What is composting?

 There's a missing link in our local food system that lies between the ultimate disposal and the original production of food, in the messy process that returns life to the soil, so the soil can provide an abundant harvest for us to eat. Composting is like recycling for but instead of metal or plastic, we're talking about organic material, including everyday stuff like food scraps. The end-product of composting is compost - the rich soil amendment that farmers, gardeners and growers can't get enough of. They call it black gold.

Why compost?

Americans waste so much food. A quarter of your weekly groceries. Over a year, that amount of food weighs the same as three refrigerators, for the average American household. Plus, putting organic material into the trash stream isn't sustainable. Sealed in a landfill, it's deprived of the oxygen it needs to break down naturally, so instead it rots, emitting tons of methane — a greenhouse gas 25% more potent than carbon dioxide.

Here in the Rocky Mountain West, we’re in a drought so persistent that scientists are calling it “desertification” — a significant threat to biodiversity, water security and food security. Regenerative practices, like recycling the nutrients of food scraps back into the soil, can build up water retention, microbial life and fertility to the soil while also pulling carbon out of the atmosphere for storage in a natural sink.

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Can I compost this?

Composting works by mixing organic material with water, oxygen and time until you get a rich fertilizer. But, the process only works with the right proportions of “greens” and “browns.” Every material has its own chemical profile, but generally: greens, like veggie scraps, contain more nitrogen and browns, like dried leaves, contain more carbon. (To nerd out more, start here.)

In your kitchen, you’ll mostly collect greens. With that in mind, here’s a card to print out and reference when you find yourself asking, “Can I compost this?” Every member will get one of these cards to stick on their fridge, but for posterity, here’s a spare you can print out.

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