Did you know that for every orange a person ate 50 years ago you have to eat 8 to get the same nutritional value today? And this is true for many other foods we consume. A study by Donald Davis published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition showed a reliable decline in essential vitamins and minerals for 43 different vegetables and fruits over the past several decades. He attributed this decline to agricultural practices designed to improve food traits (growth rate, pest resistance, shelf life) rather than food nutrition. Translation—in our insatiable focus on yield and aesthetics we lost sight of the simple fact that nutrient dense food comes from healthy soil.
Soil is not just the medium in which plants grow, as if all they need is something to hold them up in the air. Healthy soil is defined by its ability to function as a vital living ecosystem. Plants have a symbiotic relationship with microbes in the soil in which they exchange nutrients and can even be protected from disease. One handful of soil can contain up to 50 billion microbes. These “good bugs” as we call them metabolize dead or fallen plant life to produce nutrients for new growth. This is the type of soil in which our food should grow in order to provide the nutrition and health benefits we all need.
The good news is that there is something each and every person can do to contribute to the revitalization of our soil…Compost!
Composting is the natural process of recycling organic matter such as leaves and food scraps into a valuable fertilizer that can enrich soil and plants. Anything that grows will decompose eventually. What we want is for that decomposition to create a valuable 100% organic soil amendment for your own use!
Compost most simply put is the act of decomposition. Taking your food scraps and combining them with carbon (brown) and nitrogen (green) leads to beautiful “black gold” soil. Add about three parts from your brown pile (brown leaves, paper bags, wood chips, saw dust, straw, newspaper, vacuum cleaner dust, tissues, dryer lint, paper towels) for every one part from the green pile (grass clippings, fruit and veggie scraps, coffee grounds and filters, manure from herbivores, bread, crackers, pasta, even old wine/beer) to your compost bin. When wondering what you can and cannot compost, remember a simple rule: If it came from the ground it can return to the ground. So, what you ate for dinner now has another purpose! It not only fueled your body but now can amend the soil and improve your garden or local farmland.
Up to 40% of all food ends up in landfills.
More than 50% of trash dumped into landfills is made of compostable materials and only 5% of our food scraps are currently being composted.
Composting not only helps improve our soil, it also keeps all of those valuable food scraps out of landfills. Many of these items, such as produce, were designed to fall to the ground and naturally increase the soil’s fertility as they decompose; but instead, we are smothering them in landfills. When our food scraps that go in the trash end their journey in the landfill their decomposition becomes anerobic due to the lack of oxygen from other trash materials. The gases that are released during this process are potent greenhouse gases (methane and CO2). What is a problem for the landfill and environment is a solution for our degraded soil.
HOW TO COMPOST
Getting started can be easy, and you don’t have to live on a farm to make a difference. Those who are urbanites have a big job too! You can compost in a backyard bin, pickle barrel, salvaged pallet bin, or even a re-purposed trashcan! Or if you lack the backyard space, get in contact with a local farmer. Arrange to drop off your scraps and while there pick up more of the nutrient dense food you participated in responsibly growing.