Composting is a wonderful way to engage your employees in a green initiative which takes very little time but has a major impact overall.
Pope Francis once said, “ Throwing away food is like stealing from the table of those who are poor and hungry.” America is the leading nation in many industries and modern endeavors, however, one of the most unsettling areas where we still retain a number one spot is among food waste across the globe.
With over 1.3 billion tons of food waste in America yearly, averaging out to 40% of our food intake as a nation hitting the bottom of a trash can rather than our stomachs, this mass epidemic remains one of the most undiscussed yet serious issues of our modern society.
In fact, every box of leftovers and meal we can’t finish at a restaurant may seem like nothing at the time, but these numbers add up in the long run. On top of this, with businesses and employees alike looking for more eco-friendly alternatives to past routines, food waste may just be a great place to start for the environmental impacts you hope to achieve at work.
What is The Food Waste Epidemic?
Before discussing how to make an impact on the food waste epidemic, we must first address what the epidemic itself is and how the numbers continue to increases yearly. Although most of us toss food in the trash without a care in the world due to the fact that these items are perceived to be biodegradable and, therefore, harmless to the environment, the impact that these food items have on our atmosphere is far more serious than you may think.
In fact, when food is thrown away, it is then sent to landfills to rot and biodegrade. However, this waste actually emits a harmful greenhouse gas pollutant known as methane, with 21 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide as it rots. Within a year, this food waste will create 135 million tons of methane gas which will take over 12 years before the traces of it in the atmosphere are gone.
Furthermore, with over 85 million pounds in fast food waste alone and 49 million in the restaurant industry, the ‘pleasure eating’ mentality that America has developed only continues to create said food waste on a daily basis. Even grocery stores are guilty of this waste, with 43 billion pounds of food waste yearly averaging out to nearly one-third of any grocery store’s food stock being wasted every year.
On top of this, the food that is being wasted is also extremely costly likewise leading to over $197.7 billion lost yearly from American consumers. Despite this massive waste of quality food, over 42.2 million Americans still reside in food insecure households. Although these statistics may seem shocking, multiple companies and communities have begun to recognize this massive epidemic and create effective programs and routines to help prevent the waste in their own community and offices.
One of these projects that is quite common and useful is developing a compost bin outside of your office for lunch and snack leftovers in order to ensure they are not harming the environment and are also being turned into nutrient rich soil which can then be delivered to local farms and gardens in your area.
On top of this, how can you get your community involved and show support to local gardens and farms trying to make an impact on environmental pollution as well? The best way to do this is by creating a composting plan that best suits your company and informing your fellow employees as well as your community about the many benefits of composting for the environment and the reduction of food waste as a whole.
What is Composting?
Compost is decomposed organic matter that can be used to enrich soil and create a better environment for plants to grow in. Over the last few years, composting has become extremely popular due to the fact that it not only can decompose things like peels, egg shells, vegetables, and paper plates but also creates a wonderful base for anyone who likes to garden or owns a farm.
In states where farming is very popular, farms tend to have their own composting bins which they recycle their food waste in, however, in major cities the use of composting is primarily to reduce food waste and create a far more environmentally friendly alternative to a landfill. There are five types of composting and determining which ones works best for you is a great way to get started in creating a composting initiative at the office.
These five types are onsite composting, vermicomposting, aerated windrow composting, aerated static pile composting, and in-vessel composting. Although all of them are useful in their own ways, the most common one utilized by businesses is vermicomposting, as it is done quickly and does not need a large container or plot of land for it to occur.
Vermicomposting utilizes earth worms to eat the leftover food and then turn it into dirt. This can be done in all kinds of containers including dresser drawers, fishtanks, plastic or metal boxes, or even old filing cabinets which can be put on a patio, in front or back of the office, or even in the parking lot. To begin, you must first get a few containers of earthworms (fishing supply stores tend to have them in abundance) and choose the box you wish to set it up in.
From there, you must prepare the bedding which consists of fifty pieces of newspaper (no color print) which are then cut into strips, layered at the bottom of the container, and dampened with water (avoid using too much water). The bin should be about ¾ full of newspaper and should be fluffy to produce air for the worms. Next, sprinkle around 2 to 4 cups of soil on top to introduce beneficial microorganisms to the pile. Once this is complete, you can add the worms and it is best to determine the amount of worms you wish to add ahead of time so you can know how much you can feed them at any given time. The last step is to supply them with some basic food scraps to get started and your composting bin is complete and ready to start supplying you and your coworkers with a trash alternative in no time.
How Does Composting Help Our Environment?
Composting is an effective way to reduce greenhouse gases such as methane. On top of this, using compost, rather than solely fertilizer for gardens and farms, removes the greenhouse gases produced from said fertilizer likewise. On top of this, composting also reduces the amount of paper being wasted in America. The average office worker waste over 700 pounds of paper yearly and most of this is sent to landfills rather than recycled. Therefore, by even putting a few pieces of the paper you use daily in a composting bin rather than a trash can, you can significantly decrease the amount of paper waste in landfills across the nation likewise.
Furthermore, by using compost in gardens and farms locally, you can promote the growth of crops and trees which help produce oxygen and remove CO2 from our atmosphere. With this said, Composting is not only a highly effective way to reduce waste in the office but also a wonderful way to promote environmental awareness in your community as well.
How Will Composting Positively Affect My Office and Community?
A lot of companies in the last few years have turned to eco-friendly alternatives, however, not all of these are as effective as they think. In fact, some eco-friendly alternatives in the last few years have been just as bad, if not worse, than the items they claimed to replace. Despite this, by using basic financial analysis and reporting, you can begin to see the profitable impacts that composting can have on your company as well.
In fact, with food waste being transformed into soil, you can even grow your own garden and help promote healthy eating and lunches provided by the company’s garden alone. With this said, you must ask yourself if your business is truly environmentally friendly and, if not, then composting may be a way to counteract eco-friendly blunders immediately.
Once this is done, you can begin to focus on the wonderful effects that composting will have on your office, your community, and the environment. As we discussed above, the environmental impact composting has is immense, however, this is not the only aspect it affects when utilized in a business setting.
In fact, studies suggest that volunteering as a company can improve team building skills, increase employee engagement, and employee retention. With the dawn of the millennial workforce upon us, most millennial employees are constantly searching for companies that give them a sense of purpose and allow them to make an impact in their community.
By proposing both a composting bin and the delivery of compost to local gardens and farms, you can actually help your company improve on their retention analytics and also give the young individuals as well as the old individuals a purpose other than work when they are at their job.
Furthermore, by delivering the compost monthly to farms and gardens, you can not only promote local agriculture but also use these vegetables to feed homeless and poverty-stricken families and individuals in your community. On top of this, you can contact local schools and organizations to help with the endeavor promoting environmental awareness in youth in your community likewise. Lastly, by connecting your office to the community they live in, you can create lasting friendships and contacts between multiple organizations and volunteers to build a stronger and more connected infrastructure in your community overall.
How Can I Take Composting in The Office One Step Further?
Although simply starting a composting initiative at your office is certainly a great start, you may feel the need to take your eco-friendly initiative one step further. There are many ways to do this including the use of unorthodox organic matter, the implementation of composting bins at farms and gardens in the area as well as the office, and the promotion of incentives for food waste recycling.
In states such as California, Oregon, and Colorado, marijuana has recently become legal. Although other states are still very harsh on marijuana users and distributors and respond with misdemeanors and even jail time for violations, there are still many states that accept its use. When living in states in which it is legalized, the stems and leaves produced by these plants serve as a wonderful addition to compost bins and actually create far larger and more productive compost bins in the process. By encouraging individuals to dispose of their stems and leaves in bins from the office, they can find ways to recycle this organic matter and impact their environment and community in the process.
In fact, studies suggest that marijuana could actually help fight against climate change and promote the recycling of oxygen. With this said, by using the stems and leaves in your compost bin, you can actually utilize the organic waste in a positive way and promote alternative compost tactics in your company.
Furthermore, creating a compost bin at the office is definitely a wonderful way to initiate environmental awareness in your company. By encouraging employees to also create compost bins at local parks, gardens, and farms can also help you get more connected to the community and promote community eco-friendliness rather than subjugating it simply to your business.
Lastly, by promoting incentives for the amount of recycling the company does, you can not only accurately keep track of your carbon footprint in the office but also ensure that employees are trying their best in the process. Everyone loves free stuff and so, by taking this into account and using it to the benefit of your initiative, you can increases the amount of food waste being transitioned into compost and decrease the amount of GHG emissions you are responsible for as well.
Although the race to create the ultimate environmentally friendly company still is ever-present, taking steps such as building a compost bin, carpooling, or creating a community initiative are wonderful ways to show you are on the bandwagon with very little effort in return. With more food being wasted every day, composting is a wonderful way to turn trash into soil and create more food for the community and your company in the process. In the end, food is one of our most powerful assets and wasting it would be not only an insult to the hungry but an insult to ourselves and the earth as well.