Earth Day Life: Composting: Good for the Soil, Good for the Soul

Erin Eppig, Promotions Manager

 

Have you ever thought about the amount of garbage you produce in a week? Harnessing the magic of composting can turn your kitchen scraps into nutrient-rich compost for your garden and reduce your garbage output by up to 30%.

Here’s how it works

Composting is composed of four parts: browns, greens, water, and oxygen. Browns are carbon-rich organic matter, such as dead leaves and twigs. Greens are nitrogen-rich organic matter such as vegetable scraps and grass clippings. Compost is decomposed organic matter, therefore, creating a hospitable environment for decomposing microorganisms is essential in creating mature nutrient dense compost.

When equal parts of moist browns and greens are layered in an outdoor bin and turned periodically to introduce oxygen, aerobic decomposition begins to occur. Oxygen dependent microorganisms will get to work breaking down the organic matter. This will cause the temperature of the core of the compost pile to rise to approximately 130 – 140 degrees Fahrenheit. These high temperatures make the compost hot enough to kill any harmful bacteria or weed seeds.

Top 4 benefits of composting

1. Reduces greenhouse gasses from landfills

When our organic waste gets hauled off to a landfill it gets buried among all the other garbage. This organic matter will still eventually decompose, however, because it is buried and deprived of oxygen it undergoes anaerobic decomposition. Anaerobic decomposition produces both methane and carbon dioxide as byproducts. Methane and carbon dioxide are both greenhouses gasses that trap heat in the atmosphere, thus, contributing to global warming. Landfills are the third largest source of human-generated methane emissions in the United States.

2. Reduces waste being processed by landfill municipal solid waste management facilities

Sending waste to the landfill is not only harmful to the environment, but it is also costly to process. In 2019 it costs on average $55 per ton to process the nearly 300 million tons of waste generated. Reducing the waste you generate translates to lower waste management costs.

3. Improves soil health

Compost contains the three most important nutrients for soil: nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium. When added to soil, compost increases nutrient content and increases water absorbency. When added to a backyard garden, compost can nourish growing plants and eliminate the need for environmentally harmful chemical fertilizers.

4. Gets us involved in our food cycle

In modern times, we are typically pretty far removed from our food. Most of us do not have any direct say in how our food is handled and processed. Composting may not change how involved we are in where our food comes from, but it gives us a say in where the remnants of it go. Composting gives us the ability to not only see how our organic materials break down, but also use it to create more plants and vegetables. There is something very inspiring about witnessing the circle of life right in front of you.

Setting yourself up for success

Do compost

• Coffee and tea grounds
• Fruits and vegetables
• Eggshells
• Grass clippings
• Leaves
• Houseplants
• Woodchips
• Hay and Straw
• Sawdust
• Nutshells
• Uncoated Paper
• Newspaper
• Uncoated cardboard

Don’t compost

• Animal products and bones
• Pet waste or litter
• Fat, oils, and lard
• Diseased plants
• Plants treated with chemicals

It’s important to remember that most composting issues stem from an unbalanced compost pile. A properly balanced pile should not attract pests or animals and should not smell. It is typically recommended to have equal parts browns to greens, but it may take some experimenting to find the perfect ratios of browns, greens, water and oxygen for your particular location.

If you would like to learn more about composting, EPA  and NRDC .