Submitted by Jacqueline Florine
As a family of four, we generate approximately 8 cups a week of kitchen food waste. When our waste management company delivered a kitchen countertop food waste bucket, we were excited about the program but didn’t have any place to dump the collected food scraps. Our condo complex doesn’t have any green yard waste bins (like homeowners have) and all attempts to convince our home owners association to allow us to place a green bin in our community for all residents to use amounted to a flat “No.”
So, there we were with a shiny new compost bucket and nowhere to empty it. Putting our food scraps in the garbage (destined for the landfill) or into the water waste stream (via the in-sink garbage disposal) seemed like bad options.
There was a brief time when I would arrive for dinner at a friend’s house with my full compost bucket in hand, ready to share the wealth. This solution wasn’t sustainable and my waste generating guilty conscience pushed me to finally accept the inevitable. There were cool electric powered composters that we could place in the garage. However, our tangle of bikes, climbing gear, bamboo clothes racks, and a car were already in full “Occupy” mode. And honestly, we wanted any composting to be off the grid.
The web is chock full of cheap and easy DIY options but we kept procrastinating. Then we found Tumbleweed’s Worm Cafe at Navlet’s, a nearby nursery. It’s an elevated pre-made worm composter that works well and looks nice on our tiny deck. We also purchased the minimum of 1,000 red worms to inhabit our new wee worm village. Finally, we were in on the bio-action!
The routine is simple. During the week, we put all of our food scraps into the free countertop bucket provided by the Waste Authority. Filters or liner bags for the little bucket are completely unnecessary since the lid traps any odors and we wash the thing out every week. Besides, the whole point of composting was to reduce our negative impact on the environment. Once a week, we feed the contents of our food scrap bucket to the worms, add a bit of shredded newspaper, spray with a little water, and drain off the “tea” to water my plants with. The only things we can’t commit to our worm village are citrus fruit, meat, and dairy. (We do compost our egg shells) It takes all of 5-10 minutes, tops. My home office shredder (aka: Chewy) contributes the paper bedding/amendment.
Once a year we remove the worm casings (black gold) and add it to our tiny deck container garden. Throughout the year, we eat and share the bounty of lemons, limes, strawberries, and herbs from our well nourished plants. We also sneak some black gold into the nearby community landscaping.
Our kids actually made the whole transition to composting easier. They were already used to saving their school lunch leftovers for animal feed and composting at Burton Valley Elementary.
BENEFITS & PAYBACKS
At 15.5 percent of the waste stream, food is the largest single source of waste in California.* We used to feel helpless to change our contribution to this disaster. Now, I enjoy the full yogic benefits of corpse pose while visualizing my very active subterranean friends changing our waste into planet saving black gold. Seriously, my husband and I feel great that we’ve figured out a solution for composting at a condo.
And the plants around our complex are thriving. See the photo on right.
- Navlet’s Nursery
- Tumbleweed’s Worm Café
- Learn more about worm composting or vermicomposting:
- There was an article in the Summer 2011 edition of the CCCSWA newsletter, Diversions, that provided information on composting and a certification program that once completed earns your residence a waste collection credit of $1.50 per month.
- Learn about the NatureMill Indoor Composter that can compost food scraps in two weeks right in your kitchen:
* According to the California Integrated Waste Management Board.