Houston composting (and zero waste) is still a foreign concept. You may meet the occasional gardener with a small backyard compost pile, and you can compost your food containers at Whole Foods and Mod Pizza, but as a city, H-Town has a longgggg way to go. There’s not a municipal compost pick-up service available, so it’s up to residents to develop their own compost routines.
At our old home, we were addicted to our Earth Machine. We moved several years ago, and we kept dragging our feet on installing a compost bin at this house. I’m not sure why it took us so long to get back into composting, but here we are.
OUTDOOR COMPOST BIN
This time around, we scooped up a Redmon Green Culture 65-gallon compost bin, which was ~$40 cheaper than the Earth Machine. I found an unobtrusive spot in our small backyard to locate the bin – where it’s just a step away our patio, but mostly hidden from sight by the back wall of our house. (From past experience, I knew easy access to the bin would be nice – no need to put on shoes to empty our countertop bin when it fills up with food scraps.)
The bin is simple – there’s a sturdy lid, which you remove to add new scraps, and a small door at the bottom of each side, which you lift to remove dirt once the compost has broken down. The ventilation holes allow air to aid the biodegradation process, and the black color keeps it warm like a greenhouse, which further speeds up the process. The bin is firmly attached to the ground with stakes.
65 gallons is just the right size for us – enough space that we’ll never fill it up to the top with food and yard scraps, but not so large that it becomes an eyesore or takes up valuable space in our little backyard.
COUNTER COMPOST BIN
Collecting food scraps is easy – we keep a ceramic compost bin on our countertop, and the lid of the bin is fitted with a carbon filter to keep smells away. (I buy replacement carbon filters on Amazon periodically; they’re also stocked at the home and garden store where I bought the bin.)
The counter compost bin is a great design. It’s as functional as it is sleek – the inner bucket slopes inwards slightly, making it easy to empty, and it’s fitted with a small carrying handle. There are no hard-to-wash areas where mold could form; if I’m feeling lazy, I can toss the lid, bucket, and outer ceramic bin right in the dishwasher.
My grandmother has been composting for many years, and she collects her kitchen scraps in an upcycled plastic salad greens container. (For the record – her garden is incredible!) There’s no need for anything fancy, and you can compost on any budget, no matter how small. If you’re just getting started and being plagued by fruit flies or smell issues, look into carbon filters or a counter bin with a tighter fit.
WHAT WE COMPOST
…Everything but the kitchen sink? Just about. We are careful not to compost meat, fish, bones, or dairy; they can carry dangerous pathogens and attract pests. We do compost:
- Fruit & vegetable scraps
- Leftovers (without meat/fish/raw dairy)
- Coffee grounds & tea leaves
- Stale bread, pasta, cereal, and crackers
- Shredded cardboard & paper
- Yard clippings
- Wilted bouquets
- Dryer lint
Being engineers, we’ve decided to estimate how much trash we’ve avoided through composting – we’re keeping a tally of how many times we empty the counter bin this year. We’ll also take a look at how many cubic feet of dirt we create with our compost in 2017. I can’t wait to share!