Earth Matters: Time to compost

Earth Matters: Time to compost

By Lynn Capuano

With so much in the country and world demanding our attention, it’s nice to find something we each can do with the confidence that it will have an impact.  That something is converting our food waste to compost.

Food waste contributes to climate change and other environmental degradation before it becomes food waste.  The production of food involves energy use, which typically means burning fossil fuels.  Burning fossil fuels releases greenhouse gases, a root cause of climate change.  Food production involves water use and, depending on how food is produced, can also cause a great deal of soil and water pollution.  By the time the food reaches a plate to be eaten, a lot of natural resources have been consumed and impacted.

If the food isn’t at least eaten completely, all of those resources are wasted and damaged for no reason.  If food is disposed as trash, it eventually ends up in a landfill where it produces methane as it decomposes.  Methane is the most potent greenhouse gas, contributing to climate change more significantly than carbon dioxide.

Rather than dispose of food as trash, thereby throwing away all the resources used to produce that food and generating methane in return for all of that resource consumption, we each can compost.  Composting is the way to return food to the soil from which it came, allowing it to nourish and support growth of more food.  In this way, it can return some of the resources it took rather than cause more damage as its last act.

Admittedly, composting is not super easy to do, like changing your toilet paper brand.  It’s also not very hard.  It involves collecting certain food scraps (not including any animal-based foods like milk, cheese, fish, chicken, or meat) in a container and mixing those food scraps with brown materials like cardboard, dried leaves, and hay.  You can include coffee grounds, tea bags, coffee filters, newspaper, toilet paper rolls, compostable paper plates, regular paper, nut shells, and eggshells.

In time, all the material decomposes with the help of an array of insects and invertebrates.  It becomes rich, dark soil that can grow more food or any kind of plant.  It is a remarkable process to experience.  It will save you money (no need to buy compost or fertilizer, and plants need less water) and it will dramatically reduce your trash.

But composting is not for everyone.  It requires some monitoring to maintain the ratio of browns to food scraps (greens) and it requires extracting the compost from your container and using it in your pots or yard.  If you don’t want to get involved in those extra steps, but you do want to reduce your contribution to climate change by reducing your food waste footprint, there are options.  If you’re willing to get involved somewhat, there is a composting program run by Transition Town Port Washington at the Science Museum of Long Island that you can join.  You collect your compostable materials and deliver them to the composting site and help to mix your contribution into the larger collection.

If you want to keep it simpler for yourself, Grounds For A Peel Composting Inc. offers residential pickup.  You can sign up for weekly pickup of your compostable materials and know that you have done something significant for the environment, your community, yourself and all living things.  For more information, go to   Grounds For A Peel converts food scraps into compost which is available for purchase.  To learn more, Glenda, the founder and owner can be reached at 917.647.7348 or by email at [email protected].

If you recycle, then separating your waste is something you’re already familiar with doing.  Composting involves developing a habit similar to rinsing your glass and aluminum containers and putting them in a separate container.  Grounds For A Peel will provide you with a collection container.  This is even easier than recycling because there’s no additional cleaning step.  All you do is put your acceptable food scraps into a separate container and have it picked up on a weekly basis.

If you don’t recycle, you should.  Starting to compost will help you develop the habit of separating your waste into items that can be kept out of the landfill and items that cannot be.  Keeping material out of the landfill is an important way we each can address causes of climate change and other environmental harms.

New York State has mandated food waste collection for producers of food waste over a designated amount.  New York City is offering curbside compost pickup on a voluntary basis.  Like recycling, this is a relatively simple and doable response to a catastrophic situation.  The more of us who do it, the greater and more significant the impact—an impact that is real, measurable, and exponential.


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