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Winter Composting

So here's the good news: More Canadian households are composting these days.
2006: 27% of households
1994: 23% of households

(source: Households and Environment Survey)

Then again, 4% in 12 years isn't exactly a leap forward. So what's holding us back? Actually, that would be us... as in Quebeckers. We're one of the provinces with the lowest numbers for winter composting. Makes sense if you think about it:
Brutal winters + Mucho snow = Low winter composting rates

So how do we boost those numbers? Actually, it's easier than you'd think.

1. Clear the path to the compost bin
Make sure the bin is in an accessible and regularly de-snowed area. Moving a compost bin is no piece of cake, so you might instead consider modifying your shoveling habits.

2. Harvest your compost: At the end of fall, it's a good idea to harvest your compost. You can lay it down over your garden as you winterize, or put it in household plants. This will create space in your bin for the winter when composting occurs at a much slower rate. Anything that's not ready can be tossed back in the bin.

3. Create a leaf stash:
The number one problem that badly maintained composts run into is a lack of brown material (dried leaves, twigs, etc). Alternating layers of brown material and kitchen waste helps keep the air moving so degradation is speeded up. In the winter, dried leaves are usually in short supply. Not so in the fall. So, on a dry day, collect a bunch of leaves and twigs and put them in a big bin with a lid. Then, throughout the winter, use the brown material as a sort of "flush" each time you put in kitchen waste. This will keep the layering healthy and your compost breathing. By the way, all your dried, dead annuals and grass clippings are great as brown material.

4. Get a bigger bin:
Those of us with outdoor composts might find it useful to have a nice indoor collection bin so that we only have to go to the compost outdoors once or twice a week. You can also get handy compostable bin liners to make it all less messy. Try and check that the liners are compostable in a backyard compost though (some only break down in industrial facilities).

5. Get worms: Don't say eeww! It's really not that gross. Really, for real. If you simply can't imagine tramping out in the winter every time you have kitchen scraps, just move the composter indoors... i.e. get a vermicompost. There are many organizations in the city that will help you set one up. Among them, Sustainable Concordia.
Their contact details are:
1257 Guy Street, BE-370, Montreal, Quebec, H3G 1N2
Telephone: +1.514.848.2424 ext. 5829

If you're in NDG, I know that you can get help at Co-op La Maison Verte

And finally, if you live on the Plateau, you'll probably be able to get at least advice at either Santropol Roulant or Alternatives.

Oh, and if you have a little cash to spare, check out this baby:

It's an indoor composter that uses electricity (not much though: apparently just $1's worth a year) to heat and aerate compost so it degrades faster and without odour. You can read more on this awesome green blog by fellow Montrealers and eco-warrier, Carmen.

And finally, I want to hear from you: What's preventing you from composting during the winter. Write me and perhaps together we can find a solution. You can also call our talkback line: (514) 597-5626

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Comments (2)

K Moon


Great tips! I am vermi-composting this winter. Very easy for sure and you get a big reduction in garbage waste. Us vermies should spread the word by sharing our red wigglers and advice. I wish the city took notice and started compost pickup!!

Posted November 14, 2008 06:55 PM



Hi Geeta,
What has kept me and other people I know from composting was a lack of a backyard, for those of us who live in a condo. I've heard you can put the compost into house plants but I'm sure there'll be more compost left over. Any suggestions for apartment owners?

Posted November 14, 2008 10:20 PM

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