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Saving NYC Composting: Compost 101

With the NYC composting budget cuts we compiled simple steps to divert food waste from landfill right at home. Here we included specific steps for our urban-audience, because composting can be an essential part of your life!

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Diverting textiles from landfill is an intrinsic component of our daily routine at Jussara Lee. Here we apply creativity to transform otherwise unusable fabric remnants into something desirable and “new”. Composting uses the same philosophy by reducing emissions, and last year, NYC diverted over 42,000 MT of CO2 from being released into our air—with only 10% of New Yorkers having access to a compost brown bin. Much to our chagrin, in April, NYC suspended the curbside composting pick up program until June 2021 due to budget cuts related to the coronavirus pandemic. To keep composting free, public, and ultimately accessible we must acknowledge our individual impact and exercise what is in our power to protect the well being of the planet, that includes you and I. 

Maintaining the status quo yields no progression. When we unite in solidarity and demand systemic change, only then, the big corporations will stop commoditizing the land for selfish profit. They need to be held accountable when they deliberately choose not to think of the common well being of the planet, simply because their devious actions cause serious social and environmental repercussions that we all suffer from. 

Saving NYC Composting

According to Greenpeace, “the cuts to the NYC Compost project and its partner, GrowNYC, represent approximately $7 million, and with some additional funding, could go a long way to allowing New Yorkers to continue to separate food waste and preventing this major waste stream from going to landfill and emitting greenhouse gases.

This comparatively small amount of funding in the big picture would ensure that:

  • at least eight non-profit organizations that rely on City-funding to provide organics collection and processing services, as well as community education, could continue their good work

  • at least 170 food scrap drop-off sites across all five boroughs can continue to divert this potent source of greenhouse gases from landfills

  • at least six community composting facilities can continue their work of processing the food waste to turn into usable compost to grow food in community gardens and urban farms during a time of food insecurity
     
  • the City could continue vital education and outreach, needed to ensure that all New Yorkers, including all of our school children, understand why and how to compost and recycle – such training in the schools is a small investment that will pay off for decades by helping our children develop life-time habits of sustainable living.”

Composting 101: Collective Action at Home

It starts in your home: create your own DIY compost or try other at-home composting methods to implement an earth-loving practice in your lifestyle. Here are two options we selected to guide you through it: 

DIY Bin


Photo Courtesy of Hiroko Tabuchi, The New York Times  

DIY bins are the cheapest, most accessible option. All you need is a bin, your browns (leaves, dirt, twigs, etc.), greens (your compost scraps) and water. New York Times columnist Hiroki Tabuchi breaks down her odorless cardboard box method which involves aerobic decomposition so your “compost by your couch” is odorless! Her Japanese method uses coco peat, coconut husks and kuantan (rice husk ash). We find that as long as you stick to the essentials—browns, greens and water—you can break down your food waste just fine. This method is perfect for compost beginners, city-residents, and anyone that wants to show some love to Mother Earth while having a little fun.

Some quick tips from Hiroki

  • Use any large cardboard box — not plastic or metal, which won’t let the compost breathe — and reinforce the bottom of the box with an extra layer of cardboard. 

  • Raise the cardboard box on some blocks to further improve air flow. Use roughly three parts coco peat, two parts ash - Hiroki uses a tea towel, secured with string, to cover her box.

  • A good-sized box can process upwards of 1.5 pounds of fruit and veggie scraps a day.

  • Stir the compost frequently
  • You can keep using the same box and use it for years!

  •  If your bin starts getting full, put some on your houseplants.

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Vermicomposting 

Image Courtesy of: @simplybychristine 

Vermicomposting is not as complicated as it sounds: with just a few ingredients, you can concoct a mutually beneficial mini ecosystem in your home. This method involves some wiggler worms and is a common solution for food waste in small homes or apartments. Before you eliminate this option because of an aversion to these little critters, they have been known to produce “liquid gold” for gardens and are ideal for breaking down your scraps. Rather than send your food waste to landfill, why not treat these little guys to your leftover remnants?

This method involves a tiered system which you can purchase or make yourself. Once the worms eat all of the scraps, it will drop to the bottom pan. The worms will crawl their way up throughout the layers and continue to eat up the scraps. The resulting substance is extremely nutrient-dense that you can use for plants indoors or outdoors!

Basic Ingredients: 

  • Tiered layer system 
  • Wet paper scraps 
  • Wiggler worms 
  • Food scraps (do not compost meat, grease, fat, bones, or dairy

Check out this how-to post by a minimalist and zero-waste blogger where she breaks it all down - no pun intended :) https://simplybychristine.com/guide/how-to-compost-with-worms

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Composting Beginner Tips

  • Just starting out? Freeze your food scraps in a container to later add to your DIY compost
  • Cut your compost contents - breaking them down first will speed things up!
  • Add a rich fertilizer to your compost catalyze the composting process by introducing microorganisms 
  • These microorganisms are just like us and need a healthy dose of water and even aeration to stay alive! Regularly turn your compost - anaerobic (without oxygen) composts won’t be able to break down.
  • A well-balanced compost shouldn’t smell, so a funky odor coming from your bin may be a sign to add more ‘brown’ ingredients 

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Check out https://www.epa.gov/recycle/composting-home for more composting resources.