As the son of hippie parents, I grew up throwing our dinner scraps into a compost pile in the backyard or feeding them to our chickens. Things changed after I left home. During my twenties and most of my thirties, I found myself too distracted and lazy to deal with waste, so everything went in the trash. I grimaced every time I tossed leftovers but never did anything about it.
Then I came across the Countertop Composter ($40). The container’s sleek design caught my eye, because it doesn’t look like a small trash can filled with old eggshells and rotting vegetable bits. Thanks to two built-in carbon filters, it never stinks, even if food has been sitting in it for days. Made entirely from bamboo, it can go in the dishwasher when it gets dirty, and the handle makes for easy transport.
Once I started using this bin, I looked up some stats about composting to remind myself why such an easy thing can make a big difference. The list is long, but one fact in particular jumped out: food remains make up nearly 30 percent of all landfill waste, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. By composting, you can keep your share of rubbish from letting off methane—a greenhouse gas—while it sits at the dump. (Your waste will still decompose in a landfill but generally at a much slower rate compared to already composted material.) When you spread rich compost in your yard, it replenishes healthy bacteria and keeps you from needing synthetic chemical fertilizers. As a side benefit, this process tamps down the smell of your trash.
Once you start collecting scraps in a container like the Countertop Composter, you have to find a place for a permanent compost pile. Usually, this takes the form of a bigger bin or heap in the ground where your refuse can decompose. There are hundreds of online articles that will help you choose the right spot or container and then walk you through the steps needed to create a healthy pile. It requires some work at first, but as I found out growing up, it’s easy to maintain once you have it going.
If you don’t want to start a compost pile, your other option is to find a neighbor with chickens. My mom still collects all her scraps, saves them in a plastic bag or ceramic jar (I’m going to buy her one of these bins), and walks them up to her neighbor’s house a few times each week. His chickens feast, and in return, my mom gets a dozen farm-to-table, cage-free eggs with lovely yellow-orange yolks every week or so. I’d call that a good deal.