By Sukhmani Grover
Since quarantine began in March, I have started to inhabit the kitchen much more than normal. I bring my laptop and charger and sit on the counter to work and enjoy my mom’s company while she cooks or sends emails or talks on the phone. In addition to seeing her more, I have started to see the way that all the vegetable ends and fruit peels and sometimes even rotting fruit tends to make its way into our trash can. On one particularly memorable summer afternoon, I was helping my mom cut a watermelon and it was difficult not to notice the way that our peel bag was almost entirely filled with the heavy green skin of the melon – we needed a second bag just to support the weight. The amount of waste that we threw away that day from a single watermelon was jarring to me. I now look at it as a wake-up call.
In the past, I thought that my family was doing a fairly good job at watching what we throw out. We’re not wasteful; if we’re unable to finish a dish at a restaurant, we bring it home to eat at a later meal. We don’t leave food on our plates, and we’re conscious of not letting items in the fridge spoil. But we could still be doing more. The United States Environmental Protection Agency reports that the average American throws away about 1.3 pounds of food scraps every day, and the United States leads globally in the amount of food wasted, at 40 million tons annually. Now, while it is likely that some amount of that is commercial and therefore harder to control, we all have the ability (and often, the responsibility) to not actively take part in this mass wastage.
While filling up landfills is bad enough in itself, the damage done by the disposal of this food waste leads to a far more dangerous outcome: methane production. Methane is a greenhouse gas 84 times more potent than carbon dioxide when measured over a 20-year period, and it’s released when food waste decomposes in landfills. It’s a major contributor to global warming, and serves to lock in heat in our atmosphere.
The obvious solution is composting. Not only is composting the perfect way to keep organic materials out of landfills and lessen your carbon footprint, but it also allows you to recycle and return valuable nutrients back to the earth. Because composting breaks down food waste in a different way than what happens in landfills, methane isn’t released. What is created, instead, is a product perfect for growing fruits and vegetables in. Plants that are grown in compost-enriched soil don’t need artificial fertilizers and they’ve also been shown to be healthier. In some cases, your town or city may already have a compost collection available for you to participate in. If not, setting up your own is simple. Composting can be done indoors or outdoors, and it’s very affordable. If you don’t have any plants to deposit your finished compost into, that’s also not a problem: you can donate it to a local school, community garden, farm, or even any of your willing neighbors.
Even once it’s no longer watermelon season where I live, I plan to keep in mind the effects that I have on my environment. We can all do our part to save the globe, and that can start from a little box in your kitchen or some worms in your backyard or a pile of food scraps in your city known as a compost.Share This