Outdoors & Recreation
by Jeremy Lehrer, 12/15/2008
So you've made a New Year's resolution to reduce your carbon footprint. How are you going to do it? You already take mass transit. You've switched your lightbulbs to energy-efficient models. And you always bring a canvas bag with you to the supermarket. Well, you can cut down your carbon dioxide emissions, decrease the amount of waste you're producing and connect with Mother Earth by composting at home.
Composting is the magic by which plant matter and foodstuffs—fruit rinds, carrot tops, coffee grinds, tea bags and apple cores, to name just a few—are transformed into a nutrient-rich soil. This homemade, 100% natural "black gold" is profoundly beneficial for plants of all varieties, from the tomatoes on your fire escape to the prized jade plant in your living room.
If you're an apartment dweller and slightly intimidated by the prospect of a worm bin, don't sweat it—it's easy to compost indoors or outdoors in New York City. The Lower East Side Ecology Center in Manhattan and the compost projects at each of the City's four botanical gardens offer classes that cover everything you need to know to get your compost bin up and running.
A calendar of workshops and compost-related events can be found on the New York City Compost Project's website, which also provides information on purchasing discounted bins. After you've begun composting, assistance is close at hand: each of the borough's compost projects has a help line you can call with questions and concerns.
An indoor worm bin is also a great way for parents and teachers to educate children about environmental issues. Not only do kids learn responsibility by taking care of the worms, they discover how to live more lightly and witness the magic of the biological life cycle firsthand, as food "waste" turns into soil.
Even if you aren't ready to compost at home, there's no need to throw away your food scraps. You can save them in the freezer or fridge and then take them to the Lower East Side Ecology Center's compostables drop-off site at the Union Square Greenmarket Farmers Market (8am - 5pm on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday).
Worms Eat My Garbage (the classic guide to composting with worms) by Mary Appelhof
Easy Compost: The Secret to Great Soil and Spectacular Plants by Brooklyn Botanic Garden and Beth Hanson
The New York City Compost Project
Lower East Side Ecology Center
Bronx Green-Up at the New York Botanical Garden
Queens Compost Project at Queens Botanical Garden
Brooklyn Compost Project at Brooklyn Botanic Garden
Staten Island Compost Project at Snug Harbor Cultural Center and Staten Island Botanical Garden
Union Square Greenmarket Farmers Market (where the Lower East Side Ecology Center operates its compostables drop-off and sells finished compost)