To use one of today’s popular buzzwords, would you like to reduce your ecological footprint (aka how much detrimental impact your existence has had on the environment)? An easy way to make an impact is by composting. Did you know that the US has only 6% of the world’s population yet is responsible for 50% of the world’s garbage? More than 25% of this garbage is plant material, yard trimmings and vegetable scraps that could be easily composted and turned into compost. When these ‘green’ items decompose anaerobically in landfills, they create methane gas. It’s a vicious cycle. We overload the landfills with our garden clippings and kitchen scraps, then we go out and purchase compost in plastic bags at the home center thus creating more trash. Even if you live in an apartment, small countertop composters are available that won’t take up valuable space, and chances are you have a houseplant or two that would benefit from an occasional healthy dose of compost. Properly prepared compost has no foul odor (it smells like freshly dug earth) and attracts no flies or rodents.
What exactly is compost? Compost is simply decomposed organic matter. With just a few easy steps, things like grass clippings, fruit and vegetable scraps, leaves, et cetera are transformed into a crumbly, rich black soil amendment with some pretty amazing properties. Compost can hold almost twice its weight in water--100 lbs of compost can hold 195 lbs of water! It helps break up heavy clay soils and adds moisture retention to sandy soils for healthier roots. It also adds vital nutrients and helps balance the soil pH to neutral. There is a wealth of information online regarding every aspect of composting to help get you started, and you can check out your local Penn State Cooperative Extension for tips and classes at http://backyardcompost.cas.psu.edu/. If you start now, you’ll have a nice supply of compost just in time for the start of gardening season and you’ll have responsibly ‘repurposed’ your garbage. Perhaps the easiest way to reduce your ecological footprint is just try to live in accordance with the old campsite adage: “Leave no trace and leave your surroundings in better condition that when you arrived”. Happy composting!