The Recycling of Nature
Many of us conduct the practice of recycling every day. We know that by separating out metals, glass and cardboard that these materials can turn into new products. This minimizes the consumption of our natural resources and allows us to lower our environmental impact. But what about moldy bread, rotten fruit and spoiled fish? There is a better process to handle these to protect nature as well, and it’s by practicing composting.
In essence, composting is recycling of nature for organic materials (things that were once alive). With composting, materials undergo a process of transformation where they change from something perceived as garbage into a nutrient-rich, biologically abundant soil that can transform even sand into fertile soil for growing the freshest food.
The benefits of composting are numerous. When we make the conscious decision to put something back towards the soil we do more than enable future food. Composting takes material out of the waste stream where one of three destinations is reached. If it goes to landfill, greenhouse gas emissions occur at a rate of half a pound of CO2 per pound of organic material. If it goes to an incinerator, everything is inefficiently burned because organic material is mostly water. If it goes down a sink disposal, water consumption is increased at home and at the waste water processing facilities. None of these option helps new food grow.
When it comes to growing food, compost provides the full suite of minerals required for growth beyond your standard nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium. Unlike chemical alternatives, compost provides a slow release of nutrients over time to continuously feed a plant. It is also alive, teeming with millions of beneficial soil microbes and fungi. These micro-organisms symbiotically interact with plants to increase nutrient uptake. Overall, compost will grow plants that are more resistant to drought, disease and pests, plus more nutritious for us.
What is compostable?
Many sources will make different claims, however in simple terms every bit of material that comes from a living organism, plant or animal, can return to the soil. The leaves that dance to the ground can compost; plant trimmings from the garden, yard and house can compost; branches, twigs and tree products like paper can return to the soil; even everything from one’s plate can go into the compost as well. This includes meat, dairy, fish and shells, though some sources will express otherwise. Certain items just have special considerations to keep in mind like odors, bugs and animals.
It is also becoming easier to compost everywhere. There are options for composting some things at home (the best bins are self-built), locations where individuals can drop organic material off, and even services that provide collection right at the door. No matter what method is chosen, by composting as much as we possibly can, we create a future that will be greener, fuller and brighter for everyone.
Adam Jankauskas is the founder of City Compost. His mission is to eliminate hunger and liberate the food system for all to partake in the vast abundance that nature can provide (if we change our ways). For more information, visit CityCompost.com.