Start a Traveling Compost Pile

A few hours' worth of compost from the Redwood Tavern in Redwood, N.Y.
Now that I've for two years lived in a place where everything (including disposable plates) is composted, it pains me to travel anywhere—even out to eat—and to consider the amount of wasted food. Nowadays, even if the food at a particular restaurant is no good, or all that's left on the plate is a piece of decorative leafy green, I take it to go and put the leftovers in my compost bin (or feed the food to the chickens, who absolutely loooooove takeout).

For many people working in the food-service industry, there is no compost system in place to deal with food scraps; and in many cases, you're going to have a hard time convincing non-believers of the upside of separating plate refuse into compost and regular trash containers (not that you shouldn't try—you should!). But if you can't get people to join you, why not simply take matters into your own hands?

If you're going to be a weekend guest at a friend's place, or if you take on shifts at your local tavern or eatery, or if a bunch of friends of yours get together to rent a beach house to enjoy these last weeks of summer, consider bringing along a container to stash food scraps in (remember, no dairy, meat or bones!). For those of you trying to create a lot of compost, this is a great way to up your bounty and diversify your biodegradable matter. One night in the kitchen at a restaurant can equal up to a month's worth of compost for someone who lives alone! And again, if you've got chickens, they'll be thrilled at the varied diet you'll be supplying them with.

Composting in new places, and in front of people who don't already compost, is a great way to spread the message of how easy and beneficial the process is. Once a person sees how much food is kept out of a landfill—and, down the line, how much unbelievably rich soil is created—it's hard to avoid making believers out of people.

Nicole Caldwell

Nicole Caldwell is a self-taught environmentalist, green-living savant and sustainability educator with more than a decade of professional writing experience. She is also the co-founder of Better Farm and president of betterArts. Nicole’s work has been featured in Mother Earth News, Reader’s Digest, Time Out New York, and many other publications. Her first book, Better: The Everyday Art of Sustainable Living, is due out this July through New Society Publishers.