By Ami Freeberg, Volunteer Program Manager
This week, May 3-9, 2020, we celebrate International Compost Awareness Week, a global initiative to educate and inspire people about composting. I grew up composting in a big pile at the back of our large backyard garden – piling food scraps and grass clippings together to break down and nourish the food and flowers we grew. Separating food scraps to compost has always been the norm for me, so throughout my adult life, I have always found a way to compost wherever I’ve lived. Why is compost important? Here are a few of the many reasons:
- Improved soil health
- Reduced methane emissions from landfills
- Reduced soil-borne and other plant diseases
- Reduced use of pesticide and chemical fertilizers
According to Project Drawdown, reducing food waste is among the top ten most impactful solutions to climate change, and composting is part of the puzzle for the food that cannot be rescued. Want to learn more about why and how compost is so important? Check out “The Compost Story” by Kiss the Ground.
From loose piles, to enclosed cages, to raised tumblers, to community compost projects, I’ve made it a priority to give my organic waste another life and wanted to share a few tips and tricks I’ve learned along the way.
Reduce your waste
In the United States, we each throw away an average of 219 pounds of food each year which adds up to $1,600 per family that is wasted. The majority of that wasted food ends up in the landfill, making up 22% of all solid waste in landfills. Source: https://www.rts.com/resources/guides/food-waste-america/
Personally, I feel immense guilt when I let good food go bad, so here are some of the ways I try to minimize the amount of waste in my kitchen:
- Store your veggies properly. Each item needs a different climate to thrive, so learn how to best care for your veggies for optimum freshness. One of my favorite techniques is to give my stemmed greens (kale, chard, collard greens) a fresh cut and put them in a glass of water to rehydrate. Once they have perked up, I bag them and put them in the refrigerator and they last much longer!
- Get creative! When I have a lot of a particular vegetable or item to use up, I search for new ways to use that item. One of my favorite sites for this is Tastespotting where you can search by ingredient for all kinds of recipes.
- Use the whole vegetable. Try carrot top pesto or cook up your beet greens!
- Try food preservation. Are those greens starting to get a little wilty? Before they shrivel up, try freezing them! Got too many radishes because they were just so cute at the farmers market? Try a quick pickle!
- Freeze scraps to make vegetable stock.
Of course, there will always be some food waste from the kitchen, which is where composting comes in!
Create compost systems that work for you
Every household is different, so there is no one-size-fits-all solution for composting. When it comes to the nuts and bolts of composting, Bridging The Gap has compiled some resources to help you get started with basic principles of composting and a variety of models. Here are a few additional suggestions to get you started on your composting journey.
- Make it easy for yourself! Designate a compost collection container in your kitchen. There are plenty of stylish buckets with filters available that work well, or if you empty it after every meal, you can use a bowl.
- Make a list of what goes where to remind yourself of what can and can’t be composted (this will vary slightly based on your composting system).
- Make composting a habit. Yes, it can feel overwhelming to add another level of separating waste at first, but once you get into a routine, composting is an easy way to make a big impact.
If you don’t have space or ability to create your own composting system, Kansas City has other options to responsibly dispose of your organic waste:
- Check with community gardens or urban farms in your neighborhood. Some may be set up to accept food waste in their composting systems. Urbavore Farm has a community composting program for any area residents to bring their food waste and some yard waste.
- Several businesses now offer curbside compost collection for residential and commercial customers across Kansas City! Check out these great businesses: Compost Collective KC, Food Cycle KC, KC Can Compost, Missouri Organic
It is hard to believe that one of the greatest impacts we can make on our planet starts with some simple changes in how we deal with our organic waste. I hope during this International Compost Awareness Week, and while you are doing more cooking at home during the COVID-19 pandemic, you will take some time to think about how you can create composting habits in your home. If you already compost, take a few minutes to share with your friends and family about simple steps they can take to reduce their food waste footprint. We all have a role to play in creating the future we want to see for ourselves, our children, and future generations, and compost just may be our best hope!