Discover more from The Rot
How to build a compost anywhere (kind of)
Plus: what I really think of the Lomi Home Composter
I get about four texts a day from people asking me about the Lomi Home Composter. At first, I played along and pretended it seemed nice. But the more texts I’ve received, the more I’ve felt compelled to take a more truthful, public stance on this device. (Plus, I’m starting to feel like they’re ad-targeting my followers.)
I hate the Lomi Home Composter.
Beyond that, I think the Lomi Home Composter actively undermines every good thing that should come from building and running your own compost pile. Their marketing campaigns are premised on how “gross” and “smelly” food waste is, the device itself is made of plastic (!), and they cost $500 to own. (In case you missed it, no compost pile really needs to cost anything beyond “free.”)
Here’s how Lomi advertises its value:
Messaging like this deserves a special place in hell, right next to the English garden aesthetic. Both things are “natural” practices that are anti-nature in execution, routinely refuting basic ecological principles in favor of unreachable and environmentally-unfriendly standards of cleanliness. Not only do I find this annoying, but I consider it philosophical pollution. If we plan to have a reasonable and sustainable future on this planet, we’re going to have to get comfortable with how waste and decay work, and make space for them to do so properly.
Plus, my food scraps aren’t gross. In fact, I think they’re kind of pretty.
Of course, clumsy advertising is a nuanced and potentially forgivable offense. I would not expect many other people to reject Lomi based on such admittedly lofty grounds. What I really can’t forgive them for is that their machine is made of plastic. I do not care that it’s “biodegradable” plastic, because I don’t really believe in biodegradable plastic. Whether or not this product is authentically recyclable is meaningless, though, because it’s completely unnecessary to make a compost container from any form of plastic at all. Particularly newly-bought plastic. This is a “solution” for a problem that does not exist.
It also costs $500.
Let me write that out one more time: five. hundred. dollars.
That makes me laugh out loud until my eyes start bleeding live wasps. No compost container has to cost more than zero dollars. You can make a slightly better compost container if you’re willing to spend between ten and twenty dollars, and an even better one if you’re willing to go up to fifty. On top of that, most of the materials required to build a bin can be sourced from asking around, or (if you live in a house), your basement.
A couple of weeks ago, one of my favorite readers asked a simple question:
“Can you please send out a compost design that I can do for the $10 in materials? I probably have all the materials. Would love to see the sketch of what it should look like!”
There are different ideal compost structures based on different situations. For many people, the Lomi seems like a nice solution to having very little space, perhaps because you live in a small apartment in a very big city. I understand that. However, the Rodale Book of Composting (cost: $5) outlines a very handy, single bag method for apartment composting.
The one ingredient you may have to buy is alfalfa meal ($10). You can also put your scraps in the freezer, and then take them to a local compost drop-off at your convenience. (Free.)
If you have a small yard and sensitive neighbors, here are a few items you can make your compost more discrete with:
A trash can, with the bottom cut out.
A hole you have dug, and will cover over with leaves.
A tarp, that you weigh down on the sides with old bricks.
If you have a large amount of land in upstate New York, as I know that Noah does, your options expand—but do not have to get much more expensive. Personally, I love the open-air pile. One of my favorites is called the “wandering” compost, which migrates slowly around the yard as you add fresh materials to the front end, and allow the back end to “mature.” When the compost is finished, you just slice it off the back (while continuing to add to the front).
Total cost: $0.
If you want a little more structure, you can make a simple bin system using old bricks or cinder blocks. Stack them into a square-shaped perimeter, about two blocks deep and five wide. You can build two of these squares next to each other, so that you have one for new compost and another for older, maturing compost. Total cost, presuming this takes about 20 cinderblocks and you have to buy them new: $20. If you’re worried about wild animals, you can lash some chicken wire over the top, which will put you back another $10 to $15. Grand total: $35.
You can also simply stake out a circle of chicken wire, about four feet high. This is good for making sure pet dogs don’t get in and rummage around. It will not keep out chickens, but that’s fine, because chickens are helpful compost aeration tools, as they scratch around searching for bugs to nibble. Total cost, including some stakes: $20.
You can also do trench composting, which is helpful if you live in cold climates. A trench compost is made by digging a long trench straight into the ground and then filling it with your yard waste and food scraps. When you’re done, cover it over with earth or dead leaves. Trench composts can self-insulate more easily because they’re buried in the ground, and thus stay warmer through cold temperatures. You can go a step further in protecting them from the weather by finding or buying some corrugated tin roofing, and sort of propping it over the trench, but that is certainly not required. Total cost: ~$0.
The most classic outdoor compost structure is the three-bin system, built out of old pallets and chicken wire—with a front of removable single wood slats, for loading and turning, and a lid that closes if you live in a place with (say) bears. A lot of local businesses, particularly garden supply stores, will be happy to give away pallets to you. Ask around. You can also buy them new for about $15 each. A roll of chicken wire will cost you about the same. That said, I don’t want to understate how uniquely difficult wildlife can make running a compost. Bears are really strong, and if they want in somewhere, chances are that they’ll get their way. Building an authentically “bear-proof” compost is potentially a much more expensive endeavor. I empower you to make your own choices.
A lot of these are more expensive than specifically $10, which was my promise to Noah, but they’re still all a lot cheaper than $500.
Don’t buy Lomi. Sorry, Noah.