An Earth Day Post About Composting

He had heard about talking to plants in the early seventies on Radio Four, and thought it an excellent idea. Although talking is perhaps the wrong word for what Crowley did.

What he did was put the fear of God into them.

More precisely, the fear of Crowley.

— Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch
by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman

I know we just started getting to know each other, but you should know that I believe that one of the easiest things people and cities can do to decrease their footprint is to compost. Many people will tell you that composting at home is easy and everyone should do it. I’m here to tell you the truth. If you have a small space or no outdoor space, it can be a pain in the butt to compost at home. Sorting your waste is super easy and I’ll write another post showing you examples of what you can do. However, the composting part requires monitoring, adding your scraps, and depending on the type of composting aerating or harvesting. My dream would be that every city had an industrial composter and compost pick-up so everyone could decrease the biodegradable trash going to landfills.

So what is composting and why should you do it?

Composting is the process of taking biodegradable material, such as food scraps, garden waste, or paper products, breaking it down with the use of bacteria and organisms to produce a nutrient-rich material that can then be used as fertilizer for plants. The main reason to compost is that it takes a product that would normally go to the landfill and redirects it into a life cycle that can be used over and over. Organic material in landfills does not decompose properly and is either fossilized or generates anaerobic degradation which generates methane, an extremely effective greenhouse gas.

Food waste life cycle – adapted from Food Waste, the Lexicon of Sustainability, PBS Food;
Images of our family backyard compost bins.

Composting differences where I have lived

One of the first things I do anywhere we have lived (New York, NY; Pittsburgh, PA; Denver, CO; and now Jacksonville, FL) is to figure out composting. While in graduate school in NY I started a composting program for the community. This was before growNYC had food scrap pickups in the farmer’s markets all over the city, and for me, it was a learning experience and a community-building project. We had the carpentry shop build a huge box for our worm bin, and got two insulated tumblers for composting year-round. We were run entirely by volunteers, and because of the project, some of the buildings in our neighborhood were the first in the pilot NYC program for compost pickup. Our compost was right behind a daycare vegetable garden so we were able to harvest and directly add to their patch. I dissolved the project before moving because growNYC filled in the gap.

In Pittsburgh, I got an MBA and used some of my time there to learn more about industrial composting. The city itself didn’t have compost pickup, but the university did and I would drop my bag of scraps into their bins. This was perfect since the four of us (two adults, two kids) lived in a tiny two-bedroom apartment with no room for a bin.

Denver had compost bins everywhere. We lived right next to the library, which had large compost bins; their only outdoor waste pickup bins that weren’t locked. We would walk over once a week and drop off our scraps. But as I met our neighbors, a lot of them also had a compost pickup bin and were happy to let others add to it.

Now in Jacksonville, I have been unable to find an easy solution for composting, so I have set up our own worm bins. I’ll write a post about how to do this later. But I dream of doing more and having an industrial composter built and running in this city. And in every city!

Earth Day

Earth Day is always a good time to think about ways we can all modify our behavior to produce less waste. For those of us priviledged enough to be able to stay home, now is a perfect time to change behavior and learn something new! There are a bazillion resources online which can be extremely overwhelming. Clearly, I’m not helping the cause by adding more content online. However, as Anne Marie Bonneau from the Zero Waste Chef says: “We don’t need a handful of people doing zero waste perfectly. We need millions of people doing it imperfectly.”

Join me in trying our best at reducing waste. Let us know if we can help!

Quote by Anne-Marie Bonneau, Zero Waste Chef;
Image by @purpleglassesFLDE

A few Composting Resources:

2 thoughts on “An Earth Day Post About Composting

  1. I’m sad that NYC has stopped picking up compost for the time being. I was just getting used to bringing my scraps downstairs. I know people who have their own compost bins here but it’s not very practical for me given the size of my space and the propensity in this building for bugs. 😦 I hope pickups will start again over the summer.

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