Composting in an Apartment or Townhouse


What if you live in a small space, an apartment or townhouse? Can you still compost? Of course! You just need to scale your operation to the space available.

It all starts in the kitchen. You need some sort of receptacle for your kitchen scraps. Kitchen compost containers come in many different sizes and designs. When selecting one, plan to succeed by selecting something that suits your household.  Think about the size of the container, and where it will “live,” such as on your counter top or under your sink. Think about how much it weighs, since you will be carrying it outside. What kind of lid should it have? How easy will it be to clean? Does the look appeal to you? Are you happy with the materials from which the compost bin is made?

Compost pails can be made of bamboo, ceramic, stainless steel or plastic. You can find large and small ones, or you can use a plain old plastic bucket if you like. Just line the bucket with a biodegradable bag that can be thrown out with the compost.  It might be nice to know that some come with filters on top to absorb odors.

Since the scraps you will be putting in your kitchen compost pail will be mostly wet materials, like your food scraps, and not much in the way of dry materials like leaves, straw or shredded paper, it will rot and get smelly and mushy in few days, which is NOT composting! Plan on a system that allows you to collect scraps for as many days as suits your lifestyle followed by a plan to get them outdoors to your compost bin or heap.

Here’s a true story (about me, actually). After my dog got into the compost scraps I had inadvertently left accessible in the garage…thinking I would get them out to the compost pile very soon…I learned to use the outdoor fridge as a safe, cool, half-way station. Now the food doesn’t smell, the dog doesn’t know it’s there, and I have some extra time if I can’t make a compost run for a couple of days. Super simple.

The important thing is to remember why we do this. It’s good to take a moment to add a bit of mindfulness to our day. Instead of just automatically throwing away food, remember that there is a lot of natural life force still in that food that can be harnessed. If given back to nature, it provides material for some incredibly nutrient-rich soil that supports microbial life, which supports plant life, which improves soil, which holds water, which prevents erosion and run off, which is even better for more plants, which then creates a habitat for the multitude of other creatures! Every time I make the effort to compost (I have a personal motto of “no scrap left behind!”), I think of that much material NOT in a landfill, NOT producing methane gas, NOT adding to the fuel cost of transportation, and NOT wasting precious life energy…but returning back to the living cycle.  It’s an easy thing to do. The Power Of One. I can do this.