Sometimes, we forget how small changes can make a big difference in terms of reducing our environmental footprint. The enormous environmental benefits of composting is something that all families should be aware of and, hopefully, take some action on!
From Compost Bin to a Glowing Vegetable Garden
Recently, I visited a friend of mine who wanted to show me the DIY garden project she was working on. It turned out that the project was a small, well-maintained organic garden sitting in her backyard.
Until then, no surprises. At her place, pretty much no organic materials end up in the trash bin. Like me, my friend has a Bokashi bucket and is a big fan of this fermentation method that transforms food waste into ‘pickled’ food. In her compost, she also adds all her yard trimmings and grass clippings.
However, in the leafy, fresh rows of plants, something really caught my attention.
The sight of giant, healthy-looking tomatoes struck me. They seemed unreal, almost like they were ready for their next trip to the agricultural fair or farmers’ market. The secret behind this healthy growth, as I later found out, was compost fertilizer plus coffee grounds leading to a nutrient rich soil!
I am a huge fan of compost but I never quite seem to make the transition from composting food to growing food, not at that level anyway! In my efforts of cooking with seasonally and locally sourced food, there’s no way you could get any more local than your own garden!
I was so inspired by that visit and decided to have a look at the environmental benefits of composting that go beyond the garden!
Where does composting fit in the climate action conversation? Does it really help?
The short answer is composting has many-many environmental benefits! I have identified 7 possible benefits, but there could be more!
The Environmental Benefits of Composting
1. Reduces greenhouse emissions
Greenhouse emissions are gases that trap heat in the earth’s atmosphere (over)heating the planet. It is no surprise they are very bad for climate change! But how is that related to composting?
If you don’t compost, your food scraps go to landfills. There’s no other option!
There’s even more bad news! According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the amount of food waste going into landfills is actually quite substantial!
Food waste and organic material going to landfills are major contributors of methane gas production! However, proper composting prevents the production of methane, a potent greenhouse gas – much more powerful than carbon dioxide!
So, here is the direct relationship between food waste and climate change.
2. Reduces dependence on chemical fertilizers
Non-organic fertilizers and chemical pesticides can contain toxic chemicals that could damage your health and the environment. The good news is that plants do not need such chemical fertilizers to survive; they need the right soil quality and environment.
Given that composting helps improve soil quality, it also reduces our dependence on harmful pesticides. The result is a win for the environment, plants, and humans too!
3. Improves air quality
To further understand how composting helps the environment, let’s look at what happens if you don’t compost.
The opposite of composting is incineration, which refers to the destruction of waste material by burning. This method may seem faster as far as getting rid of food waste is concerned, but it comes with many environmental risks.
First, burning yard waste releases harmful chemicals found in weed killers, fertilizers, and bug spray. The contaminated air then blends into the environment as smoke, leading to health problems, such as asthma.
In some cases, incineration could lead to severe lung problems, including cancer, depending on the contaminants released into the air during the process.
4. Reduces landfill areas
Landfill refers to the site allocated for the disposal of waste materials. We all know the kind of stench that comes out of such sites. It is usually so strong you can almost smell it just by reading this paragraph.
Composting reduces landfills by a considerable margin, consequently protecting the environment from pollution.
5. Water filtering capability
Chances are you have a water filter at home because you care about your health and you want to drink the purest water possible. And let’s face it, bottled water that comes in disposable bottles is terrible for the environment. The same case applies to aquatic animals; they want to live in a clean environment.
One of the little-known benefits of composting is that it filters water as it penetrates the ground. This process means that liquids flowing into rivers and oceans after passing through these filters is cleaner.
6. Balances soil PH
Soil PH refers to the measure of the acidity or alkalinity (basicity) of soil.
Plants do not grow well in soil that’s too acidic or alkaline. Therefore, a balanced PH is necessary for healthy growth, something that comes naturally from composting.
7. Prevents soil erosion
According to Duncan Cameron, a plant and soil biologist from the University of Sheffield, United Kingdom, the world has lost almost 33 percent of its arable land due to pollution or soil structure erosion in the last 40 years.
Gladly, composting prevents soil erosion thanks to its water retention capabilities. Here’s how it works.
When water fails to penetrate the ground, it sits on the surface for a while. As the water volume increases, the pressure pushes the water down to the ground’s lower surfaces, carrying the topsoil with it. The movement of soil during this process is what is known as soil erosion.
Now, here’s where compost helps.
Composting works like a sponge; it absorbs more water into the ground, limiting water accumulation on top of the soil. Even though water may still accumulate on the top surface of the earth, even in places where composting is being practiced, most of the time, the water is not strong enough to cause severe erosion.
While Back to my friend’s garden, I was reminded of how we can all do small and beneficial things to live more sustainable life.
When we think of growing food, we normally do not associate that with people living in an urban environment. Typically, when people think of composting and growing food, they imagine a rural farm life miles away in the countryside.
But the issue of environmental conservation goes beyond urban centers or countrysides; it requires collective and individual responsibility. Gone are the days when taking your organic waste to composting facilities was the only choice available.
Regardless of where you come from or where you live at the moment, you can still play a role in conserving the environment. Composting is one of them!
This article was written by Enviromom’s Silvia** Silvia is the environmentally conscious mom behind the blog Enviromom. She is a busy mom to three kids and an avid Bokashi composter and indoor plant collector.