A Little Bit of Compost Could Help Fight Climate Change

Written by Lorraine Chow

There are plenty of reasons why compost is beneficial to the environment. This nutrient-rich mulch enriches soil and helps plants grow, reduces the need for fertilizers and as it turns out, can also play a big role in reducing carbon in the atmosphere.

Experiments conducted on a Marin County ranch found that a single layer of compost has significantly increased the soil’s ability to store carbon (an effect that’s been observed for the last six years), the San Francisco Chronicle reports.

If scaled up, this eco-friendly solution could potentially slash California’s carbon pollution. According to the research, if compost were applied to a mere five percent of California’s grazing lands, the soil could capture a whole year’s worth of greenhouse gas emissions from the state’s farm and forestry industries. Researcher and bio-geochemist Whendee Silver theorized to the San Francisco Chronicle that if compost were applied to 25 percent of California’s grazing land, the soil could absorb a whopping three-quarters of the state’s annual emissions.

Here’s how it works: Compost nourishes plant growth. And as a plant grows, it sucks in the carbon dioxide from the atmosphere through photosynthesis. Carbon, as well as being used to create new plant tissue, is also pushed into the soil via the roots.

Compost helps cut greenhouse gases in other ways as well. We’ve mentioned that composting helps divert unwanted food scraps and other organic material from the landfills, which are the U.S.’s third largest source of methane emissions behind the oil and gas and agriculture industries.

The Marin county composting experiment has also benefited the land in other ways. Ranch owner John Wick has observed an increase in native birds and plants, as well as green grass year round (which is especially remarkable in a state that’s experiencing a historic drought).

So if composting is so great, why hasn’t California (and other states) spread the solution? Well, as the San Francisco Chronicle explains, even though the process is relatively low-tech, it requires a lot of time and money.

However, many cities such as Denver; Austin, Texas; Portland, Ore., and New York City have compost-collecting programs. And in San Francisco and Seattle, residents are fined if they fail to compost. So as more cities and states green up, there will certainly be much more mulch to spread around.


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This post originally appeared on NationSwell.

Photo credit: Thinkstock


Sarah Hill
Sarah Hill4 years ago


ERIKA SOMLAI4 years ago

thank you for the good article

Sharon Stein
Sharon Stein4 years ago

I am living in a small area since retirement last year...so now i keep my leaf scraps, peelings, and keep them in a sealed container which I keep wet...they quickly turn into a green black slime I use for liquid fertilizer...works wonderfully!

Fi T.
Past Member 4 years ago

It doesn't really take much for us to help

Steven Gregory Davis

What a wonderful solution...We are lucky enough to have a HUGE back yard, and so we compost virtually all our food scraps...but due to the fact that the peel of citrus fruits is saturated with harmful chemicals, they should NEVER be added to the mix...Same is true for mildewed bread and cheese or meat of any kind...Our compost THRIVES on coffee grinds and green tea leaves...If you remain patient enough, you will be REWARDED with the richest most incredible SOIL imaginable!!!

Nikki Davey
Nikki Davey4 years ago

Sounds like a no-brainer. Keep composting. And it doesn't take a lot of time to set up a composter bin, just time for the waste to turn to usable compost.

Mariah Ferrazi
Mariah Ferrazi4 years ago

We need to consider all possible solutions to save mankind from its own degradation. Thank you for your very good article.

Warren Webber
Warren Webber4 years ago

Live long and prosper

Claudia Acosta
Claudia A4 years ago

Thank you.

Melania Padilla
Melania Padilla4 years ago