Whitecaps Build Community with Flags and Families
January 19, 2016
Fidel Vila – The Spanish Hurricane
February 1, 2016

Bringing Compost Inside

In my apartment there are two Rubbermaid bins. Often they are tucked away under a table or bathroom counter. Every once and a while a visitor will notice them and ask why they have holes drilled into their sides. After I respond, the reactions vary from disgust and sometimes edging away from the bin to excitement and asking to have a look inside. In my 5 years of vermicomposting I’ve gotten used to the range of reactions that those bins can generate.

Not everyone is comfortable with worms or composting, and in our overly sanitized and convenient world it isn’t surprising. Why not send your kitchen waste to the curb and then drive to a big box store to buy pre-made compost? Well, first of all it costs money. Tax dollars to pick up, ship and process all that food waste and then your money to buy the compost. Second, food waste is a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, including the shipping and processing if you live in a place that has curbside composting and methane, a greenhouse gas 21 times as potent as carbon dioxide, when food waste forced to undergo anaerobic composting (without air since it is sealed up in a trash bag and often buried).

Living in an apartment or condo without a backyard limits composting options. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t join the composting community. If you are flush with money and have a space for a new appliance, there is the Red Dragon electric indoor composter.  The main issue with this product is energy use, which is 60 kwhr per month or 720 kwhr per year.  If you live in a place where the energy mix Is mostly renewables (like BC) and are willing to take the financial hit, this might be a great option.  It is really fast and takes a very wide range of organic waste.

The other main option for indoor composting is vermicomposting or composting with worms, which is cheaper and more space efficient. Once set up the worms are pretty low maintenance, they need to be fed once a week and a couple of times a year the compost (or worm poo) needs to be harvested. They don’t smell, they don’t try to escape and they don’t attract pests, unless you do something really wrong. Once I got the hang of knowing how much, often and what to feed them they’ve not smelled like anything other than great compost (not rotting food). The only time they tried to escape the bin was during a heat wave one summer when the temperature felt like +40 with humidex, which had made me escape the city already. And by rinsing or freezing all food before giving it to the worm, fruit flies and other pests haven’t been an issue. If you are interested in getting into vermicomposting, there are a lot of great resources and if you know someone already doing it, odds are you can pick up some free worms from them.