Carbon dioxide in the air is pollution. Carbon in the soil is healthy… Anything that is alive is made of carbon, including us.
When we sweep leaves away from our lawns, we’re sweeping away that area’s food. Those leaves, flowers, seeds and natural debris, that are often seen as mess, would normally stay and break down into food for the soil and become food for the plants in that space.
It is often said to rotate crops because one type of plant will eat certain nutrients in that spot and another type of plant would eat other nutrients, letting the depleted nutrients build back up for a while. But naturally, a tomato plant drops its seeds in the same place and grows again. Why? My guess is that a tomato plant would normally die in its spot, make green & brown waste, mix with rain or snow and other fallen leaves, and become its own food next year, replenishing the soil’s nutrients. Without humans taking away their “mess,” they feed themselves. It seems the seeds would ride the wind or in the belly of an animal and end up popping up in new places too, but they’d have peace-of-mind knowing they carry a cycle of food with them where ever they go.
But why do we care about feeding the soil to feed plants? Firstly, because CARBON.
When the soil is depleted, it can’t pull carbon into itself or keep it there. Carbon dioxide in the air is pollution. Carbon in the soil is healthy. It becomes food for the soil’s bacteria. Anything that is alive- plants, animals, soil- is made of carbon, including us. There was a balanced cycle of carbon dying and becoming new life, but we added too much carbon to the atmosphere with fossil fuels and took away the ground’s ability to absorb carbon with our agriculture practices. This combination is creating pollution that is killing the planet that keeps us alive.
Ryland Englehart, co-founder of Kiss the Ground, a non-profit in LA, shares that between carbon extraction via fossil fuels and our agriculture practices, “We’ve moved 880 giga-tons [880,000,000,000 tons] of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere which is heating up the planet and destabilizing our climate. Now, the oceans have absorbed a lot of this excess carbon which is resulting in ocean acidification and accelerating a mass extinction of sea life… Where do we put this excess carbon to get this cycle back into balance? The answer is literally… under our feet. It’s the soil.”
When plants photosynthesize, they pull carbon out of the air and turn it into sugars that go into their roots feeding bacterial colonies, mycorrhizal funghi, and aggregates. These creatures increase the root capacity by the thousands, turn the sugars into nutrients for the plant and create an environment that can store carbon for decades. “Plants pump it in and soil stores it. Nature’s living technology is amazing!”
Making our own compost and returning it to the land, pulls more carbon into the ground which helps heal climate change. (More info: watch this Kiss the Ground video.)
Also, putting the missing link back in the cycle by composting creates less landfill trash that would become methane gas.
When compost is added to an edible garden and the soil gets richer, the plants in the healthy, bacteria-rich soil don’t need pesticides or chemical fertilizers. They can be next to plants with disease and not get sick. It’s like our human immune systems: we need good bacteria (probiotics), nutrients and minerals for our organs to fight off disease. When our immune systems are strong, we’re less likely to catch something that would infect a less healthy person. Plants are the same way.
And the same way that we have to continuously eat nutrients to maintain our health, so do the plants. As we keep eating and creating food scraps, plants keep needing the scraps. Their need keeps landfills thinner and eventually, our bellies fuller. All while eliminating the need for hormone-disrupting, pollution-causing chemical pesticides and fertilizers.
Helping the plant’s immune system ends up helping ours too. The garden food ends up having more nutrients for us, tasting better, and ultimately providing healing and prevention for many of our chronic diseases.
Plus plants in healthy soil need less water, which saves water. And people composting on their own land also reduces their city’s need to collect yard waste, saving more resources.
Lastly, if you are able to turn a pile, studies show that being around soil bacteria reduces depression (It’s the probiotics in the soil). And I believe any nature calms us in some way, from being around a lush forest to being around one fruit from one tree, even putting its peel-scraps in a bucket in my kitchen.
Overall, all pieces of the cycle benefit people, soil, plants, animals and the planet.
These are just my reasons though, why do you compost if you do?