How YOU Can Make An Impact
The birds in my yard love taco shells. And the crusts off of my brother’s toast. And Cheetos. But just like me, they do not really care for bell pepper. How do I know this? I know this because these are just a sampling of the food waste we put in our family’s compost pile, and from our kitchen window, we can see what discarded food excites the local wildlife. It takes bird watching to a new level, but that is not why we do it.
Home gardeners have two options when they fertilize their vegetable and fruit gardens and ornamental plants. They can buy and sow chemical fertilizer into the soil, or they can compost their household food waste and use the resulting organic matter to do the work that fertilizer, whether natural or synthetic, is meant to do, which is to enrich the plants and provide nutrients to the roots and the soil. At our house in Alexandria, we compost as a way to reduce the need for chemical fertilizer, recycle organic material, and save space in landfills where our food waste would otherwise go. Our overall goal in composting is to reduce our carbon footprint the best way we can to cut down on climate change.
What is climate change?
Climate change is the worldwide rapid change in overall temperature on Earth. It is the direct consequence of human actions that harm the environment. Namely, the sheer amount of carbon emissions and greenhouse gasses that are being or have been released into the atmosphere, as a result of factories and automobiles. Factories and cars emit far more carbon than Earth’s natural processes, allowing the gases to be released into the atmosphere faster and at a much greater quantity than the Earth can process. As a result, changes are occurring throughout the whole planet.
Although it affects everyone everywhere, climate change is very prominent in the polar ice caps. These once towering glaciers are melting, causing water levels to rise and causing animals to lose their habitats. Rainforests such as the Amazon, as well as reefs and bodies of water (such as the Great Barrier Reef) are also places where you can find noticeable effects of climate change.
“Notable is the likelihood that going from 1.5 to 2 degrees would expose several hundred million people dangerous climate-related risks by 2050, and would likely wipe out 99 percent of coral reefs.” (Hultman)
In addition, climate change greatly affects small islands and coasts that are especially susceptible to hurricanes and storms coming in from the sea. Places like Kiribati, (a small group of islands in the Pacific Ocean, southwest of Hawaii) have much reason for concern. People who live on these islands are seeing the effects of climate change first hand. Kiribati are very small islands which are threatened by even the slightest rise in the water levels of the oceans. The rapid shift in weather from cold to warmer is melting the ice caps, causing huge pieces of ice to break off into the ocean. Every time a chunk of this ice falls into the ocean, it melts completely, causing the overall sea level to rise all over the world.
“The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a multinational organization that monitors environmental data, stated in a 2014 report that the global mean sea level rose by about 7.5 inches (19 cm) between 1901 and 2010 due to climate change and predicted that levels will continue to rise another 1 to 4 feet (30 to 122 cm) by 2100.” (Nakaya)
If water levels rise enough, the island will start to disappear. The people living on the island are starting to worry because soon, they will have no place to live. They will have to leave the islands that they call home because it will be entirely underwater. This will start to happen to the rest of the world as well. If we do not stop climate change, all of the glaciers in the ice caps will melt, and water levels will rise to the point where it will become dangerous for humans to live on Earth.
What Has Been Done to Combat Climate Change?
Home composting is just one small piece of our larger and very urgent challenge of global warming. While we pour synthetic fertilizer (made in a factory, transported by trucks and trains, and shipped in packaging made in other factories and shipped in other trucks,) into our soil in North America, across the world, our polar ice caps and islands like Kiribati to suffer and eventually sink. Meanwhile, we dump into the garbage food waste that requires no shipping, no packaging, and is entirely free. It is only a matter of scraping our plates and walking a few steps into a yard or garden.
Seeing as climate change is an impending global issue, many actions have been taken in order to combat its effects. For example, governments of numerous countries have started to try to use policies and preventative measures to stop its progression and eventually reverse its effects. Some main methods include switching everyday use of fossil fuels to primarily renewable energy and limiting annual carbon emissions as well as driving fuel efficient cars and reducing the use of automobiles and modes of transportation that require gas or fossil fuels. These are major changes that need to happen, but they are drastic and hard to enforce. Reducing food and water waste is another change that is trying to be made. Educating others and keeping up with personal awareness is essential. So is recycling, unplugging any devices not being used to reduce “idle load,” making sure your tires are always full, (which reduces gas needed by the car to drive) and composting!
Why focus on composting?
Reducing the amount of carbon emission that is released into the air is very necessary, solid way to combat climate change. However, it is hard to get everyone on board with this method. It includes needing to slow down or stop large scale production in factories as well as putting a limit on how much people can drive their individual cars.
On the contrary, composting is a method of reducing climate change that is simple and easy to get on board with. It does not do as much as reducing carbon emissions, but it is a step in the right direction and might inspire people to do more for their community in terms of climate change.
Some of the ways composting helps the Earth include reducing the need for chemical fertilizer and adding natural nutrients into the soil. This is important because by recycling organic material, we can switch to a more organic, natural way to grow plants. Also, it costs nothing. By composting, you are holding water in the soil and preventing runoff. In addition, composting reduces methane and carbon emissions as well as conserving space in landfills. The space that would be taken up by your compost will be used by garbage that would not decompose as easily or at all. Finally, composting is an easy way for families to help out and hopefully get more interested in reducing their carbon footprint.
How Do You Set Up a Compost Pile?
Starting a compost pile is simple and easy. Just keep in mind these simple steps!
You will need a place outdoors dedicated to you pile. This space should be accessible so that you can add to your pile whenever necessary. Also, the pile should be somewhere that has access to sunlight: the hotter the pile, the faster it decomposes. If you want, compost bins might be a good investment, but they are in no way required. They help with turning and containing the compost, however they can be expensive. For the best results, keep your compost moist, but in the sun. You should turn or fluff the pile often to allow air to go through the soil. Lastly, make sure to have an equal amount of green and brown material (green is grass clippings, vegetable waste, and flowers; brown waste is dead leaves, twigs, and bark) in your compost at all times.
|What to Compost||What NOT to Compost|
|Greens||Browns||Coal or ash|
|Rinds/pits/seeds of fruits||Newspaper||Meat|
|Grass clippings||Sawdust||Insect or disease ridden plants|
|Weeds||Wine Corks||Pet or human waste|
|Coffee grounds||Toilet Paper Rolls||Fats/greases/oils|
|Vegetable and fruit peels||Hair/Fur||Seed bearing weeds|
|Eggshells||Cotton and Cotton Swabs|
|Wheat products||Most organic products|