Environmental Friday: How you can start composting and why you should


environmental fridays

Kelly Walker

With the release of Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) Special Report on Global Warming a couple of weeks ago, millennials feel the weight of the world on their shoulders more than ever. There are many things that students can do to combat climate change, but one of the easiest and yet often overlooked solutions is composting.

Composting is the process of turning yard waste and food scraps into a nutrient-rich soup that soils and plants love. Composting is important because it diverts food waste from the landfills, where it would produce harmful greenhouse gases instead of valuable, nutrient-rich compost.

Greenhouse gases trap heat in the atmosphere and increase the temperature of the planet. These gases are primarily produced through burning fossil fuels (coal, natural gas and oil) which happens when you drive your car or turn on the lights.  

Carbon dioxide is the common bad boy of greenhouse gases, but it turns out that the forgotten methane gas is 30 times more potent in warming properties. Which greenhouse gas is produced when food waste is sent to the landfill? Methane.  

Without proper air and water, organic matter can’t properly decompose and instead produces methane.  Fortunately, your backyard provides all the conditions needed for your food and yard scraps to decompose properly. There are several methods to composting for every level of interest, from just throwing food in a pile to vermicomposting. Pick a method that fits your schedule and convenience.

I want to compost my food scraps, but I don’t need the natural fertilizer that it produces. What’s the best method for me?

For those who want to compost solely for diverting food scraps from the landfill, the easiest method would be to dig a hole in your back yard and dump the scraps. Composting truly can be as simple and easy as that.

I want to compost my food scraps, but I don’t have a yard. What’s the best method for me?

Fortunately for all the busy students in Lexington, Seedleaf, a local community garden nonprofit, provides a location for compost drop-off (The North Pole Community Garden: 909 North Limestone) where you dump your food scraps and they take care of the rest. If you don’t have the time for drop-off every three to four weeks, Seedleaf provides a Compost Carpool service. With a $10 start-up fee and a $10 per pick-up fee, this service provides a five gallon bucket and lid, and they will come to your door to switch the bucket out for a fresh one with just a text, call or email.  

I really want to get into composting! What are the best ingredients and conditions?

Good compost requires the correct carbon/nitrogen ratio of air, water and space.  For more detailed information, visit this website.

Composting can be done in a variety of other ways too, using different tools including tumblers, compost bins and even vermicomposters, which use worms to convert food into compost. 

As you can see, there are feasible options for college students to contribute to the health of the environment. Find what works best for you, and keep your food waste out of the landfill.