I get asked the question, "why is it so important to compost if it goes to the landfill and then breaks down?" It's such a great question and I'm excited to answer it!
The Food Waste Issue: I read this article from the NRDC, and I learned that In America, 40% of our food is sent to the landfill (uneaten). This means that we each are wasting over 20 lb. of food per person per month. Food takes energy, time, and resources to grow. For example, growing food, and getting it to our table, uses 80% of our freshwater. Yikes!
Now that I live a Circular Lifestyle, I am able to reflect and realize how much spoiled produce and uneaten food I used to throw away. When I examined my trash to see what it was made up of and to determine how to reduce it to nothing, I was shocked to discover that most of my trash waste was composed of food.
Why Composting Is Important: Sending food to the landfill is not the solution and here's why. Our food waste breaks down and produces methane gas, which has to be regulated due to its extreme combustibility. Methane is also a greenhouse gas and is negatively contributing to climate change.
You might be thinking, " wouldn't a compost pile produce methane gas as well?" Great question! Since the waste sent to the landfill gets buried, it does not receive oxygen which allows for the production of methane gas. Compost piles on the other hand are being exposed to oxygen all the time (aerobic decomposition).
Composting is great because it turns our food back into a useful and vital resource--soil! Composting works magic on our soil. It improves the ground moisture which means we get to water less. It produces more crops while eliminating the "need" for chemical fertilizers. It helps prevent erosion of top soil, and can restore land that has been compromised or contaminated. Amazing, right?
Composting, just like trees, pulls carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere. Holy S***! And soil is able to store 3 times as much carbon dioxide as plants and trees. Thus, composting helps reduce climate change!!!
How Composting Works: To make a compost pile, you need brown materials that produce carbon (leaves, shredded paper etc..), green material that produce nitrogen (fruit & vegetable scraps, hair, lint, grass clippings etc..), a little bit of moisture, and oxygen. Once these components are mixed together, the microorganisms begin to break down the waste and turn it into nutrient, rich soil that helps plants grow.
What You Can Do: I collect my food scraps in a stainless steel composting bucket that I keep in my kitchen. It doesn't smell, and I empty it once a week.
Composting can feel like an obstacle for some, due to having no yard, or to resident raccoons who would raid it every single night (story of my life). For those of you who feel that composting takes too much effort and time, try cold composting! For those of you who have hungry critters visiting your yard (like me!), keep meat, oils, and diary out of your compost and cover it with leaves. This will help deter unwanted visitors. Using a pest resistant bin can also help (one that they cannot dig under). If you don't have a yard, you can explore indoor vermiculture. You can also check to see if your county offers curbside composting, or if there's a private program for compost pick-up. For instance, I just found out about a local company that could pick up my compost for 20 bucks a month by bike. Way cool! Wanna start your own compost pile, but don't know how?-click here!
If none of these options are feasible to you, then I suggest going to your local farmers market and striking up a conversation with one of your local farmers. They might be super into the idea of you dropping off your compost once a week. If this were the case, you could store your compost in a stainless steel bowl in the freezer (no smell, no hassle) until your drop-off date.
Living zero-waste is community based. I am learning so much by reaching out to others to ask questions, brainstorm ideas, and share resources. It just takes a little bit of daily effort and communication to succeed at this lifestyle.
What are you reservations or experiences with composting?