As climate change continues to worsen, using compost as a soil amendment will be vital to mitigating its worst effects. Still, the benefits of composting extend far beyond mitigating climate change. Here are the top 10 environmental benefits of composting and why you should start today.
What is Composting?
Composting is the process of decomposing organic waste into a nutrient-rich soil. While this process happens naturally for all organic matter (even when in a landfill), keeping your organic waste in a compost bin or compost pile provides the ideal conditions for decomposition, ultimately speeding up the process.
The nutrient-rich soil can then be used as a soil amendment to prolong the life of and vitalize your plants in a garden.
If you don’t have a garden, the resulting soil from composting at home (on a countertop composter or other composting container) can be used as topsoil in your landscape or yard. Or, you can always donate your composted soil to a community garden or urban farm.
The Top Ten Benefits of Composting
1) Composting Reduces Greenhouse Gas Emissions
Methane is a greenhouse gas that is 21 times more potent than carbon dioxide. Composting reduces methane emissions by breaking down organic matter in an oxygen-rich environment.
According to the EPA, 20x more emissions are released into the atmosphere when food scraps are disposed of in a landfill rather than composted.
2) Compost can be a Carbon Sink
As vegetation grows on any soil and depletes the nutrients in it, the soil’s quality degrades. The carbon that the soil has absorbed over hundreds of thousands of years of living things decomposing is released and eventually, the soil outputs more carbon than it takes in. When compost is added to the soil, it is able to grow vegetation again and absorb more carbon than it releases.
3) Compost Redirects Food Scraps and Yard Waste Away From Landfills
Landfill waste is growing. An estimate from 2020 insisted that the United States has 18 years left before landfills fill up. Composting can dramatically reduce the amount of waste you send to a landfill. Not only will this reduce the amount of land taken up by landfills, it will also reduce the emissions and environmental consequences of transporting this waste to landfills.
4) Compost Revitalizes Soil Fast
Usually, it takes about 1,800 years for 6 inches of new topsoil to form on land. When composted soil is introduced, it takes just 6 months.
5) Composted Soil Reduces Wasteful Water Runoff
When composted soil is added to the ground, the ground’s water retention is suddenly boosted. This is because compost acts as a sponge: it sucks up water that would otherwise run downstream, eroding land and infrastructure along the way.
6) Composted Soil Filters Water Runoff for a Healthier Ocean
When water falls to the ground, it typically gets absorbed by the ground or runs off into streams, rivers, and lakes before ultimately flowing into the ocean. Either way, water can pick up artificial materials and transport them to the ocean, ultimately damaging its contents and ecosystems.
When water is absorbed by spongy compost, artificial materials that it may have picked up are filtered out. This results in cleaner water for a healthier planet.
7) Crops Grown from Composted Soil are more Nutrient-Dense
As food shortages grip the world as a result of worsening climate change and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, food will need to be more nutrient-dense in order to fulfill the needs of the world’s growing population.
Composted soil allows plants to grow more fulfilling food because the soil itself is more nutrient-dense.
8) Composted Soil Reduces Plant Diseases and Prolongs Plants’ Lives
The nutrient-dense composted soil maintains strong immune systems for the plants that grow in it. Not only does this reduce the likelihood of plants succumbing from disease, it also prolongs their lives, ultimately increasing their output and sequestering carbon as well.
9) Composting is Good for the Local Economy
When food waste and yard waste is disposed of in a landfill, they take up valuable space that could be used for other purposes, such as housing. Decomposing food waste and yard waste in a compost pile can help to create new jobs in the waste management and agricultural industries while also freeing up valuable landfill space. Not to mention, using composted soil in gardens and farms can save money that would otherwise be spent on purchasing soil amendments. This ultimately helps farmers by decreasing the cost of growing crops.
How do you Compost?
While composting is an easy method of decomposing the organic matter found in your home, it does require a process in order to yield effective results. Generally, you need to layer “browns” and “greens” in a pile and ensure that the compost is aerated efficiently. Then, you can wait six weeks to a year before your compost is ready to be used as soil.
There are many benefits to composting, including reducing greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, revitalizing soil everywhere, and reducing wasteful water runoff. If you’re looking for an easy way to reduce your carbon footprint and help the environment, consider composting at home.