Food waste has to potential to be turned into reusable material but unfortunately, especially in Western countries, it contributes significantly to climate change. The UN estimates that a third of all food grown in the world ends up spoiled, rotting in fields, or thrown away in landfills. There, it emits methane, a greenhouse gas much more potent than carbon dioxide. The simple and effective alternative to this is composting. It works by microbes in the soil feasting on organic material, resulting in a valuable organic fertilizer that sequesters carbon. Composting works on any scale, from the backyard to city-wide programs or even country-wide programs as seen in Denmark. Project Drawdown ranks composting as the 60th best solution for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
This collection highlights stories (see below) on various composting initiatives at different scales—household, city, and country. Seattle has implemented a household composting program that shames food wasters with a red tag. In Santa Fe, 31 restaurants and 17 schools participate in a collective composting effort run by Reunity Systems, contributing the resulting fertilizer to community gardens. Anchorage, Alaska implemented a simple system in which residents bring a bucket of scraps to a central location, and receive a bucket of compost in return. South Korea has introduced a high-tech program using “smart bins” that has reduced household waste by 30% and restaurant waste by 40%.
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Fondriest Environmental, David De Wit / Community Eye Health, Linda Steil / Herald Post, John Amis / UGA College of Ag & Environmental Sciences – OCCS, Andy B, Peter Garnhum, Thomas Hawk, 7ty9, Isriya Paireepairit, David Berger, UnLtd The Foundation For Social Entrepreneurs, Michael Dunne, Burak Kebapci, and Forrest Berkshire / U.S. Army Cadet Command public affairs
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Photo Credit: Sonia Narang