Wednesday, April 21, 2010
In case you're wondering, this is what a crazy environmentalist's freezer looks like, filled with a multiple months worth of food scraps. My alternative to composting is to collect food scraps in the freezer (rather than an open bin, to eliminate worries over mold and smells and fruit flies), and I'm supposed to drop off the bag every week or so at the Union Square Greenmarket on my way to work. However, I never really adjusted to my slightly longer commute after moving last summer, which means I've been lazy and letting bags of fruit and vegetable rinds pile up in our freezer, much to my boyfriemd's chagrin.
Ever since reading Garbage Land by Elizabeth Royte, I have never been able to throw anything in a trash bin without the guilt that it will just pile up on a giant landfill somewhere, never to decompose. Even though a large majority of the trash we produce is organic matter, it is unlikely to actually break down because most landfills have anaerobic conditions that don't permit natural decomposition. For that reason, it is much better to divert food and other organic waste from the waste stream in the first place by composting.
However, I will admit that composting has remained one of those elusive green endeavors that intimidates me. Composting seems to involve spending money on a special structure, or the know-how to build your own. It involves the tricky business of getting the right combination of greens and browns. It can involve worms when done indoors. And I definitely don't want to deal with a compost heap if we do move in a few months. This is why I just collect my food scraps and leave the actual composting to the experts.
New York City doesn't have municipal compost pickup yet like Seattle and San Francisco, but that doesn't mean you're out of luck. If you're not able to compost in your home, you can drop off food scraps with the Lower East Side Ecology Center, which runs a fantastic system near the East River and sells compost and soil back to the public, and several community gardens maintain their own compost bins. This link lists drop off points around Manhattan and Brooklyn, but I'd also check with your local community garden, as I know some are not listed here, such as the North Brooklyn Compost Project. You could also check with friends, who might welcome additions to their own backyard compost bins. And regardless of whether or not you are a New Yorker, the nyc compost project website has some great resources for how to start your own compost pile.
The circle completed itself when I finally lugged all those bags of frozen produce to Union Square during "gardening weekend", and I got a little discount (shhh) for buying compost-enriched soil from LESC at the same time as donating scraps.
I also save money by reusing last year's soil. At the end of fall, I cut off dead stalks and mostly left roots and dirt intact in their pots in storage over winter. Come spring, many of the roots had decomposed, and I was able to use this soil, mixed half and half with fresh soil from LESEC for this year's gardening. My plants are all doing fine so far, so I think this method is sufficient in nutrients. So there, I guess I am starting to learn some gardening tricks!
UPDATE: There is a new food scrap drop off site in Brooklyn. Evoluntionary Organics at the Saturday Grand Army Plaza Greenmarket is now accepting food scraps for composting, starting this Saturday, May 1. They ask for a $1 donation each time you drop off to cover their costs involved in transport back to their farm in New Paltz and large scale composting. I'm so glad I won't have to schlep bags on the subway anymore. Hurray!