Composting is one of those things I really wanted to try this summer, and just didn’t. My boyfriend is sort of a neat freak, and I was worried the rumored smell and bucket of hot garbage on the balcony would put him over the edge. I was also concerned about the space it might take up – you know, Brooklyn-sized apartment and everything. Of course all of my concerns could have been assuaged with just a little more research. As it turns out, composting is pretty clean, easy, and compact after all.

I recently interviewed Kate Zidar, of  The North Brooklyn Compost Project (NBCP) to find out the whys and hows of composting in our neighborhood. Founded in 2004, the NBCP is a community-based effort that seeks to reduce the amount of waste that ends up in the landfill, as well as improves the soil used in backyards and container gardens around Brooklyn. They are a super organization, and as you will find out, they have a ton of information that will calm your (and my boyfriend’s) worries about composting.

Greenpointers: How does someone start composting?

NBCP: If you have any access to backyard space, starting a pile is easy. You just need a source of “browns” (brown, dry, carbon rich material like shredded newspaper or saw dust)  to layer on top of your “greens” (fresh scraps from the kitchen).  The leaf fall in October is a perfect opportunity to stock pile browns.  To get going, I would recommend a workshop with the city – they are FREE!


Saturday 8/25: Urban Food Waste Workshop @ 3rd Ward (195 Morgan Ave) 10am-1pm, More info


Thursday 8/30: North Brooklyn Compost Project Workshop – email Kate at for more info

If you don’t have any backyard space to use, you can save up your scraps in the freezer and bring them to certain Greenmarkets.

Check out times and locations here:

Greenpointers: What are the benefits of composting for someone who has a sad herb garden on their windowsill and no other outside space? Can they compost indoors?

NBCP: If you don’t have outdoor space, and you are still committed to making your own compost, then vermicomposting is for you. This technique uses red wiggler worms that live in a box and kindly eat your garbage, producing fine, high-quality compost in the form of “castings” (worm poop).  My favorite outlet for vermicomposting materials and education is the Lower East Side Ecology Center.

Greenpointers: What opportunities for community-based composting currently exist in North Brooklyn?

NBCP: Our Greenmarket in McCarren Park offers a drop off location on Saturdays, and hands on composting is happening at many community gardens in the area.  At the NBCP site in McCarren, we are still  cooking up some batches of black gold, but our schedule is more varied since the drop off duties moved over to the Greenmarket.  You can email us at northbrooklyncompost (AT) to get involved.

Greenpointers: What happens in the winter? Are there still opportunities composting?

NBCP: Composting creates its own heat, and many piles will remain active year round. Of course there is always vermicomposting!

Greenpointers: How does composting help the community?

NBCP: The manifesto of the North Brooklyn Composting Project is this –
“Composting is an important alternative to garbage export. Currently, our waste is trucked around the city and exported for landfill or incineration in New Jersey, Virginia, Pennsylvania and so on. The impacts of dealing with garbage this way are felt in communities who live all along these truck routes, transfer stations and disposal sites. Public money is thrown away on polluting the air and wearing down the roads to export thousands of tons of compostable material each day In New York City.

We think it’s a waste, because we know that by composting you get a very valuable product, and spare these negative impacts!

As a soil amendment, compost increases nutrition and moisture available to plants and animals living in the soil. Composting reduces the use of herbicides and chemical fertilizers, helps conserve water, filters pollutants from water, improves soil structure, increases water-holding capacity, and improves disease resistance in plants.”

Greenpointers: What is your favorite thing(s) about composting?

NBCP: I was trained in biology, so my favorite part of composting is actually getting to see the decomposition process, and the insight you get on soil ecology. The act of composting in the community is a really interesting way of meeting like-minded folks in your neighborhood!

You can get in touch North Brooklyn Compost Project’s coordinator Tanya, by emailing northbrooklyncompost (AT)

So, have you been composting? Maybe next year? Tell us all about it!

Join the Conversation


  1. We were devoted users of the NBCP until the McCarren drop off “experiment” started up–now it’s our Sat morning routine to drop the compost before we do our marketing. We use big plastic yogurt containers (not recyclable–boo!) in the freezer all week long. Larger volume stuff like corn husks can go in paper bags, which can go right in the compost along with the organics. My fave part about composting along with diligent recycling is that we can literally go weeks without putting out any “regular” garbage for pickup–hooray!

    1. We started a couple of month ago and store it in the freezer, too. We have been gone the last couple of weekends and our freezer was so full. I love how little garbage we throw away, too or better yet I am obsessed with how much compost we create and imagine it not on a garbage truck and in a landfill. My entire life we had a compost in our yard thanks to my dad!

  2. As a long time believer in the value of composting and one who has composted for many years, I fully support this idea. It not only reduces the amount of garbage that has to be collected but is produces such great soil. It is one of the simplest ways to help out to improve our surroundings.

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