Why Compost? The Benefits of Composting

It seems that more and more people are talking about composting in an effort to help the environment. But helping the environment is just one of the many benefits of composting.

Over the decades we’ve adopted a consumerist lifestyle. We seem to throw away things as soon as we obtain them. And although some of our consumerist lifestyle has promoted progress in our society, it’s also led us to unnecessarily waste things without even thinking about a more economical option. Composting is just one of the many things we can do that are much more economical for our lives and beneficial for the planet.

1. Composting creates healthy soil

Composting involves using a variety of organic matter to break down further into nutritious soil. (By ‘organic’, I mean from living organisms.) All the organic matter you have is made up of a variety of nutrients that are good for the soil such as carbon, nitrogen, calcium, phosphorus, potassium, magnesium, and sulfur. The mix of these nutrients helps create a balanced soil which helps your plants grow. These nutrients promote better growth, better resistance to diseases caused by deficiencies, and overall better crop.

2. Repletes nutrients in soil

Adding compost to soil that you’ve previously harvested from helps replete any missing nutrients. Plants require nutrients to grow, especially nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus. As they grow, they remove these nutrients from the soil. This makes the soil lower in nutrients and makes it harder for future plants to grow efficiently. Adding compost to this soil adds these nutrients back into the soil. Think of it much as how you feed yourself food.

3. Helps you save money

How much money do you spend on soil a year? Even if you only buy soil once a year at the start of bring, think about how taxing it is. You may be asking yourself too many questions such as Do I spend more money on the organic soil? Where’s this soil coming from? Am I getting too much? Or am I getting too little and will I have to make several trips? Think about how much less stressful it’d be if you just made it at home! Regardless of how much soil you buy (whether it a lot or a little), composting can help reduce the amount you buy or eliminate the need altogether!

4. Reduces your carbon footprint

Something we don’t usually think about is where our garbage goes and how it gets there. When we fill up our garbage, we send it out to the street and it gets picked up by the garbage truck. But where does it go after that? To the landfill. It’s estimated that over 50% of our total garbage is compostable (1), which means that over half of our refuse transportation is completely unnecessary.

But landfills aren’t always close. All garbage must be transported to the landfill, requiring gas consumption. Transportation accounts for 25% of the worlds oil consumption, and reducing it in any capacity is important to help lower the amount of oil consumed (2). Instead of requiring transportation to a landfill, the food is diverted to your home, eliminating the related oil consumption.

In addition, anything that sits in a landfill emits methane gas, which is ‘23 times more effective in trapping heat into the atmosphere than carbon dioxide’ (3). The impact of decreasing food sent to landfills may not seem obvious as the benefits are indirect but significant.

If we reduce the overall number of things sent to the landfill, we can hopefully close some down, overall reducing to the amount of methane gas emitted by them. This is incredibly important for even more than environmental reasons. Cities and states are stressed because they no longer know where to send waste after China announced it would stop accepting our waste last year (4).

5. Wastes less water

As our soils lose nutrients or their textures than, they become less effective in retaining water. However, the composition of compost helps retain water so that it can effectively reach the plants roots (5). It also helps balance the composition of other soils such as clay or sand to make it more effective at retaining water at an appropriate rate.

6. Can reduce nitrogen run-off

Poor care not only leads to ineffectiveness retaining water, but also promotes nitrogen run-off into our waters. Nitrogen run off has been creating ‘dead zones’ in our waters for years (especially the gulf of Mexico), killing beneficial algae (6).

However, compost helps retain water and keep nutrients in the top-soil so they are less likely to run-off. This has huge implications to not only help our yards but also our waters.

7. Can help reduce the need for pesticides

As we replete the soils nutrients with compost, it becomes healthier and less susceptible to disease. Lower susceptibility to disease reduces the need for pesticides, ensuring a safer crop or harvest. In some cases, it may eliminate the need altogether (7).

(Side note: I think it’s important to note though that doesn’t mean it reduces the need for ALL pesticides, which is a common misunderstanding to the general public and ends up harming small-scale non-organic responsible farmers. Pesticides (8) can serve an essential purpose, but it’s the overuse of them in our country that is harmful).

Overall,

There are so many benefits of composting. Composting is great for our wallets, agricultural systems, and the environment. We tend to underestimate the power of the small things we can change in our lives. Composting, especially if many of us adopt it, can make a huge impact on our environment.

What to continue to learn how to reduce your food-related waste?

Join my exclusive eco-eating facebook group where we share suggestions and answers questions on how you can reduce your food-related waste.

Liked reading “Why Compost? The Benefits of Composting” but want to read more? Check out my other posts about composting such as:

A Simple Guide to Apartment Composting

Backyard Composting: How to Start a Compost Pile

What Can You Compost? Compostable Materials List

Sources:

  1. Platt, Brenda, et al. “Infographic: Compost Impacts More Than You Think.” Institute for Local Self-Reliance, 24 July 2018, ilsr.org/compost-impacts-2/.
  2. Marex. “Transport Uses 25 Percent of World Energy.” The Maritime Executive, www.maritime-executive.com/article/transport-uses-25-percent-of-world-energy.
  3. Peters, Adele. “These Maps Show How Many Landfills There Are In The U.S.” Fast Company, Fast Company, 19 Aug. 2016, www.fastcompany.com/3062853/these-maps-show-how-much-of-the-us-is-covered-in-landfills.
  4. Watson, Sara Kiley. “China Has Refused To Recycle The West’s Plastics. What Now?” NPR, NPR, 28 June 2018, www.npr.org/sections/goatsandsoda/2018/06/28/623972937/china-has-refused-to-recycle-the-wests-plastics-what-now.
  5. Bennaton, Rob. “Composting and Water Conservation.” Extending Orchard IPM Knowledge in California, University of California, Agriculture and Natural Resources, 17 Feb. 2015, ucanr.edu/blogs/blogcore/postdetail.cfm?postnum=16800.
  6. “Using Compost to Prevent Pollution.” Planet Natural, www.planetnatural.com/composting-101/environmental-issues/nutrient-pollution/.
  7. “Reducing the Impact of Wasted Food by Feeding the Soil and Composting.” EPA, Environmental Protection Agency, 2 Aug. 2018, www.epa.gov/sustainable-management-food/reducing-impact-wasted-food-feeding-soil-and-composting.
  8. “Why We Use Pesticides.” EPA, Environmental Protection Agency, 27 June 2017, www.epa.gov/safepestcontrol/why-we-use-pesticides.

Author: Stephanie

As a Registered Dietitian-Nutritionist, I'm on a mission to help you enjoy eating a balanced diet by cooking with #thatcertaintouch .

5 thoughts

  1. Love it! Thank you for the awesome resources as well. We live in a tiny townhouse, but we manage to implement multiple avenues of composting. We have a vermicompost, but they’re picky and can only eat a little. We also have 2 buckets of open-air compost that are added annually to our container garden soil. And finally, we subscribe to municipal compost through our city. It does cost a little, but it’s so worth it!

    1. You’re doing incredible work! Keep it up! I personally and only able to accommodate municipal compost at home but am SO lucky it’s required of my building to provide the subscription. I think it’s important to teach everyone what options they have, since everyone’s needs are so different. Keep doing awesome work!

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