Did you know that the first full week of May is International Compost Awareness week? This one week is the largest educational initiative of the compost industry each year! Their goal, according to the Compost Foundation, is to raise public awareness on why we should compost organics. Each year, there is a theme for the week, and this year it’s “For Healthier Soil, Healthier Food… Compost!”. The theme was picked to demonstrate how compost can help feed the world.
There's a week dedicated to compost… but what is composting?
According to the National Resource Defense Council (NRDC), composting is the process of recycling organic matter (like leaves and food scraps) into fertilizer that can enrich soil and plants. Composting speeds up the decomposition process of organic material by providing a suitable environment for bacteria, fungi, and other organisms that aid in the process. The end result can then be used as a soil amendment that assists in the production of those delicious garden veggies, or growing beautiful flowers in the backyard!
Why should we compost?
Composting has a number of benefits, making it a great diversion method for our organic waste. Listed below are just some of the benefits to the composting process:
- Reduces the overall waste stream
- Cuts methane emissions from landfills
- Improves soil health
- Lessens erosion
- Conserves water
- Reduces food waste
For an in-depth look at each of these benefits, please visit the NRDC’s website on composting.
Backyard vs. Commercial Composting
Composting might seem like a fairly straightforward process, but did you know that there are two different systems for composting?
Backyard composting happens at home on a small scale. This type of composting allows organic waste like food scraps, grass clippings, leaves, and tea bags over a longer period of time.
Commercial composting occurs at facilities that have technology to rigorously manage the temperature and other environmental factors of the compost as it moves through the decomposition process. This allows for the faster production of compost and lets these larger facilities accept a wider variety of compostable materials.
Here in Eagle County, Honeywagon Organics is the local commercial compost facility. In addition to food scraps, they’re able to accept BPI Certified items, like PLA bioplastic products. The BPI Certification program is the only third party verification program for compostable products in North America. This company tests all their products so we know they are guaranteed to break down. Be sure to look out for their label before composting things like cups, bowls, and cutlery!
What’s available in Eagle County?
Eagle County has plenty of resources regarding composting. Whether you want to utilize commercial services, start your own backyard compost, or learn more about the composting process, there are plenty of local organizations ready to get you on your way:
Vail Honeywagon - Organic Waste Collection - Honeywagon Organics has a composting program that includes composting drop sites across Eagle County. Read more here about how you can start composting at home and where you can purchase compost.
EverGreen Zero Waste - EverGreen Zero Waste is a compost-only company. They also provide residential services and may also be a good fit for your composting needs.
The Ground Up - this local organization fosters healthy communities through education and improved soil biology. The Ground Up is staffed with Certified Masters in Composting, Soil Health Management, Gardening at Altitude, and Arboriculture. They assess your trees, shrubs, turf, and agricultural land to determine the best plan of action to maximize yields, beauty, and soil health.
New Roots Composting Clinic - New Roots is hosting a composting clinic at Colorado Mountain College Edwards Campus on Thursday, June 22nd from 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. You’ll learn all about how you can turn your yard and kitchen waste into super food for your soil… and it’s FREE!
Some organizations go beyond compost and are great resources if you’re looking for even more land management practices. These include the Eagle Valley Land Trust, Eagle County Conservation District, and Betty Ford Alpine Gardens.
Composting is the gift that keeps on giving - our soils and our food all improve when we turn to composting for our organic waste disposal!
Emily Dennis is the Zero-Waste Lead at Walking Mountains Science Center