Composting is nature’s recycling, so let’s talk about how you can turn your food scraps into garden gold!
We have a food waste crisis, which acts as a voracious, lurking beast, devouring resources and spewing environmental havoc in its wake. Arisen in the face of mass production and consumption, which has promoted the use of packaged and pre-prepared food, we owe an estimated one-third to half of landfill waste to food packaging.
Once dumped, wasted food decomposing at landfills releases greenhouse gases and leachate, worsening the safety and quality of soil and water. The ripple effects of inadequate food production and waste management are vast: the immense pressure on food production has fostered the use of pesticides, herbicides, antibiotics, and chemical fertilisers, which exacerbate current global pollution and resource consumption (energy and water) and frequently contaminate the environment.
So, how do we destroy this monster? This seemingly simple question is a jam-packed complex web of contributing factors and solutions, which can be overwhelming and challenging, especially with lifestyle changes increasing demand for packaged food.
Sometimes, people find burying their heads in the sand easier than facing the food crisis monster. However, we mustn’t let its broad scale intimidate us. Instead, we need to focus on driving progress and inspiring change at the local level through collaboration and education. One powerful and accessible way to make a tangible impact is through composting.
Composting is the natural recycling process that converts organic materials like food scraps into nutrient-rich soil. It’s like magic for your garden! When we compost, we divert these leftovers from landfills, where they would emit harmful greenhouse gases. In turn, this healthier soil yields more crops, helping sustainably meet a growing population’s demands.
As a highly influential institution, the University of Auckland (UoA) has the potential to initiate a positive shift in the environmental and food waste space. In particular, the University’s abundant resources and enthusiastic community at UoA create the perfect storm for a composting initiative to be born.
Currently, UoA’s waste (rubbish, recycling and compost) is managed by Green Gorilla—a waste management service in Auckland—who take the waste to Envirofert. Envirofert operates one of the most extensive composting facilities in New Zealand, located near Tuakau in the northern Waikato District.
Although UoA actively composts, it’s safe to say that the lack of advertising for composting and confidence in students to effectively self-manage their waste is discouraging. In SUSTAIN200 last semester, UoA’s sustainability team lectured on their work within UoA. Although insightful, one member made an alarming comment when asked about the lack of composting infrastructure available to students. They explained that composting is not widely advertised because they believe students would not take it seriously and contaminate composting bins due to an assumed disinterest. This is despiteUnsurprisingly, the passionate cohort enrolled in SUSTAIN200 was offended, especially considering the false nature of this statement, as many students across campus had already expressing their interest and advocating for a more robust composting initiative at UoA.
In the pursuit of a more sustainable campus, UoA can take decisive steps to elevate its composting initiatives. Promoting and integrating sustainable practices into students’ lives by implementing composting initiatives and the proper infrastructure (accessible compost bins and effective signage), would aid in applying a future of sustainable living beyond a student’s time at the University.
Further, initiating awareness campaigns and offering student-led educational programs that allow students to take action on their own, drives university culture toward sustainability. This bottom-up participatory approach—delegating decision-making authority from higher levels of authority to lower levels—allows students to seize control of their actions and inspires consciousness of their behaviours regarding waste. UoA could also benefit from the on-site compost generated, supplying it to green spaces like the community garden and conservation spots, which could further inspire the additional implementation of such areas.
You, too, can create your own composting initiative at home! You only need to collect the food scraps, yard waste, and paper products from your household and house them in a bin allocated for compost. Allow decomposing for a few weeks, and then feed your garden the good stuff. All you have to do on campus is check for available composting facilities and follow waste bin guidelines. It’s as simple as that!
So, composting isn’t just a green trend; it’s a powerful solution to reduce food waste and nourish our planet. Join the composting revolution; together, we can turn scraps into sustainability!