On average in America, even people with the lowest energy usage, account for more than double the global per capita carbon emission amount. In other words, Americans have a huge carbon footprint. The bigger the carbon footprint a person has, the more greenhouse gasses they’re responsible for emitting into the environment — and these gasses are responsible for global warming. As Americans search for ways to try to reduce their negative impact on the environment, an often overlooked and fairly simple lifestyle change is composting.
Starting a compost pile is easier than one may think. The EPA website recommends that in an outdoor setting, find a shady spot near a water supply to start a compost pile or bin. Add and moisten food as it’s collected, like vegetables or nut shells for example. Finally, mix shards of grass and green waste to the compost, cover it, and once it becomes rich or dark in color, it’s ready to use.
Getting into the habit of composting food not only helps the environment but also helps the average household save money and adds beneficial nutrients to soil. Because the soil is filled with more nutrients, it becomes more enriched and, therefore, reduces the need for chemical fertilizers. Secondly, composting saves and in some cases — even makes — money.
Businesses or institutions that compost experience huge annual savings. For example, Middlebury College in Vermont saved over $100,000 by composting and not having to pay compost fees. Other colleges, like JMU, could surely follow in the steps of Middlebury College. The economic benefits go on for individual households as well. Compost is a commodity for many farmers, and can even be sold online. In a home garden, composting greatly reduces the need and expenses of pesticides, water and fertilizer.
Above any other reason though, composting helps the environment. Some people may not see the harm in sending their food scraps off to a landfill. Yet, what few realize is that food in landfills can’t properly biodegrade because the substances don’t have access to oxygen. Without oxygen, the decomposition process of food in landfills releases harmful gasses like carbon dioxide and methane that greatly contribute to global warming. In fact, landfills are the largest human source of methane emission in the world. Even though some landfills try to capture the harmful gasses released by landfills, studies show that an abundance of these gasses are released long before the chance to capture them comes along.
An easy solution is for more businesses and households to compost and reject landfills. Composting allows for a natural and beneficial process of biodegradation that could greatly help the environment by reducing the harmful effects of greenhouse gasses. Specifically, in the process of composting food, methane emission is entirely avoided. Currently, 72% of Americans don’t compost their food waste. With more education about how impactful composting is, this number could greatly change. After all, if everyone in the world composted, the effects would be equivalent to removing the harmful effects of almost 8 million cars on the road.
Josie Haneklau is a sophomore political science and psychology double major. Contact Josie at firstname.lastname@example.org.