Ready to get your hands dirty and fight climate change? Even if you’re new to it, composting reduces landfill waste and keeps soil healthy. There’s really no reason not to start a home compost system or participate in a local composting program! To urge you to do so, we’ll explore all of the reasons why transforming food waste and yard trimmings into black gold (compost) is something you should do to help our planet.
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When a potent greenhouse gas (like carbon dioxide or methane) is trapped in our environment, it wreaks havoc on our planet. Everything humans need to survive is currently under threat by climate change. Fortunately, thousands of households have realized how composting benefits them—and our planet. Let’s explore the environmental impact of composting so you will, too.
What is the environmental impact of composting?
When wasted food heads to the compost bin instead of the trash, it reduces methane emissions (CH4). Compost also helps to build healthy soil, reduce runoff, control erosion, support local farms, and get you outdoors more often. Composting creates new life—for plants, bacteria, fungi, insects, and you.
Through recycling organic waste, composting helps multiple aspects of natural systems. And the good news is that it’s never been easier to start your own composting program at home or find one in your local area.
9 composting benefits for the environment
From reducing emissions to supporting soil, composting is a miracle for Mother Earth. It’s something any- and everyone should do. Let’s take a look at 9 of the key ways compost helps our planet.
#1. Reduces food waste
Composting is THE way to reduce food waste. Even on a small scale, at home composting can be extremely beneficial because the average person in the US sends a lot of their food to the landfill.
According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, up to 40% of the food produced in the United States is never eaten. In the US alone, it’s been estimated that more than 133 million pounds of edible food end up in the trash every year. Not only does this waste all of the valuable resources that go into producing food, but it wastes about $161 billion of Americans’ money, too.
#2. Diverts material from landfills
Between your coffee grounds, food scraps, discarded paper products, and yard waste, you likely send a lot to landfills. Every year, an average American will send roughly 1,200 pounds of compostable waste to landfills. Composting reduces landfill waste, which is something we absolutely need to do.
It’s important to recognize that a landfill is a finite space. We can only add so much trash and organic waste before it will have to be closed and covered with cement and plastic. We can only repeat the process of opening a landfill, filling it with landfill waste, and closing it so many times. Eventually, we’ll run out of landfill space—in maybe as soon as 5-20 years in some states.
#3. Curbs greenhouse gas emissions
If you’re not sure why wasted food is a problem, here’s a daunting statistic: if the food we waste were a country, it would be the world’s third largest emitter, just behind China and the United States. Not only does our food waste have a carbon footprint of roughly 3.3 billion tons of CO2-equivalent greenhouse gases, but it does so by producing methane gas in the anaerobic environment of a landfill.
Methane is 86 times more potent than carbon dioxide. Because it has such a strong impact, the gas is responsible for more than 25% of climate change. The good news is that cutting CH4 emissions is one of the most significant things we can do to slow the rate of global warming immediately. This benefit of composting is something we simply can’t afford to miss.
#4. Improves soil health
Instead of becoming trash, wasted food and other organic materials can be turned into compost that promotes nutrient rich soil. Compost can serve as a healthy replacement to chemical fertilizers. Like pesticides, chemical fertilizers are made with fossil fuels. Manufacturing them produces greenhouse gas emissions, which contributes to global warming.
Often working better than a conventional fertilizer, compost contains agriculture’s three necessary nutrients: nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. In addition to providing nutrients to support healthy soil, compost is known to improve soil structure so that it can store nutrients and water better and fight off plant disease. Ultimately, this helps to support plants and encourage higher yields of vegetables, flowers, fruits, and other crops.
#5. Enables water retention
As one of the most prominent environmental issues in California and elsewhere in the world, drought is impacting our planet and food systems in many ways. When soil is water depleted, agriculture and ecology can suffer as a result (just ask those who lived during the Dust Bowl).
Fortunately, better water retention is another one of the ecoNo-friendly benefits of compost. Not only does compost support the nutrient content of soils, but it also increases its water holding capacity. Compost can hold 20 times its weight in water, so adding just 1% of organic matter to a garden can help soil hold thousands of gallons of extra water. In a world that’s getting increasingly drier, this is another composting benefit that’s absolutely necessary.
#6. Controls erosion
Drier soil is also more prone to erosion, whereby dirt is exposed to wind or rain, which moves it away from the landscape. As more compost benefits, adding compost to soil increases its volume of organic matter, which works to reduce erosion. Helping to control erosion can reduce pollution in waterways, support healthy plants, and provide many other environmental benefits.
According to the US Composting Council, compost reduces soil erosion in a few different ways. It increases infiltration, allowing water to absorb into soil instead of quickly moving away (bringing soil with it). As such, it also slows the surface flow of water. Compost also binds soil together, which is especially helpful for sandy soils that are prone to erosion. Think of fresh compost as the “glue” that’s able to hold soil together thanks to the humus that’s produced during the decomposition process of organic matter.
#7. Supports local farms and urban gardens
Recycling food waste through the process of composting offers community benefits, too. Oftentimes, local farms and gardens are on the hunt for a large volume of compost to support their plants with. In fact, they might even have a community compost pile where local residents can deposit their food waste and yard waste.
Not only does this offer all of the sustainability benefits of composting, but it also provides social cohesion. Instead of sending wasted food to a quickly-growing landfill, it can be delivered (in some cases picked up) to a local farmer or gardener, helping to build not just healthy soil, but a healthy community in the process.
#8. Fosters environmentalism and promotes outdoor activity
Every time you take food scraps out to the compost bin or check for high temperatures in your compost pile, you’re encouraged to engage with the outdoors. Even by taking the time to learn the dos and don’ts of composting, you’re getting to know our planet a little more intimately.
The composting process can be especially rewarding for children. Being amazed by the natural process of worms turning food scraps into something to support nutrient rich soil can help little ones learn about biological processes. Even adults who witness the decomposition process that turns compostable waste into something rich in nutrients may feel more connected to their environment as a result.
#9. Creates new life
Composting is just one decaying process that results in new life. It frees up organic materials to support living systems. Supporting the environment in a multitude of ways, use of a single indoor compost bin or compost pile can kickstart a release of nutrients that not supports soil and plants, but benefits an entire ecosystem.
By establishing a home compost system, we can turn our backyards into an oasis for healthy soils, plants, microorganisms, insects, birds, and small animals.
Make a positive impact: start composting with Lomi
Even if you’re well aware of composting impacts on the environment you may not have the space for a compost heap. Some simply don’t have the stomach to deal with stinky food waste. Fortunately, you don’t have to! Accessing the environmental benefits of composting is now easier than ever before. At home composting can be as simple as a touch of a button.
Helping thousands of homes reduce food waste and support our environment, the Lomi is the electric countertop composter that makes composting easy. It takes wasted food and other organic waste and in a quick, odor-free composting process, produces natural fertilizer that can be used to support soil. What better way to keep precious waste out of landfills, minimize the release of greenhouse gases, and support our environment?!?
Compost benefits not only help to reduce waste, improve soils and communities, and minimize the greenhouse gases released landfills, but they also support a regenerative outlook. Whether through a compost pile or sustainable indoor composting system, the composting process serves as a reminder of our place within the circle of life. Nothing is wasted in nature, and composting reminds us of that.
Written by: Heather Seely