The environmental benefits of a compost pile are pretty huge. Let’s first consider what happens when we don’t compost.
Landfills have become the third largest source of human-caused greenhouse gas. When food scraps and paper go to a landfill, they don’t decompose like we might assume they would. Because the trash bags are on top of one another, there is no oxygen present to allow decomposition to happen. Instead, the trash gives off methane, a dangerous greenhouse gas that contributes to global warming. We don’t hear a lot about methane, despite the fact that it traps more radiation in our atmosphere than carbon dioxide–in fact, pound for pound methane’s impact is 25 times worse than carbon dioxide over a 100-year period. (EPA)
Landfills also use incinerators to burn trash, requiring fossil fuels to burn the material. And let’s not forget about all the trash trucks (which burn fossil fuels) that pick up the trash. And all of those darn plastic bags. There is a better way.
If we separate out our organic materials, such as vegetables, fruits, coffee grounds, tea bags, egg shells, leaves and grass clippings, and put them into a compost pile, it’s estimated we can cut our waste sent to landfills by about 30 percent. Less methane released, less trash trucks, and less trash in our landfills. Pretty powerful. I know that once my family “got serious” about not throwing away our fruits and vegetables, our family of four was able to cut our weekly trash from two bags to one.
Once your compost pile has made compost, it can “save” all areas of your garden. Consider that compost:
- improves soil quality by providing both macro and micro nutrients, requiring less fertilizers
- improves soil structure, clay soil becomes less clay, sandy soil is less sandy
- improves soil retention of water
- provides habitat and food for beneficial soil organisms from bacteria to earthworms
- improves resistance to both plant diseases and insect pests
- binds with heavy metal contaminants so they are not absorbed by plants
- works well as a mulch
Compost is so powerful in the garden, I would hate to be without it. And making your own is definitely cheaper than buying some.
Now that is a win-win.