Benefits of Composting
In this post we will be looking at the benefits of composting for the environment. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, in the year 2018, food waste made up 24% of the waste sent to landfill and in fact food waste was the largest component of the waste stream.
We can prevent this from happening if we divert food waste from our garbage and a great way to do this is by composting.
A Little Bit of History About Composting
Source: Antranias, pixabay
The history of composting dates back to 3000 BC in Egypt when compost was spread on the fields. However, in the early 1970s municipalities in the United States started encouraging residents to keep their yard wastes separate for composting and by the year 1992, close to 1,500 cities had established composting facilities for yard waste.
If you have been thinking of composting but you are unsure of where to start, understanding composting basics and the benefits of composting for the environment will make it easy and straightforward for you.
Also, rest assured that a compost that is well managed will not attract rodents and will not smell bad.
There are several benefits of composting for the environment. In this post we will look at the following:
- What is Composting?
- What Does Compost Look Like?
- Municipal Composting and Backyard Composting.
- What is Backyard Composting?
- 5 Easy Steps for Backyard Composting for Beginners.
- Why Should You Compost?
- 10 Benefits of Composting for the Environment
What is Composting?
Composting is the process whereby organic waste decomposes naturally into a material that looks like hummus.
Soil and compost belong together. Give the soil some love by adding compost to it and watch plants, grasses and flowers thrive instead of letting it end up in landfills where food waste releases greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change.
As humans, we need to do better to protect our environment. It’s all in our hands! Former president, Franklin D. Roosevelt said, “A nation that destroys its soil destroys itself. Forests are the lungs of our land, purifying the air and giving fresh strength to our people.”
Instead of throwing food waste into the garbage, why not keep it in a separate container and collect organics separately for composting? You will do our environment a lot of good if you do this regularly.
What does Compost look like?
If you are a gardener you already know that compost when added to the soil, enriches it and creates an environment that is healthy for plants to grow. Compost is regarded as a natural fertilizer for plants. Compost has an earthy smell; it is a dark, rich organic material that has decomposed.
Compost provides the necessary nutrients for soil so that plants grow well. Compost improves the texture of the soil and it also helps the soil hold the right amount of nutrients, air and even moisture.
Municipal Composting and Backyard Composting
Some municipalities provide compost for their residents. Nowadays residents in a lot of communities are asked to keep their food waste separate from garbage for municipal composting. When the food waste becomes compost, some municipalities usually notify their residents to come over to their facility and dig up some compost for their lawn and gardens.
It might be a good idea to contact your municipality just to see if they offer this service. If this is not available you can easily start your own backyard composting or even an indoor one.
What is Backyard Composting?
Backyard composting is a natural process where kitchen scraps are broken down by microorganisms, insects and earthworms. The result is a dark nutrient rich soil we refer to as compost just like I have already explained to you above.
Simply put, it is a very easy way to provide nutrients to your garden and lawn. It also helps you cut down your household waste.
To start a backyard compost you would need to either purchase a backyard compost er or you can build your own. You can find backyard composters at hardware stores, nurseries or garden centers.
What Can You Add to Your Backyard Composter?
You would need to add “greens” and “browns” to your compost. Here is a list of materials you can add to your compost er. This list is not exhaustive, you might want to check with your municipality or your local composting coordinator to see what else you can add.
Browns are rich in carbon which give the microorganisms the energy they need to work. These include:
Old Potting soil
Twigs and branches
Sawdust and wood chips from untreated wood
Paper and cardboard
Greens are nitrogen rich materials and they include:
Tea bags and leaves
Garden plant trimmings
Weeds – before they seed
5 Easy Steps for Backyard Composting for Beginners
Tools you would need for composting are water hoses with a spray head, square-point shovels, pitchforks. Frequent mixing and adding some water will help maintain the compost.
The steps for backyard composting are very easy to follow:
A.) Set up your composter
You can decide to build your backyard compost er or purchase from the stores or even online. Make sure you follow the manufacturer’s guide if you are going to buy.
Your compost er should be placed in a spot you can easily access. Make sure it is a dry spot near a source of water for your compost.
Accelerate the rate at which organic waste decomposes by taking out any grass under your compost er for easy drainage and also to invite important guests like worms and insects. These will help speed up the composting process.
B.) Add your organic waste (brown and green materials)
Ensure you add only acceptable materials to your compost.
You will need to add greens and browns to your compost er. This will ensure that your compost pile has enough oxygen. Greens are rich in nitrogen and include grass clippings, coffee grounds while browns are rich in carbon example dry leaves. A rule of thumb will be ratio of 3 to 1; meaning 3 times as many brown materials as greens.
Ensure you cut up organic materials into small pieces before you add them to your backyard compost er; this will help decomposition happen faster.
C.) Turn, Turn and Turn some more
Yes! Turning helps add more air to the compost so it is important you do this every few weeks with a shovel. Lack of turning can result in bad odor which is something you do not want. That is why it is important to manage your compost well so it does not have bad odor.
You need to keep it moist but not wet. When you add dry materials make sure you keep them moist. Spraying them lightly will be a good idea.
E) Use the Compost
The finished product is usually ready in a matter of weeks or months. This depends on how well things are managed. It will be crumbly and dark and also have an earth-like smell. Apply to your lawn as a natural fertilizer.
Why Should You Compost?
The food waste you throw in your garbage ends up in landfill where it rots. Rot produces anaerobic digestion and releases huge amounts of greenhouse gases.
When you compost, the amount of food waste that goes into landfill is reduced and at the same time you create a fertilizer for your garden that is free of chemicals and other harmful products. Now lets take a look at the benefits of composting in the next section.
10 Benefits of Composting for The Environment
1. Reduces waste that ends up in landfill and also cuts down emissions.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, municipal solid waste (MSW) landfills are the third-largest source of human-related methane emissions in the United States.
Organic waste that is thrown into the garbage ends up in landfill where oxygen that it needs to speed up the decaying process is unable to reach it. Greenhouse gases which contribute to climate change are given off from landfill waste.
This is why it is important for you and I to separate organic waste from garbage for composting and reduce the amount of waste that ends up in landfill. Methane emissions from landfill are reduced and we also lower our carbon foot print when we compost.
A combination of yard and food waste make up over 30% of what we throw away! On the other hand, if we make compost we can keep these materials out of our landfills and put them to good use.
2. Improves Soil Quality
Compost contains nutrients that may not be present in synthetic fertilizers. When you add compost to the soil, this increases the amount of nutrients and organic matter which makes your lawn and gardens thrive.
3. Reduces Erosion and Protects our Rivers, Lakes and Oceans
Healthy soil is crucial in the protection of water bodies. This is because compost helps the soil retain water which decreases runoff.
Runoff happens when nutrients from the soil are washed into rivers, lakes and oceans and the result is soil that lacks nutrient and polluted water bodies!
4. Great and Healthier for the Environment
Compost is free and also better for the environment because it does not contain chemicals. You are also not relying on commercial fertilizers and chemicals made in the factory. This makes compost healthier for our environment.
5. Save money
Some office buildings and residential areas pay according to the amount of garbage they generate. By composting you are able to cut down on the amount of garbage that is picked up by the garbage company and you save money.
Composting which is the break down of organic matter creates a habitat that attracts birds, earthworms and insects which are all crucial for the soil and for plants to thrive.
7. Keeps the Soil Neutral
In a lot of cases, the soil can be either too basic or too acidic. Compost helps balance the alkaline and acidic levels of the soil.
8. Helps Us Appreciate Nature
When you compost your waste, you tend to appreciate how materials decompose and how a new material, the compost is formed. You also realize your waste can also become a resource.
9. Eliminates the need for Chemicals
Composting minimizes the need for chemical fertilizers; it takes place naturally and it is derived from organic matter that is broken down into rich material filled with nutrients.
10. Suppresses Diseases
Compost also suppresses pests and plant diseases thereby reducing crop losses.
We Can Make A Difference By Composting
Composting contributes to a closed loop system. It is just an easy step towards sustainable development and it is also a great way to make a difference. This is because when you compost you lower the amount of greenhouse emissions, our water resources are preserved and food becomes secure for us and future generations.
As you can see in this post, there are several benefits of composting for the environment. Hopefully the environmental crisis we face today will be a thing of the past and hopefully we can combat climate change for good.
Composting has a massive positive impact on our environment. The process whereby food scraps like coffee grounds, grass clippings, paper are assembled in a pile, kept moist and turned frequently to yield compost which is now added back to the soil to produce even more food is a never ending cycle we should be proud of and also appreciate.
Indeed we can make the world a better place if we can all come together to make efforts to improve the climate crisis. It is important to reduce landfill food waste.
An important step we can take to address the growing waste problem is by composting. You can take a simple step and start a backyard compost. Follow the steps I have outlined above and when the compost is ready, apply to your garden and indoor plants.
There is really no excuse not to compost because there are two options. You can either choose to segregate your food waste and have it picked up as part of your municipality’s program or simply start your own backyard composting.
Hope you found this article helpful. If you have any comments, please leave them below. I would love to hear from you.