I wish I can say that compost is glamorous—but it's not and it never was. However, it makes common sense and it's relatively easy to do almost no matter where you are. And as I've learned, if you don't have composting in your city (or at least want more convenient access to it), then get off your duff and do something about it!
If you're interested in composting then stick around because I'll be doing a 3-part 6-segment series on it over the next two weeks. A future post will be on Vermicomposting in the home. I love composting with worms, but as you may have conjectured, I have a FAR bigger appetite (and therefore more food) than my little wormies can handle, which means I have excess compost that I need to process. NYC makes it moderately easy for people to compost—and they're improving—slowly.
A few years ago, the Department of Sanitation (DOS) rolled out a Curbside Organics Pickup Program, which currently serves approximately 270,000 households in all five boroughs. When I first heard that the program was in neighboring Greenpoint, I admittedly got a little jealous. So jealous that it made me want to spring to action, so I called up Ron Gonen, who served under Mayor Bloomberg and was partially responsible for rolling out the program. I asked what I could do to help facilitate curbside pickup in my neighborhood more quickly and he suggested getting signatures and presenting to my Assemblyman, which I thought was easy enough.
I decided to do an online petition and old school style door-to-door knocking, which I know can be a little sketchy in a city like New York. I also went to the greenmarket and all the local parks that have popped up in Williamsburg, including North Brooklyn Farms, because I figured people who would like to compost, could likely be found in green spaces and farmers markets. All-in-all, I was able to collect around 200 signatures over the course of 4 hours. An unexpected benefit to the whole activity was that I got to meet a whole bunch of neighbors, including some folks that I've lived across the road from for over a decade and whom I never had the pleasure of meeting—until I went petitioning.
This particular activity was quite significant for me because it was the first time that I felt like I was a real citizen of my local community. Oftentimes, particularly in New York, we move from neighborhood to neighborhood and never plant roots, so to speak. As I was knocking on neighbors' doors, I began to realize that I cared deeply about the issues affecting the area—and that I wanted to create the community that I wished to live in. Sure, it's easy to style your home in a sort of way to meet your lifestyle preferences, but can you say the same about your community?
Let me first say that if you've ever felt this way and wanted to get something passed in your neighborhood—or even your state—make it a point to find out who your local Assemblyman or woman is. In my case, it's Joe Lentol, and he's really the bomb dot com. I was able to pass the signatures onto Joe's team and also the DOS. Joe's office quickly responded by initiating a meeting between a couple members of the community and the Department of Sanitation, where we got to discuss some of the operational hurdles of expanding into particular areas so quickly. I also learned some of challenges of curbside composting in general—from the city's perspective. All-in-all, Curbside Organics Pickup is continuing to expand in NYC and will roll out in all areas by 2018. (Map of rollout can be found here). If you're already in one of their composting zones and don't have a bin, you can request one here.
Our bins rolled out officially last month—on May 1st. However, if you're like some of my friends who are still patiently waiting for that brown plastic bin, then you can drop off your compost weekly at your farmers market or other location, which you can find here. I personally go to McCarren Park Greenmarket on Saturdays to do a drop-off and shop, but you may be wondering where I store my compost in the meantime! Well, I freeze it. Firstly, I don't have much in my freezer to begin with—aside for some frozen broth, fruits and veggies—so I just stuff brown paper shopping bags full of plant and food waste. Storing in the freezer is perfect because it ensures that the compost never stinks.
Since I cook A LOT, however, I needed a better, more efficient solution getting my food waste from my chopping board to the bag in my freezer. One solution, suggested by a friend of mine, was to make a small cut in my countertop, left of my chopping board and have a small compost basket that I can easily shuffle the waste to. Once I'm finished, I would easily be able to shuttle the food waste to the bags, without dropping anything on the floor. It took me a little convincing to do this. Slicing off even a few inches of your already small food prep area can seem quite damning, but I have to say—it was the best kitchen amendment I've made so far.
I'll show you how it works in a future Plant One On Me video in case you need a little DIY home inspo to making your cooking-composting process a little easier, so be sure to subscribe to the YouTube Channel. I do a new episode every week on Thursdays!
Happy composting! 🌿