For about 3 years now, I have had a worm bin for composting. That doesn’t sound very vegan, does it? Haha. In fact, composting is extremely vegan-friendly, as it makes me be able to replace manure. Due to composting, I am able to turn compostable items (like food scraps, cardboard and garden waste) into a fertilizer. This fertilizer I can use for my plants. Or a garden if you have one (I do not at this moment). Today I want to tell you all about composting.
There are three reasons why I compost. The first is to live a zero waste lifestyle. In this lifestyle you try to turn waste into something else, always. Waste is simply non-existing. With composting you can turn a part of your waste into a new resource. It helps us as a society move towards a circular economy.
The second reason is to cut emissions. When you put your compostable waste into landfill, it creates emissions, which in return speeds up climate change. When compostable waste is in landfill, with all other sorts of non-compostable waste, it suffocates. This causes the compostable waste to release methane, a very powerful greenhouse gas. And after it has been suffocated in landfill, it is burned. That’s what we do with non-recyclable waste in The Netherlands. Yes, we use the gas that is created with the burning of waste as energy. But still, when we use that gas for energy, we burn it. And so that creates emissions.
There is one more reason why I compost. That has to do with veganism, like I said in the beginning. Even if you follow a 100% plant-based diet, you still use this animal product: manure. Manure is used to grow our vegetables, beans, nuts, fruits and more (unless you buy special no-shit food, more about that another time). I simply don’t want that, I don’t want to support farmers that kill animals, in no way. But these farmers sell the manure from their animals as a rest-product to vegetable farmers (even bio-dynamic farmers). I buy from those bio-dynamic farmers, so I also support these farmers that I don’t want to support. Even if that’s directly.
Compost is a vegan alternative to manure. So if I create my own compost with a worm bin or compost pile and use that to grow my own food or to feed my plants, I don’t support the animal agricultural industry.
Composting with a pile
So far, I have found two zero waste forms of composting: with a simple pile or a worm bin (there is also the bokashi bucket, but that’s not entirely zero waste). Let me start with the first option: a pile. If you have a garden, you can create a special place where you can compost. Most people built some sort of wooden box (with the top open), but that’s not even a must. You can also just have a pile. There are three things important if you do this pile or box. One is that you have to turn it every six weeks, so that it gets enough air. Like I said, suffocation is not good. The second is that is shouldn’t get to dry or moist. The best place for it is under a tree (not under a roof or in the open air).
And three is that the waste should be varied. Not only kitchen scraps (which are quite wet), but also enough leaves and cardboard. After some time, your pile turns into fertile new soil.
Composting with a worm bin
If you don’t have a big garden, composting with a worm bin is a great second option. This is the option I’ve had for three years now, as I don’t have a garden. I do not have a worm bin myself. I’ve tried that as well, it just didn’t work so well. For three years now, I have shared a worm bin with my neighbors (and I have moved in the meantime). With this system, you have one or multiple big worm bins in your neighborhood. Anyone can join. You just collect your compostable waste at home and then bring it to the shared worm bin once in a while (we do this once a week).
The worms in the worm bin eat the compostable waste and turn it into fertile soil. Simple as that. The worms make sure the compostable waste doesn’t suffocate as they keep it moving and create air. So, when the worm bin is full (with us, that’s once every year or two) you can collect fertile soil and use it for your garden or plants. It really is quite simple this way.
How to find a worm bin
The website from Wormenhotels in The Netherlands used to have a free oversight over where the worm bins are located, but you now have to pay 1 euro per week to be a part of the community. I am lucky because we have free worm bins where I live. I guess you just have to do a little research to find them. And then there’s also always the option of contacting your local government to see if they know where the worm bins are or starting one yourself with your neighbors.
What is compostable?
If you live a vegan lifestyle, almost all compostable waste you have can go in into compost. That to me proves that veganism is the only sustainable option. If you eat meat or cheese, there’s no sustainable way to process all the bones and other waste from those products. But all unprocessed vegan products, you actually can compost.
Here’s the list of what you can compost:
- All vegetable scraps (with citrus fruits or potato skins this is only the case if they’re organic, which also says a lot!)
- Dredge (unless it comes from a zinc gutter or pond)
- Shells from nuts
- Egg shells
- Fine chopped wood
- Coffee grounds
- Poop from herbivorous pets (if the animal eats meat, this is not possible)
- Earth or sand
- Flowers or plants
Here’s a list what you can not compost:
- Cooked food (that’s why we should prevent food waste)
- Cheese or crusts of cheese
- Cat litter pellets
- Dust or anything from your vacuum cleaner
- Fat or oil
- Sick plants
- And all other obvious things like metal and plastic