Trash Talks: Composting as a Solution to Reduce Waste and Fight Climate Injustice

Composting is one of the best ways to give back to our planet. It’s the staple of circularity and sustainability— and everyone can do it. Composting could be the solution to reducing waste in landfills, cut down greenhouse gas emissions, and fight climate injustice.

 

In this blog, we’re talking about climate injustice, the food waste problem in the U.S., the social benefits of composting, and how to start a compost pile.

 

Facing the Food Waste and Climate Injustice Issue

 

In the U.S., 30-40% of the food supply ends up as waste in landfills. This accounts for more than $400 billion worth of food and 1.3 billion tons of food. With billions of people going hungry around the world and 35 million people without food security in the U.S., this problem needs a solution. ¹²

Assorted vegetables laid out on a burlap bag

Image: Assorted vegetables on burlap @srilanka

 

But food waste isn’t the only problem. When food ends up in landfills, it causes harmful greenhouse gases, polluting the air we breathe. It’s also a huge waste of resources, as agriculture uses lots of freshwater and land.

 

In the end, this issue disproportionately affects minority groups in the U.S. More than half of the people living near landfills are People of Color, including Black Americans who are three times more likely to die from pollution. ³

 

As grim as those statistics are, where there is awareness, there is potential for solutions. Food insecurity and climate injustice need to be tackled by dismantling systemic oppression and racism. And community composting is a good place to start.

 

The Benefits of Community Composting

 

Composting is a part of our roots as a society. Our ancestors used it as a solution to feed their communities and manage waste. Community composting and gardening are a gateway to bringing food security to neighborhoods in need and rebuild the lost connection between people and the land.

Hands holding soil

Image: Hands holding soil by Gabriel Jimenez

 

Communities with limited access to healthy foods, like fruits and vegetables, could use composting as a solution. The closed-loop nature of composting allows organic waste to be transformed into rich soil. This soil is then used to grow healthy foods the community may be lacking.

 

Growing food, composting, and gardening have healing benefits that allow us to reconnect with our ancestry. Yes, there are many environmental and economic benefits of composting, but communities also need healing and self-empowerment— and composting offers just that.

 

What is Composting?

 

Composting is the natural process of turning organic materials, like food scraps and yard waste, into nutritious soil. Compost is an essential part of a thriving organic garden, and it’s used to enrich plants and soil.

 

Creating compost is fairly simple and doesn’t require many resources. All you need is a space to set up your compost, a compost bin to keep rodents out, water, air, and browns + greens.

Left: stacked cardboard. Right: cracked eggshells.

Image: Stacked cardboard by Tania Melnyczuk and cracked eggshells by Jonathan Kemper

 

The Browns and The Greens

 

A great compost is made of 4 main components: water, air, browns (carbon), and greens (nitrogen). A balance of the four is necessary for a rich compost but browns and greens are the main components. You want to keep a good 3:1 ratio (three parts browns, 1 part greens).

 

Browns are:

  • Leaves
  • Grass clippings
  • Pine needles 
  • Your Sqwishful products! 
  • Sawdust
  • Newspaper
  • Cardboard 
  • Paper (including napkins, paper plates, etc)

 

Greens are:

  • Fruit and veggie scraps 
  • Coffee grounds
  • Eggshells (clean)
  • Organic waste

 

What NOT to add to your compost:

  • Oil and butter
  • Meat
  • Fish
  • Bones 
  • Pet waste 
  • Eggs (only shells) 
  • Dairy products 
  • Oily foods
Green leaf plants sprouting from black soil 
Image: Green leaf plants sprouting in black soil by Markus Spiske

  

Transforming Dirt Into Black Gold

 

There is magic in the transformation of waste into soil. The fulfilling feeling of taking something useless and turning it into something useful gives a sense of empowerment. These are the steps to do it:

1. Set up your bin in a shady, dry spot. You can also create a composting pile by using hex netting.

2. Add a thick layer of browns to start. Then add the greens and continue adding layers of greens and browns while keeping in mind the 3:1 ratio (three parts browns, 1 part greens).

3. Moisten your pile with some water. It doesn’t need to be soaked, just humid. Then, let nature work its magic.

     

    Other Useful Tips to Achieve a Great Compost

     

    Occasionally, you should turn your pile to create aeration and help the pile decompose quicker. The natural decomposition process heats the pile, so if you notice heat or see steam coming out, don’t worry! That’s a good sign. Nature is working its magical fingers.

     

    If the pile doesn’t heat up, it probably needs an extra layer of greens. If your compost pile starts to smell bad, it probably needs an extra layer of browns. Then, it’s just a waiting game.

     

    Composting takes time, so be patient as your waste turns into rich, nutritious black gold. If you want to speed up the process a little bit, it helps to chop up the food scraps, paper, twigs, and everything else you add into small pieces.

    Food scraps on a bamboo mat

    Image: Food scraps on a bamboo mat by Chandra Oh

     

    Once your compost is ready, you’ll have dark, rich soil you can use in your garden or houseplants.

     

    How We’re Giving Back to Earth

     

    At Sqwishful, we’re committed to leaving the planet cleaner than we found it. That’s why all of our products are compostable— the ultimate act of cleaning. We’re creating cleaning products that not only clean but also leave the world cleaner.

     

    Join us in our mission to turn the ordinary into something extraordinary. Shop for our compostable products at Whole Foods nationwide or at our online store here.

     

    Sources

    1. Delish, Food Waste In America

    2. Feeding America, Hunger in America

    3. American Progress Organization, 5 Things to Know About Communities of Color And Environmental Justice

    4. QZ, Environmental Racism Has Left Black Americans Three Times More Likely To Die From Pollution