Is Composting better than Recycling?
It's no secret that our world is clogged with an immense amount of waste. Recycling efforts are at an all-time high, but what about food waste? Most of us are rightfully concerned about the environment these days, and many of us recycle as much as we can. Is there more that can be done?
Compost can be sprinkled on top or mixed into garden beds. It can also be added on top of soil and used as an insulator. Compost enriches the soil, helps maintain moisture, and helps suppress some pests and plant diseases. Compost also helps fertilize better, so it reduces the need for additional or commercial fertilizers. Not only all this, but, of course, it helps keep more waste out of landfills by putting these items in the compost bin rather than the trash can.
With all the yard clippings and fresh produce scraps from the spring and summer abundant in our area this season, I decided to look into composting. I bought one of those large barrel bins which has two compartments and holds so much! Prior to this about half my food waste was going down the garbage disposal (eek, oops!) and most of the rest went into the garbage can. The vast majority of my food scraps are now going into my compost bin and it's wonderful, but did you know you can put paper and cardboard in the compost bin and use it in your garden to help insulate your plants and deter weeds? You can also include dead leaves and twigs.
You don't need to buy a compost barrel like I did or a tray system with a bunch of worms or anything fancy or complicated. Some people use areas of their backyard or a trash can or even a simple bucket. Read up on ways to get started if you are interested in trying to start your own compost pile.
Some items that I were surprised to find out can be included to compost: cotton rags, sawdust and wood chips, human and animal hair, and fireplace ash.
Maybe you don't want to go through the hassle of keeping your own compost bin. That's okay, you can still compost! That's right! Did you know most major cities and many farmer's markets will accept food scraps to put into their compost program? Our company, green, is based in Maryland. In Baltimore alone there are at least five spots you can drop off food scraps for composting, and I found quite a few in DC as well. Some of these programs are pilot programs, which means we need to use them or they will go away, so please investigate your local area to see if any such programs are available.
Junk mail is out of control, even when you remove yourself from lists and databases; catalogs, newspapers, and magazines are often read once, if that, then discarded; paper and cardboard shipping materials can be reused but are often simply recycled or discarded. Berry and produce cartons, coffee filters as well as coffee grounds, and tea bags are just a few of the things that can usually be recycled or composted. What if we put most of this into compost instead of discarding or recycling it? We will always have a need for rich soil for nutritious food and thriving plants, so it's a wonderful solution to mitigate our waste and carbon footprint.
What happens when biodegradable items end up in landfills? Ultimately, using anything that is biodegradable and non-toxic is better than using plastics, styrofoams, and other harmful materials, even if they end up in the dump rather than a recycling center or compost bin. Aside from all the waste, one of the biggest problems with landfills is that they are so full and compacted, there is very little air flow and microorganisms present which are needed to break down these materials. They will eventually break down, but it's at a much more gradual pace.
The EPA has been tracking recycling trends since 1960 and shows it has steadily increased, but we still have a long way to go and so much more can be done. Let's each do our part on an individual level to make this world as best as it can be.
According to VegNews, the average American creates over four pounds of waste each day and over three pounds goes into the garbage while less than half a pound is composted and only about one pound is recycled.
We try to find the best eco-friendly vegan brands here at green. Did you know the Naked Ape product packaging for their awesome soaps and lip balms is 100% biodegradable and can be composted [or recycled]? Buying products that have biodegradable packaging, no plastic, and sustainable materials like hemp and bamboo is excellent, but the sad reality is that we all still need to do more.
What can we do as individuals to help the most? Buying true eco-friendly products, reusable products, sustainable products, biodegradable items, and products with less packaging is a good start.
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Recycle and compost as much as possible, even if you don't want to have your own compost bin. Make an extra effort to collect food scraps, yard scraps, and paper that can be composted and deliver it to a local drop-off spot. Eating more sustainably is vital. Grow your own food when you can and buy local fresh fruits, vegetables, and grains from farmer's markets if you are able. If you still eat meat and seafood, cut back or stop. Animal agriculture is the largest contributor of greenhouse gasses and pollutants -- even more than transportation.
Try to use less water. Basic things like turning off the water while brushing, collecting rainwater for gardens with rain barrels or large buckets, using gray water, taking shorter showers, etc. can save many gallons of water each month.
Now more than ever, we all need to do our share to reduce trash and improve the environment. These days it's easier than ever to recycle and compost because many areas have curbside pickup or drop-off locations. There are also many companies using biodegradable packaging and sustainable materials.
Let's look forward together to a brighter tomorrow!