Composting food = less methane in the atmosphere

I’m taking a course on Global Climate Change this semester (one more week to go!). It’s been eye opening in some ways, depressing in many ways and all around confirms so many things I’ve known for what seems like my entire life.

By confirmation, I mean that the things I’ve taken for granted that we all should do — like recycling, using less, producing less waste, growing some of our own food, investing in alternative energy, etc. — really are the things we ALL need to be doing.

It’s been a tad depressing in that, once you learn about the various climate tipping points — melting land-based glaciers, rising sea levels (due to melting glaciers and thermal expansion from increased air temperature), release of methane from thawing permafrost — you wonder if we can have enough of an impact quickly enough to prevent our world from becoming a very different, and less hospitable, place.

The eye-opening-ness of the course has comes in realizing just where we are, how far things have come already and how much scientists have known for so long.

Reducing my carbon footprint

One of my exercises has been to reduce my own carbon footprint by 20 percent. Some of the ways I chose to do this are by buying more local and organic food, taking my reusable shopping bags to the grocery store (which I’m really bad at remembering to do) and composting all our fruit and vegetable scraps. Plus, I switched the house (and office) to an ESCO that provides 100 percent renewable energy. I think that brought down my carbon footprint by 43 percent overall.

Composting food scraps

I’m blathering on about this because I didn’t realize how important even some of the simple things I do are. For instance, composting our organic waste. I’ve always hated to put vegetable peels in the trash. I’d prefer even to put them in our garbage disposal. But, when the compost bucket I keep in the kitchen is full and there’s snow outside, I don’t want to make the (albeit very short) trek to the back of the garage to empty it. So I end up putting things in the sink disposal for a few days.

However, our disposal seems to be a bit backed up right now, which means that veggie peelings go in the garbage can. Very very bad. Not only does that increase the amount of garbage going into landfills (and our taxes, as municipalities pay per ton of waste they need to get rid of), but it doesn’t just naturally decompose like you’d think. Garbage gets compacted to as small a size a possible (so you can fit more in the lanfill). This produces an anaerobic (without oxygen) environment — a compost pile needs oxygen to decompose. And, instead of not even decomposing, it produces methane — a greenhouse gas that’s five times as destructive as carbon dioxide.

So, even with enough snow that Kevin had to shovel our driveway and sidewalk, I’m going to make it out behind the garage today to empty my compost bucket. Eye-opening isn’t so bad.