3 Impressive Benefits of Composting—and Why You Should Be Doing It
While many communities now have local recycling drop-off locations and others offer curbside recycling, unnecessary items are still being sent to landfills. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, food scraps and yard waste account for more than 30% of what we throw away, with 24% of trash coming from food waste, making it the single largest contributor to landfills. Before we can begin to discuss the benefits of composting, it's best to have a general understanding of what composting is—and how to do it properly.
How to Compost
Composting at home doesn't have to be complicated. But before you can get started, you'll want to invest in a kitchen compost bin to keep everything contained and odorless (here are the best ones for your kitchen).
Composting requires 4 basic components:
- Greens (Nitrogen rich)—Fruit and vegetable waste from the kitchen, grass clippings, etc.
- Browns (Carbon rich)—Shredded tree leaves, wood chips, etc.
- Moisture—Water helps create the right environment for breaking down the above.
- Air—While composting can occur without aeration, the process is accelerated with increased oxygen.
Composting should include a balanced mix of the green and brown contributions to be most effective. Adding water and keeping your compost pile moist are essential to helping the organic matter break down.
What to Include in Your Compost Bin:
- Fruits and vegetables
- Coffee grounds, filters and tea bags
- Grass clippings
- Sawdust and wood chips
- Nut shells
- Yard trimmings
- Cardboard, paper and newspaper (shredded or torn for faster breakdown)
- Fireplace ashes
What Not to Put in Your Compost Bin:
- Dairy products
- Meat scraps or bones
- Cooking oils and grease
- Pet waste
Benefits of Composting
It Helps Reduce Waste
In addition to reducing the amount of waste you send to the landfill, composting can also lower your carbon footprint. According to the EPA, the breakdown of organic waste in landfills generates methane (a potent greenhouse gas linked to climate change). By composting wasted food and other organic materials, you can help reduce methane emissions.
It's Great for Your Garden
Compost can be used as a natural fertilizer in your garden and therefore reduce the need for potentially harmful chemical fertilizers. According to the EPA, compost also fosters beneficial bacteria and fungi that break down organic matter to create humus, a rich nutrient-filled material.
Humus is basically gold for plants, since it increases soil health and fertility by replacing lost nutrients. Humus also helps to rebuild the structure of soil in areas that have been previously disturbed from construction and other activities. Humus can assist in binding soil together, which increases filtration and slows down the flow of water across surface soil. Adding compost around your plants can reduce the amount of water needed by helping retain moisture.
It Can Help Us Save Money
When food goes in the trash, we often forget the volume that we are throwing away. However, when we can see the volume of food that we are tossing into the compost bin, it actually forces us to reevaluate our purchasing and wasting of food. And that can put money back in your pocket. Plus, if you typically pay for pricy garden soils or fertilizer, you can save money by using compost in your yard (which is totally free!).