Farm & Garden: Compost in the City

Last week, The Washington Post printed a column on the value of compost in urban environments. The following question was sent to Nina Shen Rastogi, an environmental writer based in Brooklyn, New York and columnist for Slate Magazine:

“I live in an apartment in the city with zero outdoor space, and I don’t have any plants that would benefit from compost. Is there any reason at all, then, why I should be composting my food scraps?”

Rastogi replied that composting is important for both rural and urban communities, and emphasized that it can easily be accomplished within the confines of an apartment. Electric composters can simplify the task for cautious roommates, and these units  generally consume only a minimal amount of energy.

Allowing food to decompose before throwing it away can reduce its landfill volume by 80 percent. Composting is also beneficial from the perspective of climate regulation, as properly composted food scraps produce only water and carbon dioxide as byproducts. When left in oxygen-depleted landfills, food waste often creates methane–a greenhouse gas with over twenty times the heat-trapping potential of CO2.

If you’re interested in composting but unsure of the next steps, Rastogi recommends contacting local schools and community gardens. These organizations may appreciate compost donations, and they can also provide tips and tricks along the way. In New York City, residents are free to place homemade compost around any trees on the street … Check local rules and regulations to make sure you distribute compost properly in your community.

Rastogi also mentions the benefits of vermicomposting. For more information on this technique, check out yesterday’s blog post (6/28).

Click here to read Rastogi’s column  in The Washington Post.


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