Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Earth Day: Composting for the Planet

I had this post in the works for Earth Day yesterday, but then an internet-power failure snafu preventing me from properly posting it.  I do trust you all had a lovely Earth Day.  And here is the post from yesterday.....

Matt gave a presentation on composting last Saturday to a collection of about 20 individuals or so, mostly members of our community garden.  The community garden sponsors a couple seminars every year and this year they approached Matt to share his love of turning rubbish into soil nourishing compost with the public.  While a little nervous about the prospect because he hadn't given a "speech" since high school Matt agreed.
Composting is pretty amazing stuff and Matt is a huge fan of the process.  He loves to play with his various piles.  He stores up bags and bags and bags of leaves in the fall so that he has dry, carbon rich material to supplement all the green materials that comes from our kitchen and yard.  Between composting, recycling, and purchasing wisely we have seriously, seriously reduced the amount of stuff that ends up in the landfill and that makes us very happy indeed.  It also reduces our need for outside sources of fertilizers as we can make our own!  It returns the nutrients back into the soil creating a complete cycle of life--plants growing and extracting nutriment, dying and being composted and returning the nutrients to the earth.   I think that's pretty darn cool, and its so easy to do.
While helping Matt prepare for his presentation (I was master of powerpoint for him as he didn't really have much for experience with that program) we came across a number of rather startling stats that I thought worthy of sharing.

#1 In 2010, the U.S. generated 34 million tons of food waste.  This figure is shocking enough on its own, but even worse is that according to the EPA only 3% of that 34 million tons was composted.  The rest was incinerated or buried landfills. 

#2 According to the Montana Extension compostable materials account for 20% of the content of Montana landfills.

#3 Methane is a greenhouse gas significantly more potent than CO2.  Landfills produce about 40-60% of the methane in the U.S.   Methane is produced by materials being broken down in anaerobic conditions (without oxygen).  By composting materials instead of landfilling them we could significantly reduce our methane production as composting is an aerobic activity (with oxygen).

Just think of all the cheap natural fertilizer in the form of compost could be available and how much less methane would be floating around if we would place a greater importance on composting our food and yard waste.  It is astonishing.   We could turn a negative (excess methane and overfull landfills) into a positive (less methane, more room in landfills, and cheap/free fertilizer)!

I learned many things from Matt's presentation and it seemed like many others did as well.  He went over different styles of composting and different structures you can build or buy to contain your compost.  He touched on different philosophies of management and how to use the final finished product.  He gave a good deal of information.  But, I loved the simplicity of his final take away message:

Composting isn't hard (unless you want it to be) and you can't really screw it up (even if you just make a pile and do nothing else).  You can micromanage your pile for fast results or you can do nothing except wait if you don't mind slower result.  Its a very customizable thing.
I also enjoyed how he reminded me that composting is a very natural process, one that is going on all around me constantly.  When leaves fall in the autumn and breakdown on the forest floor they are being composted.  When praire grass dies and falls back to the earth, being slowly absorbed back into it with the help of the worms, beetles, microorganisms, wind, rain, and sun, that is composting.  Its important to remember that we're all part of a giant web of life, all a part of a series of natural processes that are sometimes so subtle we don't even notice it. 

Happy Earth Day!

4 comments:

  1. Been offline helping with a newborm grandaughter! Pen has also been composting!! I'm so glad to be reading quiet and uplifting thoughts, life can get really hectic.

    So sorry to read about your health, my back and joints are in big flare up mode at the moment, so I extend my sympathies to you; it was absolute bliss to lie on the therapy couch for massage and acupuncture on Monday night!!

    Loved the posting of you in the dress it looks good on you; I still have a tunic dress awaiting completion.

    Hugs to you

    San

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    1. Thanks for all your kind words and support! Congrats on the new grandbaby! It must be a very exciting and busy time for you all! And my inflammation is very much reduced today, thank heavens!!! I hope the same for you!

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  2. I am so glad you and Matt are taking the trouble to live as you do and to teach other people to do the same - it just lifts my heart xxx

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    1. That's what I think when I read your blog, too!! Hooray for having found steps into the simple and good life!

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Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts and ideas. I value the advice and friendship that you share with me!