Nature’s Greatest Magic Trick – Aka Urban Composting 101
Photo credit: Vero Photoart Unsplash
A 5 minute read –
What is Composting?
Say what? It’s 2018! We all know what composting is! Don’t we?
It might seem unnecessary to define, but when I was living in Jersey City I met several people who had never heard of composting. It’s time to remedy that now!
Composting is the cycle of life and death.
A plant grows from fertile soil, it flowers, the seeds are spread on the wind to find ground elsewhere, the plant withers and dies, returning to the earth. This cycle has been happening for billions of years and it is what allows life on this exquisite jewel of a planet to flourish.
Nature is miraculous. It understands an innate intelligence, a balance that sustains all things.
In more scientific terms, microbes – or tiny organisms in the soil – eat organic matter causing it to decompose. The same process will happen to our bodies when we die. It is the beautiful fate of all life to return to the earth from which it came.
It really is nature’s magic trick of regeneration and renewal.
Composting and Landfills
Many household items can be composted to reduce waste going to landfills. When food scraps are composted it results in a vitamin rich, fertilized soil. Gardeners even call it “black gold” because it is so valuable to their agricultural practices.
Unfortunately, 72% of American families don’t compost their food scraps, instead tossing them in the garbage to be sent to the landfill.
I recently had a friend innocently comment that the food would just decompose in the landfill, which made me realize how much misinformation is floating around about composting and landfills alike.
According to an article by RecycleBank landfills account for a third of all methane production in the US, right up there with cow farts! This is due to the fact that landfills are often airtight, preventing food from properly decomposing. Instead it rots emitting methane, a notorious greenhouse gas responsible in part for global warming.
So not only are food scraps rotting and polluting the environment, but their potential to be composted and turned into “black gold” and contribute to sustainable agriculture is denied. To make matters worse the fertile layer of topsoil which allows farmers to grow crops is dwindling rapidly, contributing to the pesticide craze which is sweeping the country.
We are not helping the perfectly balanced ecosystem of our planet at all! In fact, we are harming it!
What can we do?
Compost, compost compost!
How to compost in 5 easy steps:
1) Collect all food scraps from your kitchen in a receptacle
Food scraps should include all vegetable and fruit waste, paper towels, coffee grounds, and paper based tea bags. Check with your local composting facility to see if meat and dairy products can be included in this list. Many industrial composters are able to process these items. For backyard composting purposes, meat and dairy products should be avoided.
I use compostable plastic bags from BioBag as a liner to conveniently transfer the scraps to the freezer once the receptacle becomes full. This can be helpful if you create more food scraps per week than your receptacle can hold.
This also prevents odor from developing. One thing composting doesn’t have to be is smelly!
2) Find a local composting facility
Luckily facilities are popping up more and more frequently in recent years!
Some cities even provide composting as part of their waste management plan and offer roadside pickup. It really depends on your area. A great place to start is your city’s website.
Where I live in Denver there is very limited city provided composting. However there are some independent composting initiatives like the Denver Compost Collective that provides a pickup service for $5 a week. Also some recycling centers have a commercial composting facility attached, like the Cherry Creek Recycling Center in Denver.
3) Put a compost receptacle in your bathroom
That might sound strange, but it really works! With just a few simple product switches you can compost all your bathroom waste.
The Wild Minimalist sells a dental floss* made from silk that is 100% compostable. Qtips made from paper and cotton rather than plastic are compostable, as well as tissues, cotton balls and other organic matter like hair, nail clippings and dryer lint.
You know what you consume in the bathroom. How much of that is already compostable? How much of it could you switch to a product that could be composted?
I also tend to save any scraps of trash that might accumulate and throw them away in the kitchen if absolutely necessary.
4) Get a bagless vacuum
I love my bagless vacuum! Not only is it hypoallergenic and traps the dust inside with a special filter, but it is so convenient to clean out! I simply open the lid and dump it straight into the compost. All that dust, lint, and and other matter can be composted too!
I have the Shark Navigator, which I can’t recommend enough. Not because I’m being sponsored to say so, mind, but because it truly has been a huge time saver in cleaning, and helps me to reduce my waste simultaneously! It’s a win win!
5) Compost your yard clippings/dead leaves
This is one of the best things you can compost. Compost piles actually need a certain percentage of brown roughage to decompose properly because it helps circulate air throughout the pile. Also dead leaves provide nitrogen to the soil, creating an even richer compost product. Many tree limbs and shrub clippings can be turned into mulch for the garden and there are companies that will provide that service for you, or you can donate them to a garden facility for others to use.
It makes me so sad to see yard waste going to the landfill when it could be put to so many good uses that would enrich the environment, not pollute it!
In conclusion, if you had to pick just one thing to do for the environment, I would say that composting should be it! Not only does it remove rotting food from landfills that contribute heavily to global warming, it turns those food scraps into precious life giving fertile soil to help nature renew again and again.
We can either be compliant with the destruction of our environment, or we can be a beacon of change. Composting may not seem like much, but if everyone did it, it would change the world.
Ultimately we create our reality through our choices. We only have one planet of finite resources. Let’s choose to take action on her behalf!
Have a question or suggestion? Let me know in the comments below!
*this is an affiliate link, however I don’t promote any products I don’t use myself!