Friday, April 24, 2009

Composting Doesn't Have to be Stinky Anymore!

Composting doesn't have to be stinky, messy or time-consuming anymore! For those of you who don't know what composting is, it's the act of treating your food waste, paper trash and/or yard clippings so that they "return to the earth" in the form of decayed organic matter. Composting has at least two benefits. First is that it allows you to recycle and reuse your own organic trash, thus reducing your contribution to the waste stream. Second, it provides you with an incredibly rich source of nutrients for your garden and house plants.

The problem with composting has always been that it's messy, smelly, inconvenient and a lot of work. You used to have to traipse outdoors with your food scraps to put them in either a covered pile or an outside composting drum of some sort. You used to have to aerate or turn your pile to help it "cook evenly." I once followed some home-made composting recipe, where you put everything into a black plastic bag and shook and turned it periodically, only to find the bag full of maggots when I finally opened it. As my friend Gail would say, "eeeewwwe!"

No more! I've been using SCD's Happy Farmer Kitchen Composter for six months now, right in my kitchen, no odor, no mess, no manipulation. It's a little bucket and a lid with a good seal that fits under my kitchen counter, into which I throw all manner of food scraps. The secret is the companion product, "bokashi," a fermented wheat bran and molassis product that acts as a compost starter, and completely eliminates the odor of decay when sprinkled atop food wastes in the compost bucket. According to the SCD website, "when added, Bokashi will begin a fermentation process that will neutralize odors, increase the mineral content and prepare food waste to become high quality compost." And it happens very quickly!

The other really cool thing about my kitchen composter is that the bucket has a perforated floor about three inches from its bottom, through which all the moisture from the composting material flows. There is a spigot at this level that allows you to draw off this rich, organic liquid for fertilizing house plants or whatever. I warn you, the liquid does smell, and you would be wise to draw off about a quarter a cup of the liquid into a full two-quart container of water to dilute it sufficiently before watering your house plants, or you will be smelling it for days! Trust me, your plants will love it in its diluted form, and you won't love it "straight up."

If you've been thinking about composting, or have had very bad experiences with composting in the past. This is definitely the product for you.

By the way, here's some information on what kinds of organic matter you may add to your compost bin,, and what you should not add to your bin,

If you have a different (but great) composter, I'd love to hear about it.


  1. Hi, Sandy,

    This is great! We have a composter here in SF... our city! They give us a little green bin for the house and a bigger one that goes next to the garbage on collection days. It works really well. The compost is 'cooked' at over 250 degrees so you can put tissues and paper towels in the compost. Also accepted are milk cartons (a great place to put really messy kitchen waste, in the compost bin). Now our recycling and compost bins are full and our garbage is almost empty. Nan

  2. I've been composting for 40 yrs. In Illinois, it was easier because I made a pile in back out of sight with fall leaves and other composting stuff. it rained there soo i didn't have to water it. i turned it in the spring and used it as mulch in my garden.
    here in az, i bought a metal composting can with aerating holes on top. i use two plastic bags (I do not like washing the can) in case one leaks and then bury only the compost around where ever there is a drip systmm right now i am concentrating on a fig tree. i use at least one can a week. it does not smell because of the top has a charcoal filter. i used to bury compost in illinois around trees also. all my neighbors wondered why our trees used to be the same height and then mine were taller and bigger. i generate more compost when i squeeze citrus.
    I "sprinkle" coffee grounds around certain plants and they seem to love it too.
    i also get rid of slugs by feeding them cheap beer in bottle lids.

  3. Holy crap I had no idea you could get indoor composters!!! I am really excited about this! I was going to suggest ways to reduce waste because I am really sick of throwing away things like banana peels. Also, I don't know of many products to reduce paper use besides regular cotton towels. I started using 7th generation toilet paper and dishwashing liquid, but some of the dishes come out with soap still on them. And toilet paper is toilet paper.. but I guess that doesn't get put into landfills right? It is decomposed by bacteria?

    I have slowly started to get more and more environmentally conscious since I spent 2 weeks in the OSA peninsula of Costa Rica in the middle of the jungle. It was an amazing experience, and I've come to realize the necessity of environmental protection to continue human existence on the earth for generations to come. But more importantly it is something incredibly spiritual for me to begin to live off of and with the land, not to just exploit all natural resources to the eventual point of no return. I'm really excited you're starting this blog, hopefully I can contribute some issues from a student's point of view!