Composting Basics: The What & Why

What & Why

Composting is nature's own recycling system. Leaves, grass, and other organic matter provide a home and food supply for nature's recyclers-bacteria, worms, and other microorganisms. These organisms feed on the plant material, breaking them down, and turning them into a dark, nutrient-rich organic product called compost.

As with recycling, composting is about reducing waste through closing loops. While materials such as paper and aluminum can be reprocessed into 'new' items available for re-use, composting is a natural process that allows for the reprocessing of organic waste. Whether or not you grow your own food, what you eat is the product of a number of inputs including fertilizer (either organic or conventional), sunlight, and water. Food that is consumed, however, is only a portion of the product of those inputs. Waste products, including leftover food scraps as well as unharvested parts of plants and other yard waste, contain valuable nutrients that, through composting, can be turned into fertilizer and close the loop! Compost is a high-quality form of organic fertilizer.

Composting is simple once you learn the basics and anyone can do it. If you do garden, you will find composting to be a valuable source of quality fertilizer for your plants and lawn. If you don't garden, give your compost to a friend who does, or try to find an individual or local community group who may be able to use it in community gardens. Either way, composting provides a fairly simple opportunity to turn potential landfill waste into an environmentally friendly and useful product.