By Joel Martin, Climate Writer
Here’s an easy way to fight climate change – put your food and yard waste in your green bin every week. The California legislature did us a favor by addressing the issue of organic waste by requiring Californians to redistribute unused food, and recycling food waste. Yay, real legislative action that matters! To make it work though we need to do our part.
Why is food waste bad?
Food production and food waste create greenhouse gases, particularly methane. Methane is exceptionally nasty stuff because it is about 30 times more potent than carbon dioxide in warming the planet. Food production (most notably meat) produces lots of methane and rotting food waste produces an astounding 20% of California’s methane emissions. You can help on the front end by eating wisely. As food author Michael Pollan likes to say, “eat well, not too much, mostly plants.” Still, you have to eat, so what do you do with food waste? Compost!
Turning Food Waste into Compost
The waste you put in your green bin every week goes to large-scale composting facilities. There, organic waste gets sorted, mixed, stacked and stirred while bugs and bacteria break down the organic matter into natural fertilizer, namely, compost. The city uses some of the compost and the rest gets distributed to residents. City residents can pick up 2 cubic yards for free, but anyone can purchase (more details here). You can also get wood chips and mulch much cheaper than at your local gardening store! All that compost and mulch helps grow plants that suck carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere to grow food, grow trees and make our city beautiful.
Take Action – How to use your Green Bin
To make this work, we need the help of climate warriors like you! Food (and garden) waste needs to go into that green bin and out to the curb every week whether you fill up the bin or not. What goes in the bin? Food leftovers, for one. You can put a lot of things in the bin that you wouldn’t put in a home compost pile such as meat, dairy and even bones. It’s important to note that plastic doesn’t go in the bin. Basically, non-organic things such as glass, metal, rocks and other trash don’t belong in the bin, nor does nasty stuff like dog poo, diapers, paint or grease. Use common sense and, when in doubt, put it the trash.
The city has distributed a nifty kitchen pail to collect waste before taking it out to the kitchen. Unfortunately, the holes in the container are big enough to let fruit flies in so it might not be optimal to leave it out on the counter. I use plastic storage containers and have one at hand on the counter for coffee grounds and fruit and vegetable peels. As for leftovers, I leave them in storage containers in the fridge and put them into the bin when I take it out to the curb. Once in a while I’ll take a hose to the green bin and let it drain into the bushes. If you’re really concerned about things getting yucky, you can wrap items in newsprint, grocery ads, or paper bag before putting them in the bin.
Thanks for pitching in by pitching in!