5 reasons to start composting today
If you're looking for a way to reduce waste and help the environment, composting is a great place to begin.
What is composting?
Composting is the natural process of recycling organic materials, like food waste and yard waste, into a nutrient-rich soil enhancer. While this end product may look like dirt or mulch, compost has lots more to offer. Composting creates nutrient-rich soil amendments that are so good at helping things grow that farmers call them "black gold." Yup, composting literally turns trash into treasure.
While all natural matter eventually decays, composting speeds up the process by introducing a perfect cocktail of bacteria, fungi, protozoa, and insects. Composting can be done by individuals, communities, or at large industrial composting facilities.
So, is composting worth it? Absolutely! Here’s why you should start:
1. It’s great for the planet
Composting supports the environment by helping local organisms and plants thrive while simultaneously enriching their habitats. It also cuts back on carbon dioxide emissions by limiting the number of vehicles needed to take waste to landfills.
2. Food scraps fertilize the soil
Since compost from yard and vegetable scraps is filled with plant-nurturing ingredients (nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium), you can use it in place of chemical fertilizers, which may contain harmful ingredients, to create healthy soil. Research has shown that compost improves soil's productivity and water retention—an essential in drought-prone areas.
3. It reduces personal food waste
Individuals produce a staggering amount of food waste, and most of it ends up in landfills. The average American family of four throws out about $150 worth of food per month. Most of that is compostable items like fruits and vegetables. The first step is obviously avoiding food waste in the first place. Grocery planning and proper storage can help. But even if you eat every apple, carrot, and banana you buy, you'll still have food scraps like stems and peels to deal with. Composting is a great way to recycle that organic matter instead of tossing it in the trash.
4. Your compost pile lightens the load on landfills
Landfills are notoriously overcrowded thanks to single-use plastics and materials that aren’t biodegradable or that take years to degrade. By adding organic material to compost piles, you help your local landfills save space and cut down on harmful methane gas, reducing your carbon footprint.
When placed in landfills, organic materials can’t compost on their own because emissions-heavy landfills don’t have the oxygen they need. Instead, they break down anaerobically, producing harmful greenhouse gas emissions. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that landfills are the single biggest emitters of methane gas, which is 20 times as destructive as carbon dioxide when it comes to warming the atmosphere.
5. It can decrease erosion
Water runs slower over compost, and compost can help soil hold together better. That helps prevent the undermining or scattering of soil. Composting also adds volume to the soil that prevents runoff, reducing the spread of chemicals.
Easy ways to compost at home
The DIY compost bin method
- Save wet kitchen scraps: items like old flowers, fruits, vegetables, coffee grounds, tea bags, grass clippings, and eggshells. Place them in a small compost container. Avoid composting oil-covered food, dairy products, and meat. (They can attract pests.)
- Set aside your dry paper waste in a separate container. Think newspapers, shredded paper, leaves, and your mountains of cardboard delivery boxes.
- When you have a decent supply of both wet and dry organic waste, you’re ready to get started.
- Put the dry items in the bottom of a compost bin. Then put the wet items on top of the dry pile. Repeat. Keep each layer to about 1-2” thick and try to make the top layer a dry layer to discourage unwanted scents. There are many types of compost bins ranging from repurposed trash cans to premium compost tumblers.
- You'll want to turn your compost pile (move the bottom layers to the top and vice -versa) every few weeks to aerate it and maintain an optimal temperature for all the good bacteria and fungi to create quality compost.
Get composting help
If you’re not thrilled about composting on your own, do some digital digging to find a compost center in your community. Drop off eligible waste and they’ll take it from there. Most likely, all you'll need is a small container where you can keep your scraps until you're ready to deliver it to the pros.