Anything that grows, will also decompose! That means that much of the food waste that we produce is actually compostable. Up to 21% of US landfill content is food waste –it’s the #1 landfill contributor by weight.1 When food rots in landfills, it releases methane. That means that rotting food contributes to greenhouse gas emissions, and is one of the many things adding to climate change.1 Instead of sending your food waste to landfills, you can try composting. Composting is an easy way to reduce our landfill contributions, address climate change, and transform our waste into healthy soil!

There are lots of businesses, universities, and even entire cities that are becoming more passionate about composting. For example, San Francisco created a large-scale composting program in 1996, and diverts over 250,000 tons of organic waste to landfills annually (about 650 tons per day)–this waste is then converted into around 350 tons of compost per day!2 Los Angeles does not currently have a city-wide composting program as expansive as San Francisco, but they are expanding their curbside organics recycling program in accordance with Senate Bill 1383 (a CA mandate which aims to keep organic waste out of landfills), which you can check out here.3 Beyond this, you can still try composting and reducing food waste in your own home!

There are a few ways to compost at home. First, you can simply buy or purchase a bin for your backyard, or start a composting pile. You can check out this tutorial video to learn more.4 This is much simpler than people think! You only need a few things: water, air, “browns”, and “greens”.5 Browns are carbon-rich materials, which provide food for microorganisms to break down. This can include dry leaves, twigs, paper and cardboard, and plant stalks. Greens are where your food scraps come in: these nitrogen-rich materials create the ideal conditions for the breakdown of material. Greens can also include grass clippings and green garden waste. In general, you never want to compost meat, dairy, or bread. It can attract pests!

A second, more complicated way of composting at home is to try vermicomposting, also known as worm composting. This can be done indoors and outdoors, and involves purchasing worms and providing them with material to break down.6 This option is obviously not for everyone, but might be attractive to any worm-lovers out there.

Both of these methods produce compost that you can use in your backyard plants, add on the top of the soil on your lawn, or mix into potting soil for your indoor plants. Finished compost has many benefits! To name a few, it adds nutrients to soil, attracts beneficial organisms and reduces the need for pesticides, and improves your soil’s health by adding organic matter.5

Not everyone has a backyard, or wants compost to use in their gardens. Even if that’s the case for you, you should still try your best to divert your food waste from landfills. There are programs in LA (and other cities, too) that take community food waste and turn it into compost to be used in local ecosystems. LA Compost is a community-based organization that has a network of locations where you can drop off your food waste.7 They have booths at local farmers markets, and have regional compost hubs for community access. You can simply store your food waste in a container or bin, and drop it off at one of their locations when your container is full. You can store your container in the freezer to reduce any smells that may be produced by the rotting food. Last year, LA Compost diverted almost 4 million pounds of organics from landfills.7

Whether you create a personal composting bin, donate your food waste to local organizations, or recruit worms to help you, you can help reduce food waste in your own way. There’s no need to completely change your habits overnight. Start small, and over time you can build your way up to becoming a composting connoisseur. Every small action contributes towards reducing climate change and creating a better planet for all of us!

1. Wasted: How America Is Losing Up to 40 Percent of Its Food from Farm to Fork to Landfill. Published August 16, 2017. Accessed July 31, 2023. https://www.nrdc.org/resources/wasted-how-america-losing-40-percent-its-food-farm-fork-landfill
2. Food to the Rescue: San Francisco Composting. Published October 24, 2017. Accessed July 31, 2023. https://www.nrdc.org/resources/food-rescue-san-francisco-composting
3. Curbside Organics Recycling Program. Accessed July 31, 2023. https://lacitysan.org/san/faces/
4. Beginner’s Guide to Composting.; 2019. Accessed July 31, 2023. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=egyNJ7xPyoQ
5. US EPA O. Composting At Home. Published April 17, 2013. Accessed July 31, 2023. https://www.epa.gov/recycle/composting-home
6. US EPA O. Composting At Home: Worms. Published April 17, 2013. Accessed July 31, 2023. https://www.epa.gov/recycle/composting-home#worms
7. LA COMPOST. LC-SS. Published June 2, 2023. Accessed July 31, 2023. https://www.lacompost.org