Since February, we have been on a journey to discover the many ways individuals, businesses and institutions are finding solutions to reduce the amount of food being wasted in the U.S., as outlined in the EPA’s Food Recovery Hierarchy. In my sixth and final blog post in the series, I wanted to address composting, the EPA’s last recommendation for food waste before it heads to a landfill. As I mentioned in my introductory blog post, health and wellness professionals have a responsibility to help people eat well. And for many people, eating well means considering the impact of choices on the environment, too.
The last step before landfills on the hierarchy is composting, which returns much of the value of the food to the soil, where it can be used to fertilize the land. Composting lowers the greenhouse gas footprint of food and reduces the need for chemical fertilizers. Even better, it can be done almost anywhere and at any scale. Institutional food service companies, for example, could partner with a farmer who composts in large volumes, while many homes have compost bins for their backyard gardens and many towns and cities have composting programs. People can check with their local city or town for guidelines in their area.
Composting is both an art and a science, because different practices work better depending on the region of the country and type of food waste. My family composts at home, and it is a family goal to keep as much as we can out of the trash. There are plenty of great resources and compost aficionados out there happy to help. A good place to start is the EPA’s Compost At Home webpage, which gives all the basic information and quick reference lists to help people get started the right way.
A critical part of effective composting is knowing how you will use it. Make composting part of your gardening plan, for example. Growing some of your own food is the best way to close the food cycle, but other types of landscaping can certainly benefit from good compost. If you don’t have much space, potted plants will thrive on compost too.
Organizations, businesses and communities can get a good overview of the different ways to compost and things to consider at this EPA page.
Now that we’ve completed our journey from the top to the bottom of the Food Recovery Hierarchy, I hope you will embrace, share and put to practice the many opportunities there are to ensure the value of uneaten food is not wasted. There is great hope for nourishing our future, if we all join to help keep food from going to landfills. Let’s continue to learn all we can and teach others how to make our communities healthier and more sustainable.
This is the sixth blog post in a six-part series. Click below to read the whole series: