Dinner with a Side of Garbage

This simple bowl helps me remember to compost.

Over by the fence, I’ve got a little compost pile (or, if you’d rather, a “’possum buffet”), where I toss veggie scraps, leaves, branches, leftover bits of potting soil, handfuls of deadheaded blossoms, and whatever else I happen to be hauling around. It’s pretty much hidden from view, so this year I decided to challenge myself to compost everything I can. See, sometimes I get in a hurry, and before I realize it I’ve tossed the cutting board scraps into the trash, or cleaned out the pantry and slam-dunked an old loaf of bread still in the wrapper. I try to remember, but I’m a person who likes systems, and this was a project in need of a system.

A side dish of garbage!

Habits are hard to break, but in my house I’m finally making some progress by introducing a new dish to the work island: the Garbage Bowl. It’s a big, old stainless-steel bowl whose sole purpose is to catch compostable scraps – if I’m chopping veggies for soup, the entire veggie gets chopped, and the good parts get scooped into the soup pot, and the peelings get raked into the garbage bowl.

Nothing goes into the trash, and my obsessive-compulsive brain loves the sight of the two neat bowls, one with garbage, and the other with dinner. In addition, thanks to the garbage bowl, I finally have a place to drop a gooey eggshell, to dump the coffee filter, and to toss my tea bag, all tasks – by the way – that normally leave a drippy mess on the way to the trash bin.

The garbage bowl is a very simple solution that reminds me that I can compost a lot more than I think I can – it’s made all the difference in the kitchen. And in addition to convenience, the garbage bowl has a couple of other wonderful qualities: 1) it’s ugly and 2) it stinks.

Those qualities work together to remind me to EMPTY the garbage bowl every day, and as it turns out, actually putting the scraps into the compost pile is a critical step toward making compost! I’m not sure how my neighbors feel about it, but I’m coming to love the satisfying whang! of knocking that steel bowl against the tree to dislodge the coffee grounds, and I love watching the scraps turning into earth for the garden. The system is working!


  1. I have a garbage bowl that I use exactly the same way. But, I don’t compost. I need to take a lesson from you! I just use it to make like more convenient & clean and to avoid multiple trips over to the garbage can. I’ll have to work on that!


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