Thursday, August 6, 2015

Composting Corner

       Based on our survey results from last week, we discovered that while recycling seems to be a fairly common practice, more than one fifth of our readers never compost.  For those unfamiliar with the term, composting is the process of recycling organic materials such as leaves and certain food waste into a rich, soil additive.  While composting may sound like a daunting endeavor, it's one of the easiest and most beneficial ways to make a positive impact on our environment.  And any positive impact towards slowing down climate change is a good thing!

       There are four major environmental benefits that illustrate the importance of composting:

1)  It enriches the soil - Composting boosts nutrient content into soil while also increasing moisture retention, which can mean healthier plants and gardens.  Furthermore, composting has also been shown to reduce plant disease and pests.

2)  It helps clean up contaminated soil - Composting can absorb odors, treat certain hydrocarbons, and even bind to heavy metals, preventing them from entering water sources.

3)  It saves you money - Composting can reduce or even eliminate the need to fertilize your garden.  It also reduces your need for water and harmful pesticides.

4)  It prevents pollution - Yard waste, such as leaves and grass clippings, along with food scraps comprise up to 30% of what we toss in the garbage.  By utilizing these materials for compost instead, we can save them from the landfill where they will take up space and produce methane gas.  In terms of greenhouse gases, methane is 21 times more harmful than carbon dioxide emissions.  This graph from the EPA's overview of greenhouse gases shows U.S. methane emissions by souce.

        The evidence speaks for itself as to why composting is important, but you may be wondering where to start.  Thankfully, the answer is simple!  You only need three things to start an eco-friendly heap of your own: browns, greens, and water.  Browns consist of leaves, branches, and even cardboard and shredded paper.  Greens come from grass clippings and certain food scraps like vegetables, fruits, and used coffee grounds.  Lastly, water is essential in keeping the compost moist in order for it to function properly.  For an easy guide on how and what to compost, along with some troubleshooting tips, go to  By adding composting to your recycling repertoire, you can have a greater role in slowing environmental change and preserving the planet.

-Mandy Alvarado

For more information:
The EPA's guide to composting:
Cornell Waste Management Institute:

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