Ask An Environmentalist: How can I do my part to improve the climate? Try ‘lazy composting’

If your personal intake of daily information is anything like mine, there is an increasing amount of news about climate change that can feel overwhelming. Instead of assuming the issue is too large to be able to make a difference, it helps to focus on realistic actions that can be taken on relatively easily.

One of the simplest climate-positive habits to implement in the average person’s life is to start composting, and there are easy ways to do it.

But before we get into that, let’s talk science.

Some people might know a little about composting, but don’t feel as though it is something they know how to take up or why it’s important, so here’s a quick look at how it works.

Organic material includes anything that is carbon-based and decomposes. Organics that are thrown in the trash end up in the landfill, where they make up the largest part of the waste stream nationally. Once buried in a landfill, these types of material decompose anaerobically, or without oxygen.

When carbon-based waste decomposes in this way, methane gas is released which is a major contributor to climate change.

On the other hand, composting is the decomposition of organic materials by aerobic microorganisms in the presence of oxygen. This process does not produce greenhouse gasses, but creates a nutrient-rich product that can be used to improve soil fertility and grow plants that then help clean and cool our environment.

Almost anyone can start composting using one of several methods. It can be a complicated process or one that is hassle free, depending on how involved you want to get. The internet has thousands of resources for composting in all types of living situations, including apartments.

Items that can be composted include: Yard waste, grass and leaves, food scraps, coffee and tea grounds and filters, paper towels and napkins, cardboard, paper, fur, hair, and much more. 

I prefer what I call “lazy composting”; I have a mesh barrel-sized container just outside my back door where I chuck most of my organic waste and leave it to do its decomposition thing. Some people prefer to be diligent about balancing carbon- (“brown”) and nitrogen- (“green”) containing inputs. There are some who use redworms to accelerate the decomposition of materials, especially in small indoor spaces. There are very expensive compost bins and thousands of DIY versions that cost almost nothing. 

If you need to outsource your composting, there are some resources available. Yard waste that’s too bulky for your home bin can be dropped off at the Fort Wayne Biosolids Facility. We are recently lucky enough to have some businesses just starting up that will offer pick-up services for your compostable waste, too.

Any organic material kept out of landfills is a step in the right direction toward mitigating climate change. Taking on this relatively small change in lifestyle can make a big difference while giving you the satisfaction of knowing you’re doing something to help the entire planet.

Read more articles by Jodi Leamon.

Jodi Leamon is a Fort Wayne native with degrees in Environmental Studies from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington and Biology from the University of Illinois Chicago. Send her your questions at [email protected]
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