I want you all to know about something that is very near and dear to my heart. Something that I have spent the last 16 years of my life fully consumed in (and still am today). It’s called composting. I might be what some people call a composting nut. Chances are, if we have spoken, it is extremely likely that I have somehow managed to mention composting in our conversation.
We all know what it is, right? But do we actually know how absolutely amazing it is for the environment? Or what it can do for our ever-changing climate? Let’s start with this tidbit: in 2019, the EPA estimated that 66 million tons of food were wasted, and about 60% of that was sent to landfills. What is 60% of 66 million? 39,600,000 tons of food. Not even pounds. Tons. That is 87,303,055,825 pounds of food. That was before the pandemic.
Now let’s break down and get into what is happening to your food when you choose to compost and why you should start doing it. Composting is a controlled, aerobic (oxygen-required) process that converts organic materials into a nutrient-rich, biologically stable soil amendment or mulch through natural decomposition. Microorganisms that occur naturally feed on materials added to a compost pile during the composting process. These microorganisms use carbon (browns like leaves) and nitrogen (greens like food) to grow and reproduce, moisture to digest materials, and oxygen to breathe. They break it all down into its simplest parts through aerobic digestion. Most importantly, the end-product is called one of my favorite subjects – compost.
What’s best about composting is that you can do it at home or at work by using food scraps from what you eat in the kitchen and organic material from outside. It’s an eco-friendly way to drastically reduce landfill waste and greenhouse gas emissions, recycle nutrients, and mitigate the impact of droughts.
There are so many more benefits of composting. Here are some, just to name a few:
Protecting the climate by reducing methane emissions from landfills. (According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, between 5% and 20% of global human-caused methane emissions are from food in landfills.)
Reducing waste and extending municipal landfill life by diverting organic materials and saving space in landfills.
Recycling organic materials into a valuable soil amendment that helps flowers and trees grow.
Recovering organic materials and keeping them local.
Improving soil health by adding organic matter, which helps the soil retain moisture and nutrients, attracts beneficial organisms to the soil, and reduces the need for pesticides and fertilizers.
Making your garbage less smelly and weigh considerably less.
Creating green jobs if implemented at a municipality scale. (Teaser alert for Chautauqua County!)
Saving you money on buying mulch or other nutrient additives that you get for your plants.
Composting is a resourceful way to recycle the food scraps and yard debris you generate at home all year long and manage your waste more sustainably. It involves minimal effort, equipment, expense, and expertise, and it can be quite fun. You can use your compost to build healthier soil, prevent soil erosion, conserve water, and improve plant growth in your garden and yard.
If you are at all interested in starting composting at your home, office, or business but don’t know where to start, give me a call! I would love to talk to you about how to set that up. Also, if you are at all interested in becoming a customer for a composting service for your home or business, Clearwater Composting is now accepting new customers.
Depending on where you live, you also might be lucky enough to be a part of the future composting pilot program taking place in Jamestown and surrounding areas. Stay tuned for that, and happy composting!
Article and photo by Chautauqua Watershed Conservancy Land Specialist Bethany O'Hagan