Composting is THE original recycling. Recycling is the process of taking man-made waste materials and turning them into something new. Composting, on the other hand, is converting organic waste materials into something fantastic: a nutritious soil conditioner for plants. Composting has been naturally occurring for as long as there have been plants and trees on earth. When leaves and fruit fall from trees and are left on the ground for a period of time, they naturally breakdown through decomposition. This then goes back into the ground adding nutrients to the soil for surrounding plants. Same goes for the wildlife doing their business in the forest, organic waste decomposes into soil, nutrients are added, healthy plant growth is promoted.
Why Compost at Home?
I compost at home for three reasons:
1. Because maxed-out landfills and toxic fumes from burning trash are problematic.
In America, we are sending over 200 million tons of trash to landfills a year. That is the equivalent of around 40 million elephants doing a pyramid in your living room and then getting another delivery of 40 million+ elephants the next year and the year after that and the year after that…
That is a lot of waste sitting there for potentially hundreds of years. If the waste is not going anywhere for awhile and we keep producing more and have finite space to pile it on… we are going to have some big problems. Add to that an increasing population of people to produce an additional 5 pounds per day per person and my goodness!
One of the other disheartening parts is that a quarter of that waste could have been composted, each year.
Like many in America, my trash gets picked up once a week. Before I started composting, my curbside garbage can was consistently filled to the brim. After we started composting and improving our existing recycling habits, it has been routinely about a third or so full each week (if not less). We were sending two-thirds of our waste to the landfill each week that we could have recycled or composted in our backyard and put it to good use.
It is simple logic we are going to run out of room. And burning it all up is not any better because when you burn things they produce toxic gases. Those gases get released into the air and then pollution.
The organic material we could have composted takes longer to decompose in a landfill. When the organic waste decomposes in a landfill, it produces even worse gas into the air.
2. It is good for the garden.
Plants need nutrients. Compost is the most natural way to add nutrients to my soil. It is rich in Nitrogen and Phosphorous which, as covered in my last gardening post, promotes growth of the roots, shoots and leaves.
Compost also helps with soil structure. The soil is lighter and more porous allowing for moisture to spread nutrients more effectively. The organic matter attracts earthworms, as well, which is great because they help aerate the soil, even more.
It also can be used as a mulch; reducing weed growth, increasing moisture retention and protects against harsh winds and heavy rain (although heavy rain is a problem we wish we had in So Cal).
3. It beats paying for compost.
Buying compost at Home Depot is not too expensive, maybe about five bucks for 1 cubic foot. That is enough for one of my raised planters (2’x6′) or two half barrel planters. But since I have more than just 1 raised bed or two half barrels, I would need about 12 of those bags. So instead of $5, we are now talking about $60 to compost my garden, each time. $60 is unlikely to break the bank, but that is much more than I am willing to spend on something that I could create at home, while also reducing the amount of waste I add to the elephant pyramid.
In general, there are a lot of things we all could do to the “save the earth”. Realistically, I am highly unlikely to do them all but as a starting point, I am more than capable of doing something small, like this.