days. There are really cool college campuses that use this technology to deal with all the cafeteria waste. There are also some supergreen dudes who keep worm-composting bins in their kitchen. I have to admit that I couldn't deal with having earthworms in my kitchen on any level. That being said, I am now using worms in my regular compost bin, and they are chomping up all that waste at a very pleasing rate. If you're worried about your compost bin smelling or attracting pests, worms are the way to go. They are really easy to get. Just go to The Worm Farm (www.thewormfarm.com), and this company will tell you exactly how many you need for your specific bin and will mail them to you. I promise you don't even need to touch one; when the bag comes, you just cut it open, turn it upside down, and the warms that are packed in earth will easily slide into your bin.
Things You Can Compost
Old wedding bouquet
Potato peelings weeds
Lint from behind refrigerator
Vacuum cleaner bag contents
Seaweed and kelp
Find more things you can compost in Sopie Uliano's book Gorgeously Green!