Ms. Demeanor's Vertical Etiquette

Dear Ms. Demeanor: My neighbors’ compost bin really smells. Should management do something about this?

By Dianne Ackerman  | March 6, 2020 - 1:00PM

It isn’t easy to compost in a high-rise apartment building, but it can be done without being an olfactory nuisance.


My neighbors have decided to keep a compost bin in the garbage room on our floor and the management of our co-op building has no problem with it. I’m all about going green, but I live next to the garbage room and the smell is bad. What should I do? Signed, Kermit

Dear Kermit,

Yuck! I can smell it from here. I know it isn’t easy being green in a high-rise apartment building, but your neighbors have to take your wellbeing into consideration. The apartment dwellers I know who compost bring their veggie trimmings and fruit peels to composting centers once a week or so. Some store it in their freezers, which personally offends me, but at least it is in their own freezer, not mine. I also have a friend who has a small composting bin on her terrace, and then uses the soil for her plants. 

Management is wrong to let this continue and you should continue to complain until the issue is resolved. What about the other people on your floor?  Even if they are not right next to the garbage room, the smell may permeate the hallway. Involve as many people as you can until this is resolved.

My husband was an environmental engineer as well as an ardent environmentalist. He told me that the good deeds people do often help themselves more than they do the environment. We should try to do our part, but the reality is that factories, airplanes, trains, cars, and landfills are the real enemies that are destroying the planet. Add to that power plant emissions and cutting down forests, and inefficiency of new construction, which causes way more damage than throwing out your personal garbage.

If people feel good about composting, they should knock themselves out, but not at the expense of others. I do my part by walking whenever I can. It keeps me thin as well as self righteous.

Mrs. Demeanor

Dianne Ackerman is the new voice of reason behind Ms. Demeanor. She has lived in her Upper East Side co-op for the past 20 years and is the vice president of her co-op board. She is filled with opinions that she gladly shares with all who ask—and some who do not. Have something that needs sorting out? Drop her an email.


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