Compost Programs Are Key to Healthier Environment
Efforts to help protect the environment often focus on the call to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels. At the United Nations Climate Conference in December, another initiative generated great interest– improving soil health to sequester carbon in topsoil.
Countries, cities, and advocates for regenerative farming practices, also known as agroecology, emphasized the ability of healthy soils and plants to pull carbon from the atmosphere and store it in soil. Cities can provide highly effective and ongoing support for this initiative by introducing urban and suburban compost collection programs. Composting reduces greenhouse gas emissions from landfills and allows farms to shift from chemical fertilizers to compost, a soil amendment that helps grow healthy produce.
According to the US EPA, agricultural activities contribute to emissions in multiple ways. Fortunately, it is possible to turn farms and rangelands into sinks that pull carbon from the atmosphere.
The Marin Carbon Project, headed by John Wick, used a half inch of compost on a ranch in Nicasio six years ago. The compost application was a single event. It activated the life-web in the soil, allowing native grasses that pull carbon from the atmosphere to thrive. Every year since, scientists from UC Berkeley have measured significant increases of carbon in Wick’s soil.
Healthy soils equal a healthy planet
Scientists, activists, officials, and journalists highlighted sustainable agriculture at the UN conference as a key response.
France’s Ministry of Agriculture introduced the 4/1000 Initiative, which aims to increase organic matter in soils by 4 parts per 1,000 per year. The plan calls for planting more trees, using compost and other natural soil amendments, and growing a variety of plants in ways that increase photosynthesis.
Scientists say such practices have the potential to cool environments while producing more healthy food. They say these steps, if implemented widely, could prove highly effective in our efforts to address the challenge of climate change.
“Agroecology is a major tool in fighting climate change,” said Fritjof Capra, a physicist and ecologist.
Several teams at the conference presented videos highlighting the importance of improving soil health:
The people who created these films offer high praise for San Francisco’s compost collection program, encouraging other cities t institute curbside compost programs.
Farmers know firsthand that applying compost made from food scraps and plant cuttings offers multiple benefits to our environment and our lives, including fixing carbon in topsoil, producing healthy food, and saving water. So, please help create compost for local farms by placing all your food scraps and plant cuttings in your green compost collection bin. If your city does not offer compost collection, try backyard composting.