Let it rot!

These days, I see a lot of “R”s added to what was originally the sacred trinity of green living: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. My personal favorite is “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Rot,” used to encourage folks to compost their food scraps and yard waste instead of consigning it to the burn pile or the landfill.

Many of us will get our first frost of the season within the next month (I know, where did August go?), which means that yard clean-up is right around the corner. In fact, I’ve already been trimming a lot of spent blossoms and pulling out the end of the spring radishes and lettuce (to replant, of course, with fall veggies!). So now is the perfect time to start composting.

Still not convinced? Here are some scary facts to consider:

  • The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that food scraps are the single largest component, by weight, in America’s trash.
  • Because landfills create anaerobic (oxygen-free) conditions for these food scraps, they break down into methane gas instead of the world’s best, most natural, free, and totally glorious fertilizer: compost.
  • Methane gas is not only a greenhouse gas, but it is three times more potent than Carbon Dioxide.
  • Although many folks like to blame commercial agriculture and animal husbandry practices for polluting the environment, at least when it comes to methane emissions, the EPA reports that food scraps in landfills are to blame for almost equivalent methane emissions to enteric fermentation in livestock, manure management, rice cultivation, and agriculture residue burning combined.

While the EPA notes that food recovery efforts such as restaurants and grocery stores donating food when it exceeds its shelf-life instead of throwing it away, it also encourages composting or vermicomposting (i.e. worm composting).

Visit your local Cooperative Extension for the dirt on composting or refer to these additional resources:

An original 5 Minutes for Going Green post. Julie Artz is a Master Gardener and experienced composter. Read more about her adventures in the garden, eating local, attachment parenting, green living, politics, and whatever else strikes her fancy at Chez Artz.

12 Responses to Let it rot!
  1. Jessica (Surely You Nest)
    August 25, 2008 | 2:11 pm

    We just used our first batch of finished compost from our tumbler (urban neighborhood) and it was SO exciting to toss it onto our garden. Now I am thinking of putting some worms in my laundry room. Waiting for my vermiculture book to come into the library before I leap in! Any tips appreciated….

  2. […] for 5 Minutes for Going Green once a month starting today! My first post shares some of the great reasons to compost, so please check it […]

  3. Julie (Chez Artz)
    August 25, 2008 | 3:41 pm

    I have never tried worm composting, but this looks like a good resource: http://earth911.org/blog/2007/04/02/composting-with-worms/

    Good luck!

  4. Stephenie
    August 25, 2008 | 6:57 pm

    Learning to compost is next on my green to-do list. Thanks for the tips and the interesting info.

  5. […] have the compost for our garden. I didn’t realize until today when I was reading on 5 Minutes for Going Green (a fabulous blog, by the way), that composting has another benefit. Food that is thrown away is the […]

  6. Stefani Newman
    August 26, 2008 | 4:55 pm

    Thanks so much for this article! We’re anxiously awaiting our first composter and can’t wait to get started!

  7. Monica (Healthy Green Moms)
    August 26, 2008 | 10:25 pm

    You make a compelling case for letting it rot. I am looking forward to adding this to our green routine, it’s been something I’ve wanted to do for years. I’d love to try those handy little worms.

  8. Eat Your Greens!
    September 5, 2008 | 2:01 pm

    […] filling up landfills and turn them into a usable product that’s great for your soil. Check out Let It Rot for more information about […]

  9. Urban Gardening: Green Without The Green
    September 15, 2008 | 6:01 am

    […] Original post for 5 Minutes For Going Green. […]

  10. Uncle B
    September 28, 2008 | 9:45 am

    The next big “R” – Recover! Somewhere in America someone has found a way to process landfills into plastic, oil and diesel! They grind the waste material, cook it in an air-free oven, and mine the results! Apparently they can even get compostables from the process, and this is after all the methane has been siphoned off! We must legislate car design so that used autos have “Recoverables” before the old cars hit the furnaces – a large part of the fuel burnt to build cars can be “Recovered” this way! GM and Ford have some big lessons to learn. I hope they don’t have to learn them from Chinese manufacturers.

  11. Anita
    October 15, 2008 | 7:29 pm

    This is the first time in my many years of composting that things seem to have gone abit afoul out back. Our compost seems to be oozing and I’m not enjoying it much. Not sure what to do about it……….maybe it is just a case of adding more brown!

  12. Fred Hardy
    July 21, 2009 | 3:26 pm

    I am going to compost corn husks.I have a shredder but if I shred the cobs green it will clog the shredder.I will have to let them dry.Will they help any if shredded dry?