Composting in the Office
January 5, 2012 4 Comments
I’ve been composting some of my household garbage most of my life. At work, though, I had been putting compostable items in the wastebasket because there isn’t a compost bin in my office building.
Then one day in early November, I was setting my office wastebasket outside the door for the cleaning people to empty. I do this only every few weeks because I discard very little during my workday. I was astonished to notice just how many used teabags were in my wastebasket . . . and most of the rest of my trash was dead leaves from the plants on my windowsill, plus a few paper napkins . . . the only non-biodegradable items were a couple of pieces of clear plastic torn off the tops of the frozen meals I eat when I don’t have any leftovers to bring for lunch. That got me thinking: Would it really be so difficult to bring home my compost?
The very next day, somebody tossed a big plastic canister from Folgers coffee, complete with its snap-tight plastic lid, into the can-and-bottle recycling bin in the office kitchen. I nabbed it. I set it on the floor between my wastebasket and the wall, with the lid off and stashed underneath it.
Now I toss into that plastic canister all of my used teabags (most are the tagless type; when I have one with a tag stapled on, I cut off the staple part and put that in the trash), everything shed by my plants, paper napkins unless they were used to erase the whiteboard (I don’t know what dry-erase ink is made from, but it can’t be natural!), apple cores, banana peels, and so on.
It took me about six weeks to fill the canister. There was no odor. (There might be if I put in a fruit core or peel every day. Since I eat those fruits in my lunch infrequently, it seems the scraps are able to dry in the open container and not cause odor.) When it was full, I simply snapped on the lid and put it into my bag. I emptied it into the compost bin in my back yard and brought it back to work. Painless!
Meanwhile, in two full months I have put out my wastebasket once, and it was only half full! I needed it emptied after the Employee Holiday Feast because I had thrown away a glob of fatty chicken skin (yes, I do eat chicken on Feast day–the vegetarian entree Feast Unit is a horrible lasagna; carrots and celery do not belong in lasagna!!) and I knew that would begin to smell bad.
What about coffee grounds? I make coffee in a percolator at work almost every day, but I’ve usually spooned the grounds into my plants’ pots to make them perky and keep their roots covered until the next repotting. (They are spider plants; they seem to eat dirt!) When all the plant pots are full, I now put the grounds into my compost bin instead of the garbage. Again, the open top allows them to dry so they don’t get moldy.
The one thing I haven’t yet trained myself to do is to carry my paper towels from the restroom back to my office compost bin. I’ve remembered to do that only a few times. Of course, if I did it all the time, the bin would fill more quickly and have a high ratio of “browns” (paper and dead leaves) to “greens” (food). I’d love not to be using paper towels at all! But I’m not allowed to hang a cloth towel in the restroom, and carrying one from my office every time would be really awkward. (I do use cloth towels to dry my office dishes.)
If you work outside the home, try collecting and bringing home your compostable trash! I’m amazed at how easy it is.