Professional Practice

Applying Ecological Design: Residential Composting

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Compost of food and yard scraps / OregonMetro.gov

According to The Sustainable SITES Initiative™ (SITES®), in 2007 approximately 33 million tons of yard waste entered the municipal waste stream, representing 13 percent of total municipal waste in the United States. More than 25 percent of waste disposed in landfills is yard and food waste, which can instead be transformed into productive resources.

Composting is an efficient way of managing household food and yard waste. Composting provides a valuable nutrient-rich medium that can be used in soil to grow healthy plants, and reduces the need for excess water, fertilizers, and other pesticides for gardens. 

On properties with compacted and degraded soil, compost can be used as a soil amendment to increase water and air flow into the ground, and help plant roots establish. Adding compost to soil also protects local watersheds by filtering out stormwater pollutants by 60 to 90 percent.

There are various types of composting systems, which can be added to backyards or even used indoors. Many cities offer curbside compost pick-up or drop-off programs for residents that cannot compost their food and yard waste on site. San Francisco, for example, provides compost bins and requires residents separate their compost from recyclables and trash.

Source: Wastes – Resource Conservation – Reduce, Reuse, Recycle – Composting, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency; Compost Impacts More Than You Think, Institute for Local Self Reliance


Organizations

Composting Association of Vermont

Pennsylvania’s State Recycling Association

U.S. Composting Council

Institute for Local Self Reliance

Resources

Composting, Cornell Waste Management Institute, Cornell University

Guide to Composting, Garden Guide

State of Composting In The US, BioCycle

Landscape Architecture/Design Specifications for Compost Use, Environmental Protection Agency

Compost for Use in Landscaping, Green Infrastructure and Land Management, American Society of Landscape Architects Northern California Chapter

Research


Let it Rot!: The Gardener’s Guide to Composting,” Stu Campbell, Storey Publishing, 1998

How to Compost: Everything You Need To Know To Start Composting, And Nothing You Don’t,” Lars Hudley, 2012

Teaming with Nutrients: The Organic Gardener’s Guide to Optimizing Plant Nutrition,” Jeff Lowenfels, Timber Press, 2013

"The Complete Compost Gardening Guide," Barbara Pleasant and Deborah L. Marin. Storey Publishing, LLC, 2008

"Composting: An Easy Household Guide," Nicky Scott. Chelsea Green Publishing, 2007

Government Resources


Home Composting, California Integrated Waste Management Board

Home Composting Tips: A Guide to Composting Yard and Food Waste, Department of Environmental Protection, State of Massachusetts

Grants and Recycling Rebates, Colorado Department of Health & Environment

San Francisco Residential Composting Program, City of San Francisco, California

Composting at Home, Environmental Protection Agency

Food Waste Drop-Off, DC Department of Public Works

Backyard Composting, Seattle, Washington

NYC Compost Project
, New York City

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