Black is the new Green: Urban Composting!

You may have recently read that Mayor Bloomberg announced a proposal to for a food waste composting initiative in New York City! If you’re like me and avoid buying pre-packaged items and eat a lot of fresh foods, chances are that the majority of your garbage is food scraps from meal prep or some funky vegetables that sat in the crisper for too long (oops). I am excited to hear about the City’s initiative and their pilot programs, because it is further evidence that urban composting is possible and gaining popularity.

Why is composting so great? It recycles organic matter into a new, nutrient-rich soil conditioner (humus) that is like “black gold” – great for enriching the soil anywhere. I took agronomy classes in high school where our mantra was “soil is not dirt!” Healthy soil is able to hold more nutrients and water, which better withstands droughts and prevents soil erosion and nutrient leaching. Compost is a necessary part of any organic farm, since synthetic fertilizers aren’t used (hint: compost works better anyways!).

While working in a restaurant, I was peeved by the amount of food waste both from the kitchen and from the tables that went in the Dumpster. I recently spent a week working at a grocery store and was dismayed by the amount of “expired” food that went through the trash compacter every night. Composting initiatives such as Mayor Bloomberg’s hopefully continues to signal a trend toward change.

Composting is not too complicated, especially on a small scale. My parents composted food and yard waste easily on our property – we had a big bin of compost behind our house. Even my friends in Miami have a worm box where their kitchen waste and scraps from a local restaurant are broken down. I was a huge nerd in high school and spent my summers at Penn State for 4-H & FFA conferences and the Governor’s School for Agricultural Sciences, where we got to “plant our napkins” as part of their campus-wide composting program, Project Earth Grow. I might add that this program actually saves the school money – $16,000 each year – and prevents 1.6 tons of waste from going in the landfill every day.

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While I haven’t taken the time to compost everything at my house, I do add some scraps when planting my flowers. I regret not starting a better system when I first moved in. At my new apartment, I plan on displaying my awesome Eco Crock (that I rescued from a clearance shelf at Homegoods for a few dollars) proudly on my countertop and creating a larger system outside on my balcony. There are plenty of tutorials for starting your own home compost bin online – check them out! I welcome any advice or questions in the comments section below 🙂

~L

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2 responses to “Black is the new Green: Urban Composting!

  1. Awesome Liz! I have been composting (albeit a little chaotically, i.e. just a pile of stuff behind our garage!) and used some of it in the bottom of my bushel baskets for planting a few vegetables this year. I’m always amazed at how much less frequently we have to take the trash out and how much better it smells too!

    Hooray for composting!

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