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4 Ways to Compost for the Climate

April 20th, 2015
Center for Food Safety

2015 has been declared the International Year of Soils by the United Nations, making it the perfect time to start composting your food scraps to help rebuild soil health. Healthy soil stores carbon in the ground where it provides multiple benefits for climate stability, food security, and fresh water availability. Food scraps are a valuable resource that can be used to make healthy soil instead of being thrown in the garbage. Food is, in fact, the single largest component of municipal solid waste reaching America’s landfills and incinerators.

Healthy homes can’t exist without a healthy environment, and composting your leftovers can do more for the environment than you might realize. The difference between what happens to food in a landfill and food in a compost pile is massive. In a compost pile, food scraps decompose with the help of air, heat and microorganisms, eventually becoming healthy soil. Food in landfills, on the other hand, is compacted so tightly that it decomposes without oxygen, creating methane- a greenhouse gas with 23 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide. In the United States, landfills account for almost 25% of all methane emissions. From a climate perspective, food waste is a big deal. Diverting your food scraps from the landfill to the compost pile is a low-cost, easy and effective way to help the climate.

Here are 4 ways you can compost to build healthy soil at home and in your community!

1. At Home

Of course, if your city has a compost program all you need to do is get a compost bucket to throw your scraps in and the city will come pick it up. Be sure to check what kinds of food your city will accept in your compost. There are also private local services that will collect your scraps for a small fee. If you want to make your own compost it’s going to take a bit more work, but it can be really rewarding, especially if you have a garden. Check out this website for great resources on getting started with compost in your own backyard. If you’re a city dweller with limited outside access, this book for composting in small spaces is an excellent read.

2. At School

Start a compost program in your local school if there isn’t one already in place. Composting at a school is a great way to teach children about the benefits of healthy soil. Here’s a detailed guide to starting a school compost program. If there’s already a compost program, ask if you can bring your food scraps from home to contribute to the rebuilding of healthy soil on campus.

3. In Your Community

Another good place to build healthy soil is in community gardens. Many gardens will gladly accept your food scraps to increase their compost piles. Use this guide to find a garden near you, and be sure to ask about what foods are accepted. Make landscape, not landfill!

4. At the Farmer’s Market

Some farmer’s markets accept food scraps that will then be turned into compost. Check with your local market to see if they have a drop-off program. Store the scraps in your refrigerator or freezer to reduce the odor at home, and be sure to follow the guidelines for what foods are accepted. 

Sending your food scraps to the compost pile instead of the landfill is a simple way you can have an impact and help heal our planet. Every bit counts – let’s make this is the year of composting for the climate!

For more compost inspiration, check out the Composting is Cool Pinterest board.

To learn more about the connection between soil health and the climate, click here.