Estimated reading time: 6 minutes
I have been moving through my climate journey gradually. I like to joke that it started with buying sustainable toilet paper, and has evolved into solar panels and looking into an EV. Not all changes need to be massive, and not every solution will be a lifestyle fit. That said, one of my newest endeavors was to start composting, but it didn’t seem that simple.
TL;DR: If you want to skip my journey and just know what I bought, it was this composter.
As part of learning about climate change, I became aware the methane gas from food waste was actually a big deal. It accounts for about 20% of methane emissions, and is something that we need to tackle as part of making sure the world is survivable and thrivable (I know this isn’t a word, but dammit it should be!) for years to come.
Tackling these emissions comes in many forms—wasting less food and being smarter about that food waste. My family tends to cook at home most days, which is great for reducing waste, but it also means that we end up with lots of scraps.
Sidenote here: I originally opted to put all food waste down the garbage disposal because it is better than the trash for sustainability purposes. But it turns out that while my disposal system can grind up most anything, my pipes simply can’t get rid of all the things. So to avoid clogs, I had to switch to throwing food in the trash, which accelerated my decision making around compost.
I first heard about composting as a kid when my school visited a farm. Ostensibly, it’s simple (at least on a farm)—you throw food scraps and other organic waste into a pile. It will naturally decompose and recycle, turning into rich soil that grows even better food. Composting doesn’t release methane gas, and produces great quality soil that holds onto more carbon and improves plant health when used in gardening.
I don’t live on a farm. If I did, maybe I could give my food waste to chickens, or have a section of land designated for composting. But I don’t, so I had a series of concerns about composting. First of all, I knew that I was not going to get the balance of wet and dry composting materials (food waste to gardening cuttings or paper) quite right and I’d heard horror stories about people ending up with rotting piles of garbage in their backyard.
I was also worried about wild animals or vermin being attracted to my pile of rotting garbage. Double gross.
Finally, I saw that there were a ton of composting solutions out there, but I really didn’t want to buy anything that had to cross an ocean. I’m not inherently against buying goods from China, but it felt counter productive to buy a composting solution with a high carbon footprint due to manufacturing and shipping processes.
My initial wish was to find a composting service. I wanted to be able to support local community efforts around sustainability and composting, perhaps even join a collective that made compost for local farmers. Sadly, while such services do exist near my area, they do not service my area.
If you live in an apartment building or small community, I’d suggest starting there. You may already have this available in your area, or be able to band together with neighbors to make something happen. Litterless is a fantastic resource to find municipal and local programs for composting in the United States.
They weren’t a fit for me because they don’t actually compost. They essentially just dehydrate and pulverize the food scraps, making them safe to put in your potting soil or throw in the trash without causing that methane gas issue I talked about earlier. I wanted to “really” compost, breaking down the waste products into rich soil, and I wanted to do it without subscription fees, expensive tools, or needing replacement parts.
The last solution I looked at were wormeries. While technically not compost, they are similar in that you feed your worms your food and gardening waste. What they excrete is ideal for the soil. But I read about people losing worms, plus it still didn’t help me with my concerns around other local pests or wild animals that might discover the worm food (and the worms!).
This journey narrowed down my options. I knew I wanted a composting tumbler - essentially an enclosed vessel that could turn so that the composting materials would get the right amount of air. It would be off the ground and sealed, keeping out any pests or animals. It also needed to be made relatively close to where I live, to keep the carbon footprint low.
I ended up ordering this tumbling composter from a Canadian company. Reasons I picked this one:
It is being delivered soon, and I look forward to moving my composting journey forward. I hope this thinking was helpful as you think through your ideal composting solution. There are many approaches to composting, just like there are many approaches to addressing climate change. Sometimes it just helps to see how other people did it, even if it clarifies what’s not for you.
Get our free bite-sized climate action plans before you go!