Growing up, my family didn’t compost, and I didn’t know anyone who did. Trash went in the trashcan, and recyclables went in the recycling bin. That was it. In fact, it was a long time before I learned what composting was, and why it’s so important. Now that I’m a composting convert, it genuinely blows my mind that composting isn’t a standard practice in every household. It’s so easy and so beneficial that there’s no good reason not to do it.
If, like me, you didn’t grow up with a compost pile in your backyard, or even if you did and just don’t know a whole lot about it, here are eight reasons why you should be composting at home.
- Keep food waste out of landfills. Organic matter, like fruit and vegetable scraps, doesn’t decompose in the dry, oxygen-poor conditions of landfills. Decades-old banana peels, carrots, and avocado pits have been found perfectly preserved in landfills because they simply can’t break down. Instead, the piles of trash just accumulate over time. On the other hand, by composting organic materials, you can keep them from piling up in landfills year after year, and allow them to break down the way nature intended.
- Reduce methane emissions. The bacteria present in the anaerobic conditions of landfills also contribute to the release of methane, a greenhouse gas far more dangerous than carbon dioxide. Food scraps and yard waste make up about 28% of the trash in landfills. By composting these materials instead, you can help reduce the size of landfills and the amount of methane that is released into the atmosphere.
- Reduce pollution. Not only due the gases released by landfills contribute to climate change, but they also pollute the air in surrounding communities, which can be harmful to human health. In addition, when rain falls on landfill sites, toxic chemicals pollute the groundwater, which leaches into lakes and rivers, killing aquatic life. By keeping as much waste out of landfills as possible, you can help mitigate these effects. Every little bit helps!
- Return carbon to the earth. As organic matter breaks down in an oxygen-rich compost bin, rather than a landfill, the carbon becomes trapped in the soil in a process called carbon sequestration. Carbon emissions in the air are harmful to the environment, but carbon in the ground is essential to healthy soil.
- Restore nutrients and vitality to the soil. Composting also helps return essential nutrients to the soil, improves its structure so that it better retains water, and makes it ideal for plant growth. Healthy soil can benefit an entire ecosystem because it not only creates the perfect environment for plants, but it also helps reduce erosion and runoff.
- Used finished compost to feed plants. Compost is often called “black gold” because it is a nutrient-rich soil additive that can be used to grow healthy plants. The organic matter in compost is essential to healthy soil and new growth.
- Reduce the need for pesticides and synthetic fertilizers. By adding compost to your garden, you reduce the need to use pesticides and synthetic fertilizers, which can be hazardous to your health. Instead, compost acts as organic fertilizer because it is full of nutrients and beneficial microorganisms that ward off pests and diseases.
- Grow nutritious food for better health. Composting contributes to healthy soil, which facilitates healthy plant growth, so it stands to reason that eating fruits and vegetables grown with compost would be richer in vitamins and minerals, and therefore healthier to eat. Not only that, but they often taste better, too!
You may have noticed that all of these reasons essentially boil down to the same thing: composting is good for the planet. It’s a virtuous cycle through which nutrients return to the earth to be recycled and used again.
Ready to give composting a try? Check out this step-by-step guide to setting up a compost bin at home, even in an apartment!