Saturday, January 10, 2009

Apartment Composting

Since having to sort organics from inorganics in this new year, I've noticed the organic trash leaves an unpleasant odor in my apartment. Potato peels, banana peels, orange peels, oh my! Several times I have looked inside my organic trash to see what kind of delectable smoothie I could make if I blended all of it together because, honestly, that's what my organic trash looks like without the plastic bags and glass bottles. The smell took me back to a time when I used to compost but have since abandoned since moving to an apartment in Mexico City. But, google "apartment composting" and one can find many an ambitious person writing about their experiences of composting in small spaces, both indoors and outdoors. I had a friend who kept a compost bin in a small Rubbermaid bin under her kitchen sink, but I never did see much degradation. So what I think I'll try is starting a small compost bin on my porch and see how it goes. 

The first rule of thumb in composting is to get the carbon:nitrogen ratio right in your bin. Carbon helps to break down organic material, and nitrogen helps to rebuild cells. Too much of either and you'll be holding out for lovely soil that will never be. Secondly, compost almost anything organic except dairy, meats, oils, and other fats. Here's a quick guide to good sources of carbon and nitrogen:

Carbon: dead leaves, strips of paper, cardboard, sawdust
Nitrogen: food scraps(!!), coffee grinds, grass clippings, urine

Now I've read about people who urinate all over their lawns and gardens, but I don't think I'll be peeing on my porch anytime soon. Google 'composting ingredients' for a more complete list of what can be composted. Depending on what's in your bin will determine how fast your organic waste turns into a verdant pile of beautiful, rich soil..for free! (Last weekend I bought a bag of soil no more than 5lbs for 40 pesos!) For example, throw a load of human or pet hair and you will be staring at that same hair for awhile. I'm off to find the perfect bin...

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