Don’s Way of Living Green

I’m pretty pleased with myself ever since we moved to this new place.

The first thing that struck me was that I could have my own organic composting area. In my previous apartment, we didn’t have space at all so putting 10 pots on the balcony was simply out of the question.

Now that I have a bit of garden space, we’ve reduced the amount of rubbish we throw away each day.

We do this because we compost our organic materials.

I first learnt this technique from Don who teaches people how to recycle easily and successfully without much hassle.

When I think of traditional composting, I think of smell! It would stink to high heaven, right? And attract flies and ants. And maybe even birds!

Don rubbished my fears. He showed me his 10-pot system, a system that’s so simple yet works so beautifully it’s hard to believe! (See below for the link to the method).

So I am trying it out.

First you need a container to store your food scraps of the day. You only compost it at the end of the day so you ‘collect’ them first. I bought my clay container from a crockery shop in Carnavon Street for RM13. It is usually used to store salt (or in some hawker stalls, to store sauces for cooking) but I use mine to store food scraps (veggie peel, fruit peel, fish bones, chicken bones, anything you’ve eaten etc). Here’s how mine looks like:

A traditional Chinese salt container made of clay is used as a food scrap container

A traditional Chinese salt container made of clay is used as a food scrap container

As it has a heavy clay lid, I don’t have to worry about Margaret getting her fat paws into it or the scraps stinking all day.

This clay pot is also glazed on the inside so you can easily wash off oil and grease with soap and water. This pot is about 9 inches tall and sits next to my sink.

I toss all sorts of stuff into this – garlic skin, vegetable peel, fruit peel, stale bread, cooked leftovers, fish bones, chicken bones, lala shells, leftover rice.

Basically anything that you can eat, you can compost.

Next you need 10 pots of about 12 to 14 inches in diameter. Any cheap clay pots would do. We bought these for RM5 apiece in the local nursery as they were a bit chipped and cracked.

10 pots for composting

My 10 blue pots for composting...sue me, I

And then go here for the full instructions on how to compost. We usually compost the scraps at night, once dinner is done. So 1 pot should last you 3 days before you move on to pot #2.

In case you have a large family, go get bigger pots. (It’s only Nic and me but then again sometimes we eat a lot so we have a mountain of food scraps!)

I’m now filling up the 5th pot already. By the time I’ve filled the 10th pot, I should be able to go and dig the 1st pot and find all the food scraps disintegrated into fresh, rich soil.

Which I can use to grow the plethora of herbs I’ve been meaning to.

Which also means, my regular rubbish bin isn’t overflowing with stinky rubbish. It’s just mostly plastic wrappers which cannot be recycled.

Underneath my sink, I’ve put a collection container for recyclables such as glass bottles, plastic bottles, newspaper, cardboard and tins. These go to the nearest recycling centre every once a month. The nearest centre I go to is the SIMA Handicapped Centre just off the Jalan Tengku Kudin roundabout. Our ‘junk’ actually helps the disabled earn their living.

I always like dropping off my recyclables (they also take in usable household items like clothes and furniture) because the disabled are always so appreciative of the things you give. They light up with their innocent and generous smiles and never fail to thank you with a friendly wave.

If you have a small plot of garden, do try this system of composting. I assure you, if you follow Don’s method to the book, you won’t be smelling your food scraps.

Imagine if all of us who can do this are doing this – how much we can save in terms of landfill space and how much less leachate will seep into our rivers and seas. That’s why I say I am proud to be creating so little rubbish for the rubbish truck!

15 replies
  1. Grace
    Grace says:

    Hi Kirsta and Happy New Year to you! Thank you for the tips on how to compost, it has been on the back of my mind to do so but I haven’t gotten around to doing it. Part of it is due to the fact that it snows here and also, we have a steeply sloping back yard which becomes slushy and sometimes flooded when it rains. However, I’d have to say that living here, I am shocked at how much disposables the Americans use – so much plastic in food wraps. Even when we go to restaurants, we get food in plastic bowls or plates so they don’t have to wash up – this is eating in as well! Good on you for doing your part! I will certainly be bookmarking this post so I can come back to it in about 7 months’ time when we are in another house.

    Reply
    • Maya
      Maya says:

      Hi Grace: It’s really lovely to hear from you! How is life in the States? Yeah I’ve often wondered at the amount of rubbish Americans throw out especially when I watch cooking shows on TV which feature American chefs. Every ingredient seems to be packaged a gazillion times and need to be unwrapped so many times. I do hope you can teach the Americans how to compost haha. Takes an Asian to go over there and teach them how to live a greener life.

      Reply
  2. Grace
    Grace says:

    It’s getting better, thanks, Kirsta. It was a shocker at first but now, we are getting into the swing of things.
    I was invited to a friend’s place for dinner and they had all the food scraps – meat, vegetables etc put into the sink and the “insinkerator” – a blender inside the sink just breaks down the food pieces into smaller chunks and it goes into the sewers! I was totally shocked but maybe they have good ways of filtering all of that later. We have one in our house but we never use it and we pour our oils outside the house onto the ground. Maybe I am doing something so “ulu!”

    Reply
    • Maya
      Maya says:

      Grace: You are not ulu. You are probably a lot smarter than them. Ah yes, the sink grinding machine. I saw that once. Never been a fan. I was thinking if the ground up food can be taken out and composted, but the salesman said that there’s no need to do that. The food just goes into your drains! Yuck. I heard in the US they recycle cooking oil as car fuel? Maybe not so widespread yet. As for cooking oil, I also have the same problem. I sometimes don’t know what to do with it. Don suggested I collect used oil and give to him as his friend uses them to produce soap. I even thought of composting Margaret’s cat poo but then I read it isn’t that safe as cat poo is more dangerous than dog poo. Btw, if you can, I heard of a movie called The Age of Stupid which is about environment and how we can change what we do now for a better future. Watch it if you can.

      Reply
  3. Elaine
    Elaine says:

    Hi, i just found your blog, which i was googling what to do with chinese root ‘wai san’ and eventually read your 10-pots composting. I have been meaning to compost my food scraps, the setback is i live in a rather small apartment, so your pots compost is very helpful and convincing to help me get started to green the earth. My dream is to grow my own food ie vegetables, fruits, etc 🙂 I was borned in Penang too, but now living in PJ, hope to meet you one day! 🙂 Keep up your blog! it is inspiring 🙂 Have a great week ahead!

    Reply
    • Maya
      Maya says:

      Hi Elaine: Thanks for the nice words! Don’s method is something really simple – though the only thing is you have to buy packets of soil (unless you go about digging up soil). Oh the pleasure of growing your own food is indescribable. I think we’re all meant to be farmers – the real types – not the Farmville game type. There’s a true link between us and nature and when you start even a tiny balcony garden, you feel connected to your plants and flowers. I always am amazed when I see plants growing and thriving. It makes me feel like I am a catalyst (a small one) towards encouraging nature to flourish! All my blog friends end up real friends. May all of us inspire others to do better and better!

      Reply
  4. Natasha
    Natasha says:

    Love your advise. FYI, now uni and certain schools are collecting used cooking oil around Klang valley for bio diesel making purposes. you might want to google or check out the star. I do remember the article came up in july. I recycle what I can and will adopt ur approach to scraps as it is useful.

    Reply
    • Maya
      Maya says:

      Hi Natasha: Thanks! I will check it out. Do try out Don’s composting method. I have been doing it for 2 years plus now and my neighbours are always amazed at the way my plants grow with compost. Even the flowers are bigger and brighter.

      Reply
  5. Su
    Su says:

    Hello Maya! what an intriguing idea..I’ve been trying to compost outside in a large pot but sadly have never ended up with nice black rich compost.Dunno what I’m doing wrong.
    Your post has inspired me..I want to follow your directions to a T:)
    The thing is, won’t the bones and meat attract rodents? And no smell at all? Do you need to to turn the compost?
    My current garden is TINY so 10 pots would fill it already. Was thinking that I could put the pots on cement instead…is that possible?

    Reply
    • Maya
      Maya says:

      Hi there

      Thanks for leaving a comment on my blog. Sorry it took me a while to reply you as I was fully offline during Chinese New Year.

      Don’s method is really easy – sometimes too easy that people don’t really believe it is possible with just 10 pots.

      I have been using his method to compost kitchen scraps for 4 years now – yes, chicken bones, curry gravy, vegetable peels, fruit, fish bones etc. anything you name it (except for inedible stuff of course — so the criteria is this: if you can eat it, it’s ok to compost it).

      No smells whatsoever if you do it right – just remember to cover the scraps with enough soil. You can place the pots on the cement floor, but raise each pot with two bricks underneath so there’s some air flow and if there’s water in the pot, the water can easily flow out without clogging up the pot (and thereby ruining the composting activity in the pot).

      I wrote an ebook on this method so let me know if you’d like to have a copy.

      I can email it to you. It’s a lot clearer in my free ebook.

      Reply

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. […] my compost ever ready, my misai kucing plant gets potted with a mix of quality soil and compost. Compost is really easy to make if you have a bit of space and want to live a lot more […]

  2. […] the rich compost I make. (In case you want to make some compost of your own, you can read about the composting method, that a very gungho couple from Bukit Mertajam taught […]

  3. […] been dutifully composting my food scraps using the 10-pot system and it’s been about 7 months […]

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