Emma Watson, Allan Savory, and many more already understand the magic of soil. Soil is not only the solution to reduce the harmful impact food waste has, but also the starter for a richer ground.
Before discussing this further, soil and compost should be defined.
There is often a distinction between soil and compost.
“Compost is a mix of decaying nutrient-rich soil with medium density that is naturally made using oxygen, bacteria, water, and organic materials. Compost combines green matter, such as food products and lawn clippings, with brown matter, such as twigs and dry leaves. This combination then begins to deteriorate in the composting process. The materials break down into a rich soil, which is predominantly used to refresh depleted soils in the springtime just before planting a new set of crops. “ (Gibson, n.d.)
Compost tea is the liquid that is produced as an addition to the soil. Some of the nutrients, microorganisms, and humate can be found in this liquid. Adding this tea to the soil will further increase the nutrients. Soil refers to the top layer of our earth. There are about 70 000 different types. Adding a layer of rich soil, like the soil received from composting, will have the most benefit. Chemical fertilizer usage can be reduced or eliminated. Another perk is that decomposing is addictive. Adding a layer also leads to the layer beneath decomposing (Gibson, n.d; EPA, 2021).
To conclude, compost and soil do not refer to the same. Compost can be turned into the soil (through e.g. vermicomposting) though or added to it and will become part of its make-up with time. Easily said, the soil is produced by nature, the compost by humans (Gibson, n.d.). Composting not only reduces food waste but also produces rich soil and liquid in the process that can be reused for creating better soil to plant and grow on. Win-win, right?
Composting in agricultural and horticultural processes has many benefits. One is diminishing climate change. Carbon is stored in composted soil, oxide emissions are reduced, as well as the energy generated in agriculture. Compost manure has twice the carbon, raw soil has (Biala, n.d.).
One might wonder why composting helps to fight climate change when the outcome is CO2. Half of the carbon can be stored in the soil, the other half, similar to the process of breathing, is released into the atmosphere as CO2. As long as we humans exist, we will produce organic waste and therefore expose carbon to the atmosphere. The question is how much we expose and what other harmful gas is produced. Methane is 30 times as harmful as carbon for climate change, contributing more heat to the air (Garden Myths, n.d.). Anaerobic decomposition (lack of oxygen) produces methane. Aerobic decomposition rarely produces methane and mainly CO2. A compost pile decomposes aerobically, whereas landfills anaerobically. There are intentions to use the gas generated in landfills for energy. This requires collecting 95% of the gas to break even. Nevertheless, an amount of solely 60-90% is estimated to be collected at the moment. Consequently, most of the methane produced is exposed to the atmosphere (US EPA, 2021).
The example of Australia shows the immense impact composting has: Twice the emission amount would have been estimated in 2007 if half of the food waste would not have been recycled but moved to landfills instead (Biala, n.d.). However, it should be noted here, even if we find better ways than landfills to decrease our harmful impact, reducing food waste is the most effective and important way for saving our environment. This should be the prior mission but like explained, humans will always cause organic waste. Hence, there still is a necessity to acknowledge the significance of composted soil (Garden Myths, n.d.).
The method is easy to set up and low-cost compared to other techniques. Composting offers one of the fastest ways to improve the carbon level in the soil. Using composted manure will ensure long-term agriculture productivity. The social and environmental benefits in comparison to the energy and cost should be obvious (Biala, n.d.).
The magic of soil convinced us to start the vermicomposting project with Eartha. Vermicomposting can easily be done at home and is small and easy to set up. In addition to coming closer to our goal to reduce food waste, soil and compost tea are created. They are the opposite of harmful for our environment, which is burning food waste, creating tons of greenhouse gas (Food Waste, n.d.).
Biala, J. (n.d.). Short report: The benefits of using compost for mitigating climate change. NSW EPA. Retrieved January 14, 2022, from https://www.epa.nsw.gov.au/-/media/epa/corporate-site/resources/waste/110171-compost-climate-change.pdf?la=en&hash=7ADC0B32600A8EE49E72187E4A027FA1C809AEAE
EPA. (2021, December 15). Reducing the Impact of Wasted Food by Feeding the Soil and Composting | US EPA. US Environmental Protection Agency. Retrieved January 14, 2022, from https://www.epa.gov/sustainable-management-food/reducing-impact-wasted-food-feeding-soil-and-composting
Food Waste. (n.d.). NRDC. Retrieved January 14, 2022, from https://www.nrdc.org/food-waste
Garden Myths. (n.d.). Does Composting Contribute to Climate Change? Garden Myths. Retrieved January 14, 2022, from https://www.gardenmyths.com/composting-climate-change/
Gibson, M. (n.d.). Compost vs Soil: What's the Difference? Gardening Channel. Retrieved January 14, 2022, from https://www.gardeningchannel.com/compost-vs-soil-differences/
US EPA. (2021, December 15). Reducing the Impact of Wasted Food by Feeding the Soil and Composting | US EPA. US Environmental Protection Agency. Retrieved January 14, 2022, from https://www.epa.gov/sustainable-management-food/reducing-impact-wasted-food-feeding-soil-and-composting