Benefits of Community Composting
Community Composting locally at the neighborhood or community-level can yield many benefits: it can build sustainability awareness, and increase local resilience, social inclusion and empowerment for those who may not feel like their neighborhood offers many "green" programs, improved local soils, enhanced food security, less pollution from garbage truck traffic, more local jobs, and increased composting know-how and skills within the local workforce that can reinforce the next generation, and fewer food deserts.
Especially for apartment dwellers, community-scale composting is one approach to preventing landfill disposal of compostable organic materials. It has the potential to reduce waste generation while benefiting the earth
Our Community Compost Goals
- Resources recovered: Waste is reduced; food scraps and other organic materials are diverted from disposal and composted.
- Locally based and closed loop: Organic materials are a community asset, and are generated and recycled into compost within the same local community.
- Organic materials returned to soils: Compost is used to enhance local soils, support local food production, and conserve natural ecology by improving soil structure and maintaining nutrients, carbon, and soil microorganisms.
- Community-scaled and diverse: Composting infrastructure is diverse, distributed, and sustainable; systems are scaled to meet the needs of a self-defined community.
- Community engaged, empowered, and educated: Compost programming engages and educates the community in food systems thinking, resource stewardship, or community sustainability, while providing solutions that empower individuals, businesses, and institutions to capture organic waste and retain it as a community resource.
- Community supported: Aligns with community goals (such as healthy soils and healthy people) and is supported by the community it serves. The reverse is true, too; a community composting program supports community social, economic, and environmental well-being.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reports that garden trimmings and food scraps make up 27 percent of all solid waste in the United States; every bit you compost keeps waste out of landfills. Yard waste alone can be decreased by 50 to 75 percent through composting. No matter the size of your garden -- from window boxes to acres -- composting reduces the need for synthetic chemical fertilizers and increases the yield of crops. Another pro of composting is that it can remediate and revitalize soil that has been contaminated by hazardous waste, and can remove oil and heavy metals from storm water runoff
- Composting saves water by helping the soil hold moisture and reduce water runoff
- Composting recycles organic resources while conserving landfill space
- composting reduces the use and need for commercial soil conditioners and fertilizers.
- Finished compost adds nutrients that are naturally released at appropriate time intervals, introduces more beneficial microbes, and improves plant growth.
- It encourages natural plant root structure
- Good compost attracts and helps to feed earth worms and other soil organisms
- Compost balances soil pH (the balance of acidity and alkalinity)
- When used as a mulch, compost regulates and moderates soil temperatures, and reduces weeds.
- Compost helps reduce soil erosion
- Compost helps sandy soil (Most of Florida) to hold water, and can help lighten clay soils
Anyone Can Compost
Perhaps composting's greatest advantage is that anyone can do it. Outdoor composting bins are readily available or can easily and economically be made at home from scrap wood or old garbage cans. If you have limited space or live in an apartment, small composting containers will fit under the kitchen sink. Most vegetable-based food scraps can be used to make compost, including fruit and vegetable waste, egg shells, leftover pasta or rice, coffee grounds and teabags, nut shells and bread. Grass clippings, leaves, weeds, vacuum and dryer lint and cardboard rolls can also be added to compost piles. It doesn't take much effort -- the bacteria and other microbes responsible for decomposition do the hard work.
Composting is worth the effort to produce your own nutrient-rich soil amendment. You can choose to take an active or passive approach and save money on soil for your yard, garden, or flower beds. At the same time, you can reduce the amount of material being sent to landfills, and return some of our everyday waste stream into a productive resource for local farms.
Not everyone obsesses over their impact on the planet. I’m not one to overthink this either. At the same time, common sense tells me that if everyone takes and no one gives back, sooner or later the cookie jar is empty. Putting organic material back into the soil is a responsibly-minded approach to reducing landfill waste. At the same time, it’s enriching the soil with organic nutrients that synthetic fertilizers just can’t compare to.