Raising eco-consciousness one week at a time

Friday, April 8, 2011

Compost: Reducing climate change, not just landfill space

Spring is here, as is Earth Month, and what better way to celebrate our planet than to give back to her?

This month, we’re covering everything you need to know about compost and how to do it at home, whether you have a backyard or not.


What is compost?

Compost is a nutritious soil amendment that provides your plants with natural food. It is created by combining carbon-rich “brown” materials like dry leaves and small twigs, with “green” materials like grass clippings and kitchen scraps. Natural composting, or biological decomposition, began with the first plants on earth and has been going on ever since. As vegetation falls to the ground, it slowly decays, providing minerals and nutrients needed for plants, animals, and microorganisms.

By having your own compost pile, you are taking would-be trash, like kitchen scrap and even tissues and other non-recyclable paper products and putting them to good use in the way nature intended. 

Making Our Soils Healthy

Compost improves soil, the lifeblood of our society. It has been shown­­­ to help soils retain moisture, provide nutrients to plants and vegetation, suppress plant diseases and pests, prevent erosion and promote higher yields of agricultural crops.

Did you know? Compost can...

  • suppress plant diseases and pests.
  • reduce or eliminate the need for potentially harmful chemical fertilizers.
  • promote higher yields of agricultural crops.
  • facilitate reforestation, wetlands restoration, and habitat revitalization efforts by amending contaminated, compacted, and marginal soils.
  • cost-effectively remediate soils contaminated by hazardous waste.
  • remove solids, oil, grease, and heavy metals from stormwater runoff.
  • capture and destroy 99.6 percent of industrial volatile organic chemicals (VOCs) in contaminated air.
  • provide cost savings of at least 50 percent over conventional soil, water, and air pollution remediation technologies, where applicable.
  • help combat climate change.

Learn more here 

Combating Climate Change

Composting is also one of the easiest ways to reduce your climate change impact. When discarded in a landfill, biodegradable materials decompose without oxygen, or anaerobically, and create the greenhouse gas methane, which has 72 times the heat-trapping power of carbon dioxide over the short term! Composting keeps these materials out of the landfill, prevents these methane emissions and puts the materials back to good use. 

The impact is tremendous: If we all composted all of our biodegradable discards, it would be like shutting down 21% of U.S. coal-fired power plants!

Read our groundbreaking report, Stop Trashing the Climate, and join Eco-Cycle’s campaign against landfilling biodegradable discards, COOL 2012.

Next week, we’ll cover how to make your own compost, whether you have a backyard or not!


  1. Composting really helps in reducing these gigantic masses of garbage. Only the people should do it frequently.

  2. It is more important than ever before to recycle and do whatever we can to protect this beautiful world that we live in. Now more than ever, as we are seeing issues like global warming which could mean the end of our world if we do not do something to stop it. To get off on the right foot, one of the easiest ways to start recycling is to start up a compost at your home.

  3. ‎"If we all composted all of our biodegradable discards, it would be like shutting down 21% of U.S. coal-fired power plants!"

    This claim is flawed. There are landfills that capture methane and burn it off either as a preventative mechanism or to generate power.

  4. Gimmickless - This calculation already accounts for the methane being captured and burned or used for power at our nation’s landfills. It demonstrates the powerful warming potential of methane gas in our atmosphere over the short-term. We feel this is critically overlooked by policymakers when planning to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. For more on calculations, download our paper on methane from www.ecocycle.org/zerowaste/climate/.

    Keeping organics out of landfills offers a highly-effective, short-range solution for dropping our emissions while we work on longer-term solutions to our energy and transportation needs. Far more greenhouse gases can be avoided by keeping our organic materials out of landfills and returning them to the soil through composting than by generating electricity at the landfill. Compost can store carbon in the soils and reduces our dependence on fertilizers which are energy-intensive to produce.

  5. WOW! I had no idea about how much compost tea helps with landfills and greenhouse gases. This really is some big news and I'm surprised the idea isn't so widespread.

    But not only does compost tea and organic lawn care help the environment but they also get rid of the nasty side effects that chemical fertilizer pose. For instance, chemicals in fertilizers are stimulating phytopllankton algae growth, resulting in a sickness called hypoxia. Hypoxic zones or dead zones in the water are places where there is so little oxygen that fish cannot survive! There are supposedly over 400 dead zones in the world, the biggest in the Gulf of Mexico which is bigger then the states of New Jersey and Delaware combined!

    Great information, keep writing!


  6. Thanks for all the great info I really learned a lot! I am off to go make my fruit fly trap!