6 Ways to Compost - for City Dwellers

Homeownership can be stressful, but managing waste doesn't have to be. Composting is the biological decomposition of organic waste into a humus that can be used to fertilize soil. This ancient farming method is growing in popularity among homeowners looking to reduce landfill waste and be friendly to their environment. 

Getting started doesn’t require much time, money or effort, and can produce rich fertilizer for gardens or houseplants within a matter of weeks. A good compost heap requires moisture, heat, air, and a mix of “greens” and “browns”. The “greens” come from nitrogen-based waste, like fruit and vegetable scraps, coffee grounds, and grass clippings. These should be mixed with carbon materials, or “browns”, which include dry leaves, sawdust, wood chips, straw, newspaper, and corrugated cardboard. The Urban Garden Center recommends recipes for composting that contain ideal carbon-to-nitrogen ratios.

TRELORA suggests these common methods of composting as a starting point for urbanites or those looking at city real estate options. Apartment living doesn’t rule out the possibility of composting - there are indoor options available too!

Compost Bins - Indoors/Outdoors

Options range from a simple garbage can with a lid to automated bins that can process up to 120 pounds of waste each month. Store bought bins made specifically for composting are usually made of bamboo, ceramic, or stainless steel. They should have a tight-fitting lid to generate heat and keep pests out.

Tumblers/Turning Bins - Outdoors

Tumblers are barrels that can be spun to mix the contents within and circulate air. The logic is the same as upright compost bins, but turning the tumblers allows for better aeration and faster decomposition.

Vermicomposting - Indoors

If worms make you squirm, you might want to skip to the next option. With this method, red wriggler worms are placed in a ventilated bin where they break down the organic material quickly without the need for electricity or additives. It’s a highly recommended method for those with little space, as these bins can be placed in small, dark corners like under the sink.

Compost Pile - Outdoors

Anyone with an outdoor space can carve out a little corner for a compost pile. It doesn’t require anything to get started, just the will to collect scraps and throw them in a designated area. Once the pile gets larger, wooden pallets can be used to create walls for aesthetic purposes.

Municipal composting - Indoors

Cities like San Francisco offer free bio-waste collection to its residents. This type of composting is treated just like other methods of recycling and is a great way to reduce waste on a community level.

Donate Waste - Indoors

Those who aren’t ready to make the switch to composting just yet but still want to reduce landfill waste can collect their organic scraps and bring them to a nearby farm, community garden, co-op or farmers market.

Bonus tip: Compost Crocks


Compost crocks are small aerated containers used to conveniently collect scraps indoors before emptying in the main compost heap at the end of each day. There are ceramic versions available that add flair to a home’s decor, and are a good way to make sure the organics get sorted out from other trash. 

After several weeks of composting, the waste should turn into a rich, black humus that can be used to fertilize gardens or houseplants. Just mix it in with the soil and let it grow, let it grow, let it grow!