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Let's talk about composting. For so many years it was the cherry on top of a hippie-dippie, tree-hugging stereotype – sure, we all drink kombucha now, but composting was for the truly hardcore. Then, as cities began to feel more stifling, the practice became more appealing to anyone attracted to a simpler, more rural way of life (cottagecore, anyone?).
But the benefits of composting go far beyond aesthetics. Though one of its perks is that it turns everyday food waste into nutrient-rich soil, it has benefits even for those who wouldn't be caught dead in a garden. Why throw food into landfills – and contribute to greenhouse gases in the process – when there's an eco-friendly solution at hand?
The answer, for most of us, is that home composting calls for a pretty serious set-up. Here in Los Angeles, we don't have a city-wide compost pickup, so for months I looked into at-home options that ranged from massive to unwieldy to unpleasantly stinky.
So imagine my surprise when I found a brand-new, cutting-edge compost bin with none of those drawbacks – and broke down food in a fraction of the time?
The Lomi Kitchen Composter ($499) makes a bold claim to fame, calling itself "the world's first kitchen appliance that can turn waste into dirt in less than 24 hours." But Pela, an international sustainability company that makes compostable alternatives for everything from smartwatch bands to AirPods cases, has been honing its techniques for years. Lomi represents both a radical leap forward and the brand’s logical next step.
After a totally sold-out smash IndieGogo crowdfunding campaign, Lomi debuted to a months-long waitlist and incredible engagement on its video campaigns. Which is how the brand got me. Pela’s knack for laying out what could feel like a daunting new system in less than two minutes isn't just impressive; it's irresistible. After years of seeing article after article about the growing stakes of the climate emergency with zero top-down governmental action, Lomi felt like a way I could get involved in a bottom-up revolution. I'd rather put my money towards Pela's innovative approach – and give my houseplants some love while I'm at it – than feed the $76 billion that goes towards waste management in the US every year.
Almost overnight, I'd gone from doom and gloom to a sincere belief that a waste-free future could be possible. Into the cart Lomi went.
When I walked out to find the Lomi package on my doorstep, I felt like a kid on Christmas morning. Immediately upon unboxing, I saw how Pela puts its money where its mouth is: Lomi was wrapped not in bubble wrap, but in a biodegradable plastic bag that was designed to go right inside the composter itself for waste-free breakdown. Before I even had any food scraps to discard, my Lomi composter already had its very first project.
Like all my favorite products, Lomi is sleek and minimalist in design: the soft white color and rounded edges lend warmth to its futuristic capabilities. With a locking lid that was easy for me to maneuver even before cracking open the manual, the only other adornment is a single button that toggles between Lomi's three modes: Eco Express, Lomi-Approved, and Grow Mode. While Lomi-Approved is designed to break down bioplastics, like the aforementioned bag (and any other packaging on the pre-approved list), Eco Express and Grow Mode are made for food waste.
With one key difference: Eco Express runs much faster, at the lightning speed rate of 3-5 hours per cycle (keep in mind that a traditional composting process can take months for the same turnover). Grow Mode, however, takes 16-20 hours because it breaks down food with a gentler heat, keeping intact all the microbes that help fertilize plants. So while Eco Express is perfect for breaking your food down into soil that can be tossed in your green bin, only the compost made in Grow Mode is recommended for gardening.ﾠ
With my first crop of veggies doing their best to thrive in my backyard garden box, I was most excited to dive into Grow Mode. But each cycle has its own benefits, and allows for total flexibility in the products I can break down. I had three test drives to look forward to.
Waste Not, Want Not
First up was the Lomi-Approved mode, since I was still in disbelief that this machine could break down its own bioplastic wrapping. I added a day’s worth of food scraps to the mix and, for the first time, let Lomi rip. The first cycle hit a bit of a speed bump – I quickly learned that much shipping packaging needed more food waste material surrounding it to break down into soil. After a few hours, the bag looked shriveled rather than fully converted. So after adding more waste the next day, the next cycle took barely any time to get the job done. When I popped that lid open, no trace of the plastic remained – only soil as fresh and crumbly as the stuff I buy from the nursery.
After that, Eco Express Mode was as seamless as it could be. I collected food over the course of a few days – with absolutely no odors seeping out of Lomi's chamber even though it sat right in the middle of my kitchen – and ran what turned out to be only a 3-hour cycle. It's hard to describe just how magical that was. In the time it took me to get through just a handful of Survivor episodes (42 seasons later and I'm still watching, baby), my random collection of kale stems, eggshells, and leftover rice was 100% broken down.
So it was no surprise when Grow Mode was just as transformative. But this denser, more nutritious soil felt different. After running for around 14 hours – quicker than advertised – at a low but steady heat, this compost was still very much alive with microorganisms. I took the soil right to my yard, scattering it all over my potted blood orange tree, which 'til now has stubbornly refused to grow. As I watered the tree, knowing all those fresh nutrients were trickling down to living roots instead of rotting away in a trashcan, I knew the Lomi approach was one I could get used to. In fact, I already was.
Now whenever I'm working away in the kitchen, it's become second nature to throw my scraps right in the Lomi bin. Unlike the bulkier, outdoor composters I'd perused before, Lomi lives right in the center of the action – no lugging bags of banana peels outside after dinner. And unlike other indoor, countertop alternatives, Lomi is odor-neutralized, with an active charcoal filter that traps food smells inside.
This groundbreaking little appliance has seamlessly integrated its way into my life while totally revolutionizing the way I dispose of food. As someone who can so often be stuck in my ways, that's as high a compliment as I can imagine.
Five More Reasons to Get Growing with Lomi:
1. Each unit ships alongside several LomiPods, or bundles of probiotics that can be added to any cycle in order to produce the healthiest possible soil for your garden and plants.
2. Lomi's how-to guide comes with all sorts of tips on which products to include (fresh fruits and veggies) and which to avoid (oily and/or processed foods).
3. Lomi's parent company, Pela, bases its approach around four core values – Community, Creativity, Consciousness, and Courage – disrupting traditional methods of waste disposal to strive for an environmentally-friendly future.
4. Lomi also offers memberships to those who want automatic refills of their charcoal filters and LomiPods, shipping automatically every three months.
5. Pela is incredibly transparent about its carbon footprint, giving exact numbers for each phase of growth, while also offsetting its entire output through the Climate Neutral program.