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How to Start Composting in an Apartment

How to Start Composting in an Apartment


Hello, friends! Can you believe it’s already the middle of September? Summer always flies by, but Colorado’s temperatures this year had me fooled. We still are getting plenty of 80°F days. And there’s no cool weather in our forecast, yet.

But, I’m currently visiting family and friends in Illinois right now. And oh boy, does it feel like fall! Leaves are changing, weather is cooling, and each day gets shorter. Sweater weather is here in full force.

Before the weather transitions from chilly to absolutely frigid, there is one thing crucial thing that you should do in your zero waste transition.


You are not going to want to begin a compost bin in the dead of winter. So, do it now, and you won’t have to think about it once the temperature drops.

Composting is a year round waste diversion principle. Whether you have a huge garden that could use some TLC or live in a tiny apartment (like me!), composting can be easy for everyone. If you’re looking to live a more sustainable life, check out the zero waste beginner’s guide or how to be ecofriendly while traveling.

What is compost?

Compost is a nutrient rich soil. An all-natural fertilizer – zero chemicals. You can buy bags of compost at every lawn and garden store, and even grocery stores are hopping on the bandwagon. Compost is essential for growing a beautiful garden. Plants love this stuff.

It is made up of organic matter. As organic materials decompose and decay, they release nutrients into the soil. Because compost is solely made up of organic matter, it is extremely nutrient dense – great for plants!

In simple terms, organic material is anything that came from the earth. So, all vegetables, fruits, trees, leaves, flowers, etc. You get the jist, right? All of these will decompose when tossed into a compost pile.

What should you compost?

When you’re cooking tonight and scooping out the seeds in a pepper – that can be composted. Onion ends? Compost. Dead flowers? Compost. Anything you peel – oranges, cucumbers, cantaloupe. Even egg shells can go into the mix. Dryer lint, too.

The list is endless – leaves, recycled paper, cardboard egg cartons, (most) tea bags, nut shells, kitchen scraps, sawdust, natural fibers – I could go on and on!

BUT, there is plenty that you’ll want to leave out of your compost heap. Meat and dairy are no good. Neither are bones. We also want to leave diseased plants out of compost bins because the disease can spread throughout the organic material (yikes!)

Be careful when composting acidic materials such as lemons and limes. These will quickly change the pH of the compost pile and decomposition will slow down, or even halt all together. Place these in your compost sparingly. Large pieces of wood don’t typically do well in compost piles, either. Waste diversion plant will pick up your heaps of leaves and wood and make it into mulch. This will save you the headache of trying to decompose your holiday tree.

Why compost?

I get a lot of questions about what the difference is between composting and placing organic materials into a landfill. They will decompose either way, right? And methane is produced from both piles, right?

Well, methane is a potent greenhouse gas. Realistically, it is produced by both piles – but much less in a compost. Compost piles are turned regularly so that the materials mix. This does not happen in a landfill.

Here’s some science for ya…aerobic decomposition (aka with oxygen) takes place in a compost pile because it is constantly being turned. This process produces far less methane when compared to anaerobic decomposition (without oxygen) that happens in a landfill.

Another thing to keep in mind – in a landfill, organic materials are placed next to all sorts of junk. Cover an orange peel with grease and that peel isn’t going anywhere for a very long time.

You can make amazing fertilizer for your garden (or someone else’s) AND produce less trash AND lessen your carbon footprint. Win, win, win!

How to Compost in an Apartment

If you’re living in a small space or you don’t have a garden – you can still compost. Both of those apply to me and I still make it work. It might even be easier this way!

Somebody else can always use free fertilizer. Whether it’s a neighbor, waste diversion plant, or local community garden – composting is the ultimate waste diversion necessity.

And really, this isn’t just for zero wasters (zero waste-ers…is that a thing? It is now!) Even if you only have one sustainable bone in your body…you should hop on the compost train.

I’ve been composting in college and at my parents’ house for a few years, but just this summer I finally began a compost project in our tiny apartment. I use one five-gallon bucket with a lid. That’s it. It cost me a whopping $3.13. Big spender, I know.

When I started to make sustainable changes in our home, I realized that I couldn’t leave composting out. It’s just too easy, and so beneficial for the environment.

Craig and I eat a ton of vegetables (at least most days.) Our trash can used to be packed with organic matter and it always started to smell before it was full. So gross! We would take our trash out constantly.

Now that we have begun composting we take our trash to the dumpster every other week, sometimes less. And it never smells. Hallelujah!

Our process is simple. While making food, we set aside our organic waste in a bowl. Once the meal preparation is over we dump the bowl in our compost bucket, which we keep outside on the patio. TA DA!

Every few weeks our bucket fills up and I seal the lid, load it in my car, and dump it at the local waste diversion center or community garden.

I always rinse out the bucket before I bring it home because it smells pretty nasty. But…that’s it. Seriously. So simple!

Start your compost bin this fall and you won’t have to think too much about it when winter hits. You should definitely keep your compost going year-round but this way, you’ll already be in the habit.

Do you already compost at your home? Any tips and tricks to share? Subscribe to The Mindful Mile email list and get updates each time a new post goes live. Also, I’m coming out with a HUGE, FREE ZERO WASTE EBOOK at the end of the month. Keep your eyes peeled!

Aside from composting, there are so many ways to reduce your waste. If you’re interested in starting a zero waste journey, check out the beginners guide to going zero waste.

Alright, I’ve looked at the word “compost” for so long that it’s starting to look like I’m spelling it wrong. That’s my cue to go enjoy this fall weather! Enjoy the rest of your day, lovelies! Until next time..

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