The Power of Food: Turn Food into Fertilizer with Composting


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Mackinzee Macho | March 5, 2021

Mackinzee Macho is an undergraduate student and Senior Program Manager in Human and Ecological Systems Transformations for the Foresight Lab. The Foresight Lab is a think-tank that shifts culture toward social, economic, and ecological well-being through consulting. This series, “The Power of Food,” will explore topics like carbon sequestration and regenerative farming.

Yard trimmings and food waste make up a quarter of America’s municipal solid waste. At the landfill, this organic matter breaks down anaerobically, releasing methane-a potent greenhouse gas. Seventeen percent of anthropogenic methane emissions come from landfills decomposing organic matter. If we redirect our organic waste into composting piles, we could greatly reduce greenhouse gas emissions and mitigate climate change.

Composting involves collecting organic waste and allowing it to decompose into a nutrient-rich, organic fertilizer. Compost is extremely high in nutrients and can be used on houseplants, gardens, yards, and more. This fertilizer is organic and maintains soil health in such a way that its microorganisms thrive. Also, it nourishes plants in the best way possible.

This all works because organic matter is made up of carbon, including leaves, grass, sticks, vegetable and fruit scraps, cardboard, and even human or pet hair. It is important to maintain the correct balance of nitrogen, carbon, moisture, and oxygen in your compost. Typically, a 25-30:1 ratio is recommended for carbon to nitrogen-rich materials or browns to greens. Carbon-rich brown ingredients are straw, twigs, dried grass clippings, and cardboard. Nitrogen-rich green ingredients include food scraps and fresh lawn clippings. Moisture is needed for the decomposers to break down the organic matter, so keeping an eye on moisture levels is key. Lastly, turning the pile every so often incorporates oxygen. Mixing your compost pile prevents anaerobic decomposition and promotes a healthy process.

Residential composting can be done indoors, outdoors, or off-sight at a municipal composting facility. Vermicomposting is typically practiced indoors with worms while cool or hot composting is performed outside.

Whatever you choose to do, composting is an important action individuals can take to reduce anthropogenic climate change. Compost improves soil health and promotes microbial growth, nurturing healthier plant growth. By diverting compostable materials out of landfills, we are reducing the amount of methane released, aiding in the fight against the climate emergency. Our food originates from the ground, so why not put it back to work there? 

A few useful resources for the know-how on composting can get you started: “7 Secrets to Perfect Compost”, “Backyard Conservation Tip Sheet” and “A Place to Rot: The Modern Farmer Guide to Compost Bins”.

The Power of Food: Do You Really Know Your Food?


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Mackinzee Macho | February 19, 2021

Mackinzee Macho is an undergraduate student and Senior Program Manager in Human and Ecological Systems Transformations for the Foresight Lab. The Foresight Lab is a think-tank that shifts culture toward social, economic, and ecological well-being through consulting. This series, “The Power of Food,” will explore topics like carbon sequestration and regenerative farming.

If you think your food comes from the grocery store, you’re not wrong. Where does it truly originate? Ninety-five percent of our food comes from the soil, but most Americans don’t cultivate it themselves. In fact, only 1 in 3 Americans grow any portion of their own food. We have become severely disconnected from nature, our soils, and the origins of our nutrition.

The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service states that six pounds of soil are lost per pound of conventionally cultivated food eaten annually. Topsoil is nutrient-rich and crucial to plant and soil health. In addition, our food has become less nutritious. This has serious environmental and human health implications, and at the rate at which we are degrading soil, this leaves us with only 60 harvests left.

Now is the time to reconnect with the source of our food: 81 million Americans own a piece of land and most of that is covered in turf-grass. There are 63,000 square miles of planted grass yards in the United States, which is an area three times larger than the total acreage of corn. Imagine if more Americans converted carbon-intensive lawns into luscious food gardens? Gardening is rewarding and satisfying, and it also teaches how nature works not for us, but with us.

Growing your own food is a creative activity, combats climate change, and saves money. Organic, regenerative, or carbon gardening are the most environmentally beneficial ways of contributing healthy food to your diet. These practices use compost, mulch, and natural pest management to increase soil nutrients and decrease pests.

Gardening reconnects us with nature and provides a great weapon in our arsenal to combat the climate emergency. Creating a symbiotic relationship with nature will generate a greater well-being for our economy, ecology, and society.

For more resources on gardening, check out some of these links: