Top 11 Benefits of Composting [#8 Will Surprise You]By Samantha Miller
We’re all hearing about the horrors of food waste. But what’s so great about composting?
This article gets down and dirty about the benefits of composting and how it affects our lives, our soil and our beautiful environment.
For the most obvious benefits of composting, you need look no further than the ground beneath your feet.
How Does Composting Benefit the Soil?
1) Soil Diversity
Soil diversity means that the soil contains a variety of living organisms. Composting achieves soil diversity by breaking down food waste and redistributing the nutrient composition of those foods.
If you compare soil that contains no compost (decomposed food waste) and soil which contains compost, you’re going to find that the latter contains much more diversity because of all the bacteria generated from all the broken down bits of food.
2) Slow-Release Fertilizer
Some chemical fertilizers can burn your plants because of the hot and heavy way they fertilize your garden.
Compost does not do this. Rather, compost releases nutrients (nitrogen and carbon, among others) slowly, following the natural process of chemical alteration we call simply decomposition.
This is why it is often said that compost nourishes the soil, while inorganic fertilizer nourishes the plants (sometimes a little too much!).
Note: Is there a "best of both worlds" in this scenario? Yep! Organic fertilizer derived from recycled food scraps are a powerful alternative to synthetic fertilizer that you buy in the store, and long-term, space-consuming compost piles.
3) Retains Moisture
By building the nutrient composition of the soil, compost-rich “earth” retains moisture much better than drier, less nutrient-dense soil.
Soil structure is enhanced by diversity (see 1) which also leads to less soil erosion - a massive issue in modern agriculture - and more hydrated soil.
4) Improves Air Circulation
In much the same way that compost helps sandier/drier soils retain moisture, it also helps heavier soils circulate air.
By breaking up the composition of your soil with all those slow-release nutrients, it allows air to wiggle its way through the earth, reducing the chances of mold, rot and/or disease.
You might think that the benefits of compost to our soil are obvious ones.
But did you know that composting also affects the air we breathe?
How Does Composting Improve Air Quality?
5) Reduces Emissions
Food waste which decomposes without aeration (anaerobically) generates methane gas. Methane insulates atmospheric heat 25-30 times more than regular old carbon dioxide.
In Other Words:
Methane contributes to climate change 25-30 times more than the CO2 emitted from our cars.
Composting - by your manually turning a pile of compost - is essentially breaking down that waste aerobically so that no methane is emitted during the decomposition process.
Not only does composting reduce methane, it also reduces carbon monoxide. Half the waste we throw out every week is organic material. If everyone composted, we would reduce the amount of bags we send out to the landfill every week - and the gas used up by all those landfill trucks necessary to carry it all!
6) Trees, Trees, and More Trees!
Trees are green. Green is GOOD. You dig?
By now we all know that trees clean the air by filtering out various pollutants which float willy-nilly anywhere that humans have set up shop.
By enriching the soil, compost nourishes the roots of all nearby plants, including those of trees.
If you were to drill a hole near a tree’s root system and fill it with compost, you would be providing that tree with enough nutrients to promote healthy growth for months or even years to come.
Compost also helps to neutralize/balance the pH of soil. This allows more sensitive plants and trees to grow in areas where perhaps the arid temperature or overly-acidic soil might impede growth.
By encouraging the growth, health and propagation of trees and other plants, compost - over time - increases the amount of air-filtration which occurs in a given area.
TL;DR: trees love compost like humans love air!
But, hey, who knows - maybe you don’t care about soil. Maybe you don’t even want to breathe clean air! We’re not here to judge.
So how does composting benefit you specifically? What do we, as individuals stand to gain from composting?
7) Reduces Kitchen Odor
This may seem counterintuitive: how does collecting food waste mean less odor? Isn’t compost just a bunch of rotting food?
Food waste sitting in your garbage is the main reason your kitchen trash reeks by the end of the week (sooner if you’ve eaten fish!). The average household produces a minimum of 5 pounds per week of food waste - that’s one stinky statistic.
By eliminating this food waste from your trash, where it is decomposing anaerobically (which, if you remember from #5, is how climate change-causing methane is generating) you are removing one of your household’s greatest pollutants.
Not to mention your household’s very own stinkbomb.
8) Saves You Money!
Do you look like this right now? (-_-)
We understand - but it’s true! Composting can save you cold hard cash!
The amount of food we buy does not come close to comparing to the amount of food we eat. We waste almost half the food that we buy at the supermarket. Imagine dropping two of your four grocery bags in the parking lot, and then just not bothering to pick them up.
By simply collecting your waste, you gain a better sense of how much food your family actually eats. This will help you keep costs down week to week: you will be less likely to buy what you know you cannot eat in time, and to assemble reasonable portions rather than collect tons of leftovers once your family has given up the ghost.
Note: Skip this section if you’re not interested in using your compost for outdoor gardening.
Composting offers vast savings to the gardening-enthusiast as well. Every spring and summer, gardeners flock to their local garden supply store and shell out for synthetic fertilizers. As we’ve seen, these fertilizers can easily overwhelm plant roots with their stock of nitrogen. Ordering fertilizer can also overwhelm your summer budget.
The average trip to your local home and hardware store might set you back 40$ per bag of fertilizer. You will require multiple applications throughout the spring, summer and fall. For one growing season, and depending on the size of your garden or lawn, this could add up to a few hundred bucks per growing plot.
By composting, you are not only saving the money you would otherwise spend on store-bought fertilizers, you are also transforming trash into treasure in your very own home. You might even be able to sell some of your composted waste in gardening circles.
(There’s a reason gardeners call compost “black gold”!)
9) Saves You Time, Energy & Icks
No one likes garbage-pickup day. No one.
Along with trekking through all kinds of weather to the roadside, you will need to hazard this journey with a bag laden with leaking, stinking garbage juice - hoping against hope that the bag doesn’t rip before you reach the end of your driveway.
Many brave souls don’t make it and are left to clean the scraps off their pavement before heading off to work.
Even if you do make it to the end without spillage, you run the risk of critters finding their way into your bags or bins and exposing your dirty little secrets to the entire street.
Other not-so-fun waste collection mishaps: maggots, crows, rats, neighborhood pets and even bears.
Photo by Rita Leighton
By eliminating food waste from your trash, this weekly odyssey will not be nearly as arduous. Fewer to zero odors, leakage or pests, you will cut down clean-up time to a fraction of what you spend on it now. You will also avoid visits from unwanted pests, and minimize the fruit fly and maggot population around your home.
Folks who compost often report that they have cut their waste collection output/trips to the dump in half. Food waste is heavy, and takes up quite a lot of space in your trash can. By diverting it into a compost bin, you are saving yourself quite a lot of energy and time - not to mention the ick-factor - whenever you do end up dumping your garbage.
10) Encourages Mindfulness
When you begin to compost, you really start to incorporate mindfulness into your daily and weekly routine. You can’t help but see just how much waste you and your family are generating when you gather it all together in a bucket - this will bring an appreciation of the plenty you and your family enjoy.
Composting literally changes the way you view what others might call “waste”. To you, the items thrown into the trash are more than the sum of their parts: food waste is really just biological gold with untapped potential.
You will begin to see this mentality bleed out into the rest of your life. A friend might go to throw out a banana peel, and you might just react like this:
An exaggeration? Perhaps. But the zero-waste lifestyle is a slippery slope.
11) Teachable Moments
Are you a mama or a papa bear? Do you have little guys running around?
Composting is a great way to teach hands-on living skills to the next generation. Teachers are often seeking opportunities to develop STEM skills in a fun and interesting way. Composting and “green-thumb” education is a favorite skill to promote in an educational environment.
By using composting as a stepping stone toward greater environmental awareness and biological life cycles, your little monkeys will be better-equipped for their adulthood, and will be more well-rounded, responsible individuals in their future lives.