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Reducing food waste is simple for those of us with a yard -- just toss any fruit and veggie scraps out on the compost pile, and repeat until, soon, there is enough rich, crumbly compost to toss onto our garden beds.
But what if you're an apartment dweller, with no yard, no balcony, no outdoor space to speak of to call your own?
Composting is still a great option for you apartment-dwellers out there. It will take a bit of creativity, but it's entirely possible that you can reduce your total food waste to nearly zero, depending on how many of these options you're willing to use and the size of your household.
Small Space Composting Option #1: Worm Bin
People are sometimes hesitant to get into vermicomposting because they worry about either A) the worms escaping and slithering all over their kitchen floor, or B) odors. Neither one are all that common, actually, and are unlikely to happen if you spend some time maintaining your worm bin. Worms will only try to escape if they're starving, too dry, drowning, or (rarely) if something nearby (such as a refrigerator or dishwasher) causes frequent vibrations, which can irritate them. If you keep them fed, and moist, you're unlikely to have any problems.
And worm bins don't have to be great big boxy affairs, either. You can vermicompost, right under your kitchen sink, in a five gallon bucket from the home center. Make sure you get one with a lid, and follow these tips for making a bucket worm bin.
Wondering what to add to your worm bin? Just about any non-meat, non-dairy, not-greasy food you have on hand. Fruit and vegetable peels, leftover cooked veggies, rice, or plain pasta, coffee grounds, tea bags -- all of it can go into your worm bin. While there are some foods worms aren't fond of, in general, they're not too picky.
You can order worms online. How many you'll need depends on how much food waste you have. One pound of worms can handle 1/2 pound of food scraps per day.
Small Space Composting Option #2: Bokashi
There are many items you really shouldn't put in a worm bin: meat, dairy, cooked foods with sauces and dressings -- but you can use Bokashi to compost these items. Bokashi is a popular composting method in Asia, and is seeing more popularity now in the U.S. and Canada. It is, essentially, a fermentation method. You add your food to a bucket (which fits perfectly under a sink or in a corner) cover it with Bokashi bran (a mix of grains and microbes that will cause the fermentation process) and repeat. Once your bucket is full, you set it aside for a few weeks, upon which it is fully fermented and no longer harbors any harmful pathogens. If you have a yard, you can simply add the fermented bucket contents to a compost pile, or bury it right in the garden. If you don't have a yard, see option #3, below.
Small Space Composting Option #3: Bokashi Plus a Worm Bin
If you're doing all of your composting indoors, there's good news: red wigglers (and other worms, but red wigglers are the most common vermicomposting worm) LOVE the fermented contents of Bokashi buckets. Once your Bokashi bucket is done sitting and fermenting, give your worms a bit of the mixture every day, and they will break it down in no time.
Using Finished Vermicompost
OK, so you've done all of this indoor vermicomposting, and now, you have rich, dark vermicompost and vermicastings. What do you do with it?
- Add a bit to the surface of your houseplants' potting soil. It is a very safe, natural fertilizer.
- Add vermicastings to potting soil or seed starting mixes.
- Add them to your community garden plot, if you have one.
- Donate them to a community garden, school garden, or garden club.
- Do some guerilla soil improvement -- add your vermicompost to public plantings to help them grow stronger.
- Offer them up on Craigslist. Chances are good that you won't have them for long.
- Sell them. Lots of people sell vermicompost on sites like eBay and Etsy.
If you're determined to reduce the amount of waste you produce, and turn food waste into something really useful, these ideas are definitely worth considering. Happy composting!