Sustainable living: it’s a buzzword these days, something to both idolize and aspire toward.But with options ranging from installing solar panels on the roof to living plastic-free, finding the perfect starting project can be a challenge. The good news is: sustainability doesn’t have to be a huge undertaking. For those people with an aspiring green thumb, sustainability is only a few grass clippings and banana peels away.
Composting for Beginners
Composting is a great way to get your feet wet in the green living universe. It’s an inexpensive and low-maintenance project, reduces waste sent to landfills, and can even save avid gardeners some of the money they might spend on fertilizer or soil additives! But what is it, exactly?
Composting is, at its roots, a controlled decay of organic waste. The compost “pile” (or bucket, or box, or inflatable pool) allows microorganisms to thrive in an ideal environment containing oxygen, heat, moisture, and nutrients. Those microorganisms break down the food and yard waste in three phases; over the span of a few months, a compost goes from a motley collection of coffee grounds, dead leaves, and other detritus from a person’s own home to a nutrient-rich soil additive. This sustainable compost can then be used to promote incredible plant growth without taking a trip to the local big-box hardware store to buy commercial fertilizer.
But why not use fertilizer?
Fertilizer is a tried and true method of improving soil and plant health; it provides precise amounts of different nutrients, and can be tailored to your region’s soil requirements. But many commercial fertilizers are chemically based — a turn-off for some gardeners in search of more sustainable options — and can be expensive.
Compost, on the other hand, requires only the food and yard waste a person already produces at home, space to mature it, and time. Its low moisture content also allows for a greater concentration of nutrients than a liquid fertilizer or even manure. Additionally, compost can improve soil structure and water retention and the microorganisms present in the mixture may reduce the presence of certain harmful pathogens in soil and foilage.
Composting and Sustainability
The EPA estimates that food scraps and yard waste comprise up to 28% of what people put out on the curb for garbage pickup. Organic waste doesn’t naturally decompose efficiently in landfills.
Organic materials, ideal for composting, break down anaerobically (or without proper oxygen) and produce methane gas. Methane is a greenhouse gas 26 times more harmful than carbon dioxide. This waste also takes up valuable space in the landfill and can create unpleasant odors.
Composting is also a great money-saver for a household. Avid gardeners can use compost instead of purchasing fertilizer or manure. Those who live in cities that charge waste collection fees based on the volume or frequency of pickup may also see an improvement in those bills!
At the end of the day, sustainable living doesn’t have to be a huge undertaking — it can be easy, affordable, and even fun! So next time you cut up some onions, don’t throw the skins in the trash. Keep an eye on our blog for tips on getting your compost pile up and running!
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