Kitchen Composting in NYC

No Backyard, No Problem – You Too Can Compost

New Yorkers are a green bunch. We take public transportation everywhere, we live in one of the top walking cities in the country, and the bravest among us even ride our bikes on the city streets. Today, farmers markets are more prevalent than ever, and areas like Brooklyn are re-defining what it means to be a locavore. But, New Yorkers generate oodles of waste, just like the rest of our fellow countrymen. And while it may be harder for most of us to be backyard gardeners, we can still do our part to compost much of our kitchen waste. Just take a minute to consider these interesting plates for your restaurant before you do that.

Below are a few hints and tips to get started setting up your very own kitchen composting machine.

1.) Make a Commitment to Foodcycling. Composting is an integral part of the solution to help reduce the waste that is overflowing our landfills. By collecting and composting food scraps, individuals can get a first hand glimpse of how something seemingly useless can be turned into nutrient-rich organic matter. Yet, just as we had to educate ourselves to recycle, not throw away, bottles and cans in the eighties and nineties, today we will have to re-orient our notion of what is “trash”.

2.) Get Your Gear. A kitchen composting program can be started with just a few simple tools. One really only needs a composting bin, carbon filters (to eliminate odors; these typically come with the bin, though extra refills are available) and some optional compostable trash bags. Indoor compost bins come in a variety of shapes and sizes. There are counter-top models that look very stylish and can add some color and flair to your kitchen, or there are under-sink models that are can be decidedly more sophisticated. The best model for you will clearly depend on the space limitations of your kitchen and your cost constraints. In NYC, one great place to explore and get started with all your kitchen composting materials is The Green Depot down on Bowery, but there are also several places that you can order these materials online.

3.) Know what to Compost. If you do a web search on “What to compost“, you will find a variety of sources of information, many of which detail the many nuanced ways to calculate the appropriate carbon and nitrogen mixes to create the most fertile soil. But there is really a simple mantra that you can remind yourself of when deciding whether to throw away or keep that veggie peel or lemon rind: “Mix of Green and Brown, and Nothing a Vegan Couldn’t Eat.” What this means is that you should strive to include a varied selection of “green” scraps (vegetable trimmings, coffee grounds, alfalfa, tea leaves/bags) and “brown” scraps (fruit waste, peanuts shells, stale bread, rice, oatmeal) – but even the green and brown distinction isn’t all that important – and avoid dairy, meat, seafood and inorganic materials at all costs.

4.) Where to Put The Stuff. Even though outsiders don’t like to admit it, New York City is a land of convenience, and the city government and parks department have made it easier than ever to make proverbial lemonade from lemons, or soil from trash. According to the New York City Compost Project, the average NYC household discards two pounds of organic waste each day, so they’ve decided to do something about it. In addition, the NYC Parks Department has an interactive compost map so you can easily find your nearest neighborhood garden to drop off your compost bag (hence when the biodegradable trash bags come in handy).

5.) Make Your Neighbors Complicit. Try going the extra mile and roping your neighbors into your composting efforts so they won’t be green with envy. If you have a bulletin board in your building, or have a space to leave flyers near mailboxes, solicit interest in getting a larger outdoor compost bin. Armed with interest from dozens of neighbors, you have some great mileage with which to approach your building manager or superintendent to buy a bin for the building’s use. If your building has any gardens or tree-plantings, composted soil can be a great money-saving way to keep plants healthy. If the building won’t pay for the bin, perhaps your interested neighbors can chip in some greenbacks.

In just a couple of hours, you can start your very own personal compost project and make Mother Earth very proud indeed.