As the sweet smell of summer becomes a distant memory, we watch begrudgingly as the leaves change color and as fall swoops in. You may ask yourself, what to do with the excessively large amount of dead leaves crowding your yard? Why not compost? Each year a single tree can shed up to 600lbs of leaves in a season. In 2008, 249.6 million tons of municipal solid waste or MSW (more commonly known as trash or garbage) were generated in the United States. Composting can return upwards of 70% of the nutrients back into the ground, and save on fertilizer. Yard trimmings and food residuals together constitute 26 percent of the U.S. municipal solid waste stream. Composting can also provide a cheap means of yard beautification. Ever since the Roman Era around 50 A.D., composting has allowed people to eliminate organic waste. As time passed it became more modernized and efficient and caught on during the roaring 20’s, as a tool for organic farming. It has been an excellent alternative to land-fills, and leaf burning, and paves the way to a greener world.
As the notion of composting caught on, different methods were enacted to make if as efficient as possible. A compost pile generally consists of yard clippings, organic food remains, animal waste, and other bio-solids. The benefits of a successful compost pile are endless. Some benefits include decreased plant disease, it reduces the need for chemical fertilizers, facilitates reforestation and even captures and destroys 99.6% of industrial volatile organic chemicals (VOCs) in contaminated air. Fall foliage and food residuals together constitute 23 percent of the U.S. waste stream, as documented by EPA. An estimated 56.9% of yard trimmings were recovered for composting or grass cycled in 2000, a dramatic increase from the 12% recovery rate in 1990. People are starting to become more aware of the lack of renewable resources in the world. The “green” movement has become the next big global initiative. A compost pile is just one way to help out the earth.
Do you like what you're reading so far? If so, there are many different types of compost methods out there for the working person who has little time to spare. The simplest and easiest to use is the Vermicompost method, meaning “worms in compost”. Vermicompost is the product of composting different species of worms, such as the Earth Worm, and then adding organic materials, like certain table scraps, grass clippings, and bedding materials. The result is Vermicast, which translates to worm waste. Vermicast contains nutrient rich fertilizer, soil conditioner, and other water soluble nutrients ideal for farming.
Composting leaves and other organic waste products can be a fun family activity. It saves countless dollars, motivates people to become more eco-friendly, and leads to healthier plants. So this Fall, when you feel the dead brown leaves crunching beneath your feet, remember there's an alternative to bagging your leaves for removal. It's never too late to start composting, and the activity is a great lesson to teach your children responsibility.
*** By Nick Pinsker ***