Food
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Please help me! I need to compost everywhere

Really, I need your help with this one. I’ve tried many things and can’t find a good solution. It drives me crazy.

In the past I had thought that all those potato peels and apple cores and pasta left overs and strawberry leaves that I’m throwing in the trash are simply composting in the landfill and turn into soil and that’s it. 

My bad!

That actually doesn’t happen. In Landfills my food scraps and your food scraps and everyone else’s food scraps (in total 70+ million tons per year) turn into a toxic cocktail that drips into the ground water and creates a  huge amount of methane, a greenhouse gas that is much worse than CO2. 

The solution for this problem is easy: Composting the food scraps instead of throwing them in the trash can. Through composting the food scraps turn into nutrient rich soil.

While living in a house I was able to figure out a good composting option for our family. Now I’m a full time traveler though, changing locations often, sometimes every other day and we travel with a tiny camping trailer. So we don’t have space. And additionally we’re going to travel through different countries, does that make it more complicated?

We cook a lot and always from scratch so our little kitchen compost bucket fills up fast with onion roots, avocado pits, bits and pieces of food that the kids didn’t finish, things like that.

How do I get this valuable material back to mother earth?

The problem is, that it’s not a common thing to compost. There isn’t a compost pile on every corner next to the trash can. If we’re lucky, there’s maybe a recycling bin and if we’re really lucky it has a sign that says what is actually recyclable in this region.

So, why aren’t there more composting options? Why doesn’t every campground have a compost pile? Or the city at least?

There are all kinds of rumors going on about composting: it’s stinky, it attracts animals, it’s hard work. But in reality if it’s done right, and it’s no magic needed to do it right, non of those bad things will happen.

I’ve asked at most campgrounds if they offered a compost option. One out of 23 campgrounds so far had a compost container at their amazing trash center with all kinds of recycling options: Honeyman State Park Campground. All the others are like ‘Why do you want to compost?’. When I answer ‘It’s good for the environment’ everyone appreciates my effort but unfortunately there is really no composting option.

In the beginning of our journey I had tried bokashi. In short words, for bokashi you add a granulate to your kitchen scraps that pre-composts them, speeds up the process. The problem here is that you still have to get rid of the stuff somehow. You could put it in a compost pile but … daaarn… there is none!

Ok, other alternatives I had evaluated: worms, burying, anonymous drop off:

  • Worms are too slow for us and need a very precise temperature and humidity condition that we can’t offer in our tiny trailer. Also border crossing might be difficult with a couple of pounds of living worms in tow.
  • I’ve buried the content of one kitchen composter bucket in a forest. Giving it right back to nature… Since someone said the best bacteria to digest the material would be in the first 20 inches of soil, I didn’t dig deep. Soon after that I felt bad because forest animals could have smelled it and dug it out again. Human food isn’t good for wild animals. Deer can even die from eating bread. 
  • Anonymous drop off that was only two times and I felt bad about it too. Since I know the location of a community garden compost pile, I went there twice to add our little bit to their pile. I felt bad because I wasn’t officially allowed to do that. I haven’t found compost piles even since.

Composting In A Hole

That’s a big dilemma, isn’t it?

I really want to do the right thing for planet earth! But can’t find composting options.

Please send me your ideas. Is there an app for that like ‘find my compost’ or a website with composting location search or a magical tool that helps with composting much faster? Where should I go? Whom can I ask?

Any idea is very welcome! Please write them in the comments below. I’m in desperate search of a solution and every idea, even the tiniest would be highly appreciated!

 

 

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17 Comments

  1. Same thing happened to me when we were on holidays. I buried and then realised I didn’t bury deep enough. I think it only needs to be 6inches under soil to not be an issue for wildlife or vermon, so I would just dig deeper or keep sneaking compost into other people’s piles wherever they can be found. Am interested to hear from other people about this too.

    • Thinking about it more, I came to the conclusion that there are places that are more ok to bury than others. Like in the middle of a nice forest where everything works together, that’s not a good place. But a piece of grass somewhere, maybe next to a road or field… maybe that’s not much of a problem. And small batches like Colleen said are also a good idea.

      Thanks Tammy. I’m happy I’m not alone with these thoughts.

  2. I would just use the bokashi for the cooked food and bury the fresh fruit and veg bits in small batches. Don’t wait till you have a whole bucket full. Even the bokashi bury in smaller batches. I divide the bucket across 4 holes when I bury it and I mix in a bit of soil before I cover it so it’s not one compacted mass of bokashi waste, and I don’t dig it THAT deep. The food is still recognisable, the second process in the ground is where the action takes place. We have a dog who will eat anything, and he hasnt been digging at all. Whether my suggestion is right or wrong I don’t know. But better than the bin!

    • Small batches are a great idea. I think the bokashi idea was nice in the beginning but I’m not really convinced that it gives me something. I have to get rid of the pieces either way. So why buy bokashi bran (which came in plastic!) and wait 2 weeks till it does something.
      Maybe I need to read more about it to better understand it.

      But better than the bin! Yes! Thanks for that. I get tummy troubles when I see all those people throwing their food scraps in the bin. There is much more education around this topic needed.

  3. Worms are more hearty as long as it’s not freezing or direct sun. I’d try them and see how they work. Seems ideal for your situation.

    • Thanks Kathy! I had a worm bin for a while and they turned out to be way to slow. The small amount of food scraps that they managed to eat up was a tiny fraction of what we actually produce. And we have maybe only two small buckets full per week. Maybe three.

      Also, I’m not sure if I want to explain to the customs guy at the border somewhere in Latin America why we’re transporting worms with us. Or see then flee out of their home into our truck bed *haha*

  4. Lisa says

    Investigate CSAs on your route. Our local CSAs all have community compost piles. I don’t know what your tv is but can you put a small barrel composted in the back? It only takes a few weeks to make soil if you layer and then you just put good soil back. Good luck – you will find a way!!

  5. My compost is in a large (at least half my height and I’m 5’4), plastic composting bin from Gardener’s supply, purchased secondhand at a yardsale. Its huge and I just roll it around in my yard to mix everything. I know it sucks cause it’s plastic but it’s been the best system I’ve found. You could probably DIY one somehow but you just need large air/vent holes, a way to turn the compost, and a large enough hole to put scrap in. The one I have seals and I like I said push it physically around the yard to turn it. It can get pretty heavy but it’s a good workout. I naturally get worms from the large holes but no flies. No animal issues either. I have had neighborhood feral cats gnaw on it to try to get inside, but have not been able to. I can send you a picture of you’d like. One other thing is that is will kill your grass a bit or at least yellow it unless you move it everyday – my bin makes it easy by having days of the week labeled on it for each rotation – for example, I push once Monday and align the bin to Monday. Tuesday, and the rest of the week, same deal. Hope this helps!

    • That won’t work for us. We’re traveling long term with our small camping trailer and a truck. If you want to get a picture of that, check out my other blog: blog.picturingtheamericas.com

      • Ah, I just realized after posting this your situation. My bad! I may have found another solution – farmers always feed their pigs and chickens (maybe more animals too) scraps from the kitchen. If you could find one, maybe a local farm would take your compost from you? I’m not sure how it would work long term but just a thought. Sorry I couldn’t be of more help, best of luck finding a solution!

  6. Krystal says

    Depending on where you are traveling to, you could check in with Whole Foods and see if they would allow you to drop off your compost?

    • That’s a great idea! Thanks a lot Krystal. I’ll send an email to the next Whole Foods we’re passing by and also will ask food co-ops. Some are very close to their local farms.

  7. Perhaps you have a neighbor with a garden and an enclosed compost bin that would accept your food scraps? Here in Boston there’s a compost company called, Bootstrap Compost that goes door to door and picks up people’s bucket full of food scraps, only to drop off a clean one in return. Although, they don’t accept meat or dairy. If only an entrepreneur in PDX would start that….hmmm

    • We’re actually traveling long term with a small camping trailer so neighbors are probably other campers đŸ™‚ If you want to get a better picture of the travel plans check out blog.picturingtheamericas.com

  8. Also feel your pain! This happened to me when I was traveling in Germany — felt bad because I didn’t want it to look like I was littering. I opted to eating fruits with less waste/peels — apple cores and berries were a lot easier to handle and compost in small batches.

    • That’s a good start. We’re cooking a lot though and have two kids, so it’s not really doable for us. It would really be nice if there was a composting network where people can drop off their stuff in other peoples composts đŸ™‚

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