Farting Garbage

I think I heard your garbage fart. 

I have two very scientific books about farts: Farts and Farts Part II. I can classify most farts. (I just patted myself on the back, thankyouverymuch). The fart your garbage can made is an S.B.D. Fart: Silent But Deadly. I think the name says it all.

I need to clarify something. It’s about composting. Again. If you are sick of hearing us harp on you about composting, here’s the feel-good, good-for-the-Earth crunchy punchline about diverting your food and yard waste from the landfill to compost: it not only decreases landfill, it decreases greenhouse gas emissions. Its not just a landfill issue, its a global warming issue.

Paul Hawken, editor of the book Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reduce Global Warming, states in an interview,

The number one thing you can do… is reduce food waste.  Americans waste 40 percent of the food that we produce. And it takes a lot of energy to produce that food, not just on a farm level but shipping and storage and packing and distribution and processing. It takes 14 or 15 calories for every calorie you consume, and then you toss it. Not in San Francisco, but in most cities in the world and certainly in the United States, that food then goes to landfills and produces methane, a greenhouse gas which is 34 times more powerful than CO2.

Composting is nature’s way of recycling decomposed organic materials into a rich soil. It is not recycling, which takes paper/cardboard plus non-organic materials, applies a bunch of energy to it to manufacture something else. Both have their place in processing waste, but they are not the same.

If you think your organic matter will break down in the landfill and it’s the same thing or just as good, you are mistaken. While that makes sense in theory, the dirty truth is that landfills pack in garbage so if it can break down, it does so anaerobically. When you throw your kitchen scraps into the mix with plastic and other non-compostables, it is bulldozed into as small of a space as possible, air can’t get to it, and must break down without oxygen and releases METHANE. Methane is more potent than carbon dioxide. It’s also in farts!

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Don’t believe me? One farm from by favorite local dairy co-op just debuted the first ever methane-powered feed truck. It takes cow poop, captures and digests the methane, and converts it to electricity, which powers a truck that brings the mooing poopers their food. Read more about this awesome, innovative, pooptastic system.  Full circle, closed-system, baby!!

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Straus methane digester

So if you want to compost your scraps yourself, great! Here’s a http://www.howstuffworks.com/embed/923481” target=”_blank” rel=”noopener”>Stuff You Should Know podcast my friend Becky-Boo shared with me.

If you don’t want to manage a rotting pile of organic matter yourself, great! There’s people who will do it for you! Chances are that if you are in some sort of municipality, they have a green waste system. They will manage your banana peels so they break down in such way that they will not fart.

It’s a lot of work for microbes to digest your scraps into compost, but takes very little effort on your part. Keep a bowl on your counter when you prep your produce, and scrape your plates and paper napkins into it when you are done eating. You will be AMAZED how much stuff can be diverted to compost. My friend Liz used to live up two flights of illegally steep stairs in a San Francisco apartment. She would keep a container in her freezer for compost to keep smells and fruit flies at bay she didn’t need to run to the green bin as often. If she could compost her kitchen and household waste, no one has an excuse not to!

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Countertop compost collection: coffee, dryer lint, egg shells, silk dental floss, paper napkin, kitchen scraps.

Rotting my waste brings me a whole lot of joy. I know that sounds weird, but there is something magical and scientifically enthralling about having things break down and return to the earth to become something else. I recently put in a good 10 yards of soil into my backyard project. I visited a local soil and dirt company that had a gorgeous soil blend that incorporated local municipal compost. There was a lot to like about this dark, rich, and ripe load of dirt, but mostly I was happy it hadn’t traveled very far at all to return to my backyard. I had personally contributed to that soil blend from my own kitchen. I had it delivered, and to show the delivery person where I wanted it, I hastily threw down an old Goodwill cotton flannel sheet in my driveway.

By the time we dug to the bottom of that pile, soil microbes had munched that sheet to shreds! What powerful and living potential locked in that seemingly simple pile of brown! Now I have melons and pumpkins and pollinator-friendly-perennials coming out of my ears! It’s almost criminal to cram that stuff in a dump to just sit there and do nothing but fart, unfulfilling its life-sustaining destiny.

Give the planet some Beano and compost your scraps!

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