Do You Compost?

I have a shameful confession. I don’t compost. That’s right, our food scraps go, ahem, (soft whisper) in the garbage or down the disposal. I feel it’s a deep dark secret that I have to hide but lately, when friends and family have been over and asked where to put the food scraps, I feel the secret has gotten out.

I grew up in a home where composting was an art. Nothing biodegradable went in the garbage and, every year, my father spread beautiful rich compost all over our flowers and vegetable garden. Composting is in my blood and yet I have never gotten started myself.

In my defense I have to say I did try it a few years ago. I bought this little in-home plastic composting bucket that claimed to be “odor-free” and work as well as composting in your yard. The result was a putrid mess of goo that become so unbearable in my first trimester of pregnancy that I quickly chucked the whole idea.

The reason I don’t compost now is I haven’t figured out where to put it. Our suburban home has a very small yard and every inch of it is visible either to us or to one of our neighbors, none of whom want to be looking at either a compost pile or even a black compost bin.

But maybe I’m missing something. Maybe there is a compost bin that wouldn’t look bad, is easy to use and won’t end up putrid like my last attempt. Do you compost? If so what do you use? A pile or a bin? If a bin, what kind? I think composting is next on my list of sustainable lifestyle changes but I want to do it right and in a way that leaves me on good terms with my neighbors. Please leave me your advice here. Thanks!

And speaking of composting, notice the new button in my sidebar for Enviromom’s One Can A Month Challenge. I was pretty proud when, at my house, we recently converted to the smallest garbage can our waste company provides. Still we easily fill it weekly so we have our work cut out for us if we’re going to try to cut out 3 of those 4 monthly pickups. If we start composting we’ll be heading in the right direction. I will keep you posted here.



  1. KarenP said,

    June 22, 2008 at 11:46 pm

    While I can’t say with any honesty that we truly compost, we do collect our compostable scraps and dump them in a bin, which isn’t really the same as actually composting–the careful balance of nitrogen and carbon, lovingly mixed and stirred, yielding rich loam to spread on the thriving garden. While that’s the vision I once had, all I can truly say is that we keep most of our compostable waste out of our trash can.

    We also banished our ever-mouldering kitchen bin after a while and have gone to the good ol’ bowl on the kitchen counter. It’s always handy when I’m chopping stuff in the kitchen, and the fact that it IS on the kitchen counter makes certain that it gets emptied frequently, usually before it starts to smell. We have one of the big black composting bins from Metro and dump our bowl into it at night when we clean the kitchen, then toss the bowl in the dishwasher. Since we don’t maintain that lovely balance of carbon and nitrogen or keep things properly aerated, it is a bit nasty in the big black bin, but we have a big enough yard that it’s out of sight and we don’t worry about it.

    My parents’ compost pile has always just been a pile in the yard–a section fenced in on three sides that they toss the leaves and grass clippings in. It looks like there are some attractive versions of this out there–here’s a cedar one from Planet Natural:

    I have to say I’m intrigued by the one-can-a-month challenge. Since Mike takes the garbage out, I honestly have no idea how full our can is each week, but I doubt there’s much more than one bag in there since we rarely need to empty our indoor trash cans except on garbage night. I’ll have to start paying more attention. I’m looking forward to EnviroMom’s tips on cutting things down. We do the obvious, but there’s always room for improvement. I know a family (no kids) that only produces one bag of garbage A YEAR! Now THAT’S a challenge!

  2. Michelle Chiafulio said,

    June 23, 2008 at 7:36 pm

    I also had a compost-desire-quelling experience….. I made banana muffins, and put all the peels in the compost container under our sink. Then we went away for 2 weeks….. when I took the lid off the container, we had an infestation of fruit flies that lastest for days (to the point where my 3 yr old Miles now looks at the compost bin and asks how the fruit flies are doing!!!!)

    Anyway, I need to get back into it, and would eventually love to convince our fellow apartment dwellers that we need a bin in the back courtyard. Have you seen the bench compost bins? I’m sure there are other designs or you could have someone design it for you, but I put a link below:

    I love your blog!!!

  3. Pinky Bean said,

    June 27, 2008 at 3:25 pm

    Kudos to you for being honest and asking for advice! I thought some of our readers might also have a similar situation on their hands or might possibly have some ideas. I posted your article with a link to your site and encouraged them to pay you a visit to share ideas or commiserate.

  4. Beth's mom said,

    June 29, 2008 at 7:55 am

    Don and I were quite flattered to read that Beth thought her childhood home made composting an art form! All your parents–model well as everything you do now could surface on your kids’ blog one day.

    Beth bought me a great counter top compost container for my birthday in May. We’ve got the backyard pile figured out after 39 years of composting, but the plastic tub on the kitchen counter, even when emptied daily, was sometimes less than ideal. Beth found a stainless steel container, about 10″ tall, with a handle, a lid with a carbon filter to cut smell. It’s great.

    Where did you find it Beth in case others are interested?

  5. Beth said,

    June 29, 2008 at 9:30 am

    I bought the compost container my mom is referring to at Whole Foods. It’s for storing food scraps before you take them out to the compost bin and controls odors better than most other options I’ve seen. Here’s a link to it on amazon:

  6. Beth's Mom Nancy said,

    June 30, 2008 at 9:54 am

    We did it! As of today, my husband and I have cancelled our garbage service. We already recycle and compost as much as possible. We’re down to one small kitchen garbage can size bag every other week and we compost all yard clippings and fruits and veggies. He’ll take all recycling to Metro on his way to work every week or two. We didn’t want those two HUGE new PLASTIC bins Waste Management is delivering this month and in addition we’ll save about $250/year. It’s a WIN/WIN situation.

  7. KarenP said,

    July 1, 2008 at 10:05 pm

    Whoa, whoa, whoa, hold on, Nelly! You canceled your garbage service? Reduce to one can a month (or less), I get, but CANCELED? How? I mean, great in theory, but I honestly can’t quite fathom this. How do you get rid of your bag every other week? Does Metro allow you to drop off garbage as well? It seems like there will always be something I can’t reduce, reuse, or recycle. How’d you do it?

  8. Beth's Mom Nancy said,

    July 3, 2008 at 9:05 am

    Oops! Left off my name and I don’t know how to edit my posting.

    Okay. Here’s the info, Karen. We have Waste Management for our normal curb side garbage service. That’s the one we cancelled this week. They have on-call Trash Only pickup (no recycling or Yard Debris) which is $7.90/per 32 gallon can. Since my husband drives almost exactly past Metro recycling on his way to work, getting rid of recylables doesn’t require extra driving. All yard and food debris is composted. So a pickup every month or 6 weeks is considerably cheaper than the new rates–almost $50 every two months.

  9. KarenP said,

    July 4, 2008 at 3:48 pm

    Very cool! Maybe we’ll get to that point some day. Thanks for being an inspiration! And for explaining how on earth you did it! :^)

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