Why you need to compost, even if you have a green bin.

Many municipalities now offer a third (after garbage and recycling) or green bin for composting. And while this is a very good thing it is not a substitute for urban individual compost piles. Your grass, houseplants, vegetable garden, herb garden, and flower garden need compost. Desperately. The single best thing you can do for soil of any kind is to add compost in a layer on the surface. The single best thing you can do for houseplants is to make your own potting soil with 1/3 finished compost and 2/3 regular soil.

Compost purchased from the garden shop or from a municipal composting operation could contain nearly anything. Commercial compost is not what you want to grow your vegetables in, but is just fine for growing grass and suppressing weeds and pests on the front lawn. Compost you make is superior in every way to purchased compost. Water retention, weed, and pest suppression, reduced chemical content, reduced salt content, and fertility of homegrown compost are measurably better. If you do not believe me, cover half of a garden bed with commercial compost and half with your own. The very first time you water the bed you will be able to see the difference.

The world as a whole, and your backyard ecosystem specifically, need relief from chemicals pushed by monolithic corporations whose only motive is increasing profit margins. Chemicals for the lawn and garden are like heroin for an addict. The chemicals create the problem they pretend to solve and require increasingly higher doses for less and less effect. Chemical fertilizers decrease soil fertility long term. Chemical weed and pest controls simply create superior pests and weeds while killing you and your loved ones by inches.

Your children will love composting. Without even noticing they will be learning about the food web, decomposition, and soil fertility. There will be adult approved messing about with wet muddy stuff; or if you are vermicomposting, with worms! Either way composting is kid paradise. Some of my earliest memories are of composting and vermicomposting. Vermicomposting back then was called ‘raising fishing worms’.

One-third of the waste stream is compostable. While any alternative is superior to landfilling, the green bin is a poor alternative to urban composting. The green bin requires petrochemicals to make the bin and move the contents to the industrial composting site. It requires more energy to cook or turn and requires precious urban space to operate. Industrial composting also suffers from the Not In My Back Yard syndrome. No one wants to live next to an industrial composting operation. Use your green bin for composting things that you cannot add to your pile or worm bin. Use your green bin for meat, dairy, and other originally alive but not suitable for home composting items. Everything that you can compost in your worm bin or your outdoor compost pile should be composted so that the precious nitrogen and carbon never leave you home.

Urban composting is one of the most effective tools for fighting climate change that is available to a single individual. While governments and politicians at best dither and at worst willfully stick their heads in the sand, urban populations can act immediately and effectively. Start now. Climate change is not about the future. Climate change is now. Composting is not about saving the world for future generations. Composting is about saving ourselves.

Saving the world, one compost pile at a time.

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