Friday, April 18, 2008


My friends in New Zealand introduced me to bokashi, a system of composting food waste that has been used in Japan for a long time. It's not very common here, so I had a hard time finding bokashi and ended up ordering it online from The bokashi that you buy (or make) is made from wheat bran innoculated with microbes. You throw your food vegetable scraps in a bucket and put a handful of the bokashi on top. When the bucket is full, you wait a couple of weeks and then bury the contents of the bucket in your garden.

This is a really easy system... if you have a yard. However, my apartment is surrounded completely by concrete- there isn't a single bit of green space on the lot. What could I do with the bokashi?

I'm going to feed it to red worms for vermicomposting. I searched and search but didn't find any examples online of people in apartments feeding their bokashi to their worms, but I'm going to give it a shot.

First I'll tell you how I set up the bokashi buckets. You can buy a specially made bokashi composter that looks nice on your counter, but it's also $50-90. I wanted a more economical option. My friend in New Zealand said we could use nested buckets instead, so I set about acquiring buckets.

Sometimes you can get free buckets from the grocery store, particularly the bakery. After a few weeks of asking at my local grocery, I found out that an employee there takes them home so I was likely to be waiting for a while. I decided to buy some buckets, but if you can reuse buckets for this purpose good on ya.

I bought four ?-gallon buckets and two bucket lids from Home Depot. I think it all cost under $10 total. I drilled holes in the bottom of two of the buckets and nested them inside the two buckets without holes. The holes on the top bucket allow the excess water from the food and bokashi to drain. I set it up in early March.

I keep one pair of buckets under the kitchen sink and add vegetable scraps with a handful of bokashi. I've decided to avoid putting in citrus and banana peels for the time being since they take longer to break down. If I find out later that my system can handle it I'll start composting those too.

In the winter we don't have much produce so it took us several weeks to fill the first bucket (especially since we were excluding citrus). Soon I'll be transfering the full bucket of bokashi to my worm bin and we'll see what they think of it!

Sunday, April 6, 2008

About the author

I moved to Chicago in August 2007 to begin graduate school at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC). I live in Pilsen, a neighborhood just south of UIC on the lower west side, with my partner and fiance Matt in a two-bedroom apartment (I haven't calculated the square footage but I think it is 800-900 square feet). Neither one of us owns a car. Shortly after we moved to Chicago, we both purchased bikes from Working Bikes and became commuter cyclists. I bike barely over a mile to get to UIC each day, but I do bike every day, even in the zero degree winter with negative windchill as long as the roads are clear. I'm still kind of intimidated by biking in the city, especially downtown, so if I have to go more than a few miles I take CTA buses or trains.

We try to get things second hand when at all possible, and are serious fans of craigslist for that purpose. We generally eat low on the food chain (I'm vegetarian) and just recently started bokashi and vermicomposting our food waste (more on this later). We eat some organic and some local food but it isn't a majority of our diet. This summer I'm really looking forward to planting some window boxes with flowers, herbs, and hopefully a few vegetables. We have no unpaved ground whatsoever around our apartment, so container gardening is the only option.

My interest in environmental issues and my personal environmental impact started in childhood as a passion for nature, animals, and the outdoors. I read 50 Simple Things Kids Can Do To Save the Planet when I was about 10 and I've been trying to do more ever since. I love reading about other people's journeys towards sustainability and the choices they make, so I thought I'd share my own.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Let's get this blog started!

I've been wanting to start this blog for a long time. My plan is to share how I try to reduce my ecological footprint in my everyday life choices in Chicago. Eventually (once people actually start reading this blog), I hope that readers will comment and share their actions, ideas, and questions.

This blog will be personal in nature, as an illustration of what is possible through one person's choices. Everyone has different circumstances, so take from my experience what you will. I also intend to write about issues related to green living in Chicago, such as public transportation and infrastructure.

Welcome to Living Green in Chicago!