Start a Compost Bin - Yes, you can!

Sep 11, 2011 by Kasha Ho | Story Popularity: 12

Since it's "Grow Your Own" week for the Eat Local Challenge, I've been talking a lot about composting. Growing your own food and composting go hand in hand, since they create a nice little self-propelling system, but truthfully - eating and composting go hand in hand, period. I've heard estimates that 25% of our landfill waste is compostable material.  And when you hear anyone who gardens talk about compost - watch their eyes light up, you'd never expect how excited grown people get about waste, that stuff is"gold" for the gardener, so why should we be filling up the landfills with this valuable resource?

Most people I talk to who don't have a compost system at home think they can't because they don't have land. I found out you can very successfully compost, even in an apartment.
I found a great book at the library. It's called "The Urban/Suburban Composter: The Complete Guide to Backyard, Balcony, and Apartment Composting," by Mark Cullen and Lorraine Johnson. It's a great resource for determining what kind of compost system will suit your needs, lifestyle, and living situation. Here's a table from the book that matches types of compost bins with how much/what kind of waste you produce, how much time you have to care for it, how much you want to spend, etc:

compost methods table

The book walks you through how to build/buy/set up all of these methods of composting and how to care for and utilize your compost. I highly recommend it, you can find it at the Hawaii Public Libraries.

I've got a tiny studio apartment myself, and have started three composting systems.


I started out with the worm bin - those little critters are amazing, I never knew I could feel so affectionately towards worms! Here's a blog post I did about setting up the worm bin, how to find the right kind of worms, and what they do/do not like. The worms don't really like all the coffee grounds I produce, nor onions/garlic, lots of citrus - and even though they can eat their own body weight in food every day, they couldn't keep up with all the kitchen scraps I produce at home, so I started another compost bin.

death star

We affectionately refer to this one as "The Compost Death Star."

After reading about compost tumblers, I was interested in starting one at my house - I figured I don't have enough outdoor space to really have a compost pile, plus I was worried about any smell/flies, etc since we live very close to our neighbors. I wanted to try to build my own tumbler, but quickly realized I didn't have the tools, materials, or ambition to get that done - so I bought this one. I spent a little over $100 on it, and purchased it online - it's one of the few compost tumblers you can affordably ship to Hawaii because it comes disassembled. It's listed on the Costco website, but I've never seen it carried in the stores here. Here's a bit more on the Compost Death Star, including a video of our first day setting it up:

I recently rewatched this video and had forgotten the cameo appearance our friend Brutus makes, with Punahou carnival food in tow!

Finally, I just set up my third compost bin, a Bokashi Bucket I got from Each One Teach One Farms. This one I'm using to compost all my meat and dairy scraps. I did a video about that too, check it out here.

I've already had several harvests of beautiful compost to add to my garden and container garden, and I'm learning all the time. I hope others will find inspiration and take the plunge into a composting method that works for you and your lifestyle - it's really rewarding being able to turn waste into food!


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  1. is a composting death star! How has no one commented on this?!! Happy to see the Empire using its powers for good, lol...

  2. Cobi kim says:

    If I didn't already have a worm bin and a large outdoor compost bin, I would try one of the Bokashi buckets. It's great if you don't have a lot of space.

  3. One extra thing to note! Be sure to take out food waste frequently...otherwise fruit flies begin to make house :). To get rid of fruit flies, put out a small dish of apple cider vinegar. I LOVE THIS POST!

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