Springfield Earth Day Festival
Tackling Climate Change on Multiple Fronts
GUEST BLOGGER: Springfield Compost Collective
Linda Chorice & Justine Campbell
Here’s some food for thought. The food we eat, or rather, the food we don’t eat and how food is grown, contributes to climate change in surprising ways. Since most of us are privileged enough to choose the food we consume, the good news is that we can also control what happens to the food scraps left behind. In short, we can make a difference and reduce our own carbon footprint with a few simple changes.
First, avoid food waste. Buy only what you can use and eat what you have. While this step sounds easy, it does take some planning and discipline. It is estimated that 35% of all food produced is wasted–from food left unharvested in the field to food that reaches its expiration date in the grocery store or spoils in our refrigerator. Food that isn’t consumed typically ends up in landfills where it creates methane, a greenhouse gas 75-84 times more potent than carbon dioxide in increasing global warming.
If you are able, purchase food that is locally grown and with ecologically sustainable methods. Better yet, plant a garden and harvest your own vegetables. Globally, food production is responsible for at least 8% of carbon emissions. From planting and harvesting large agricultural fields to transporting it around the world, the carbon footprint is staggering. Purchasing food grown locally with sustainable methods will make a positive impact, and in the Springfield area there are sources for local food available in area Farmers’ Markets. Community Supported Agriculture or CSAs provide opportunities for individuals to purchase organic, locally grown food. Urban Roots Farm, Millsaps Farm, and Springfield Community Gardens are all local sources, just to name a few.
Compost your food waste to keep food scraps out of the landfill. Here in Springfield, an estimated 850-1200 tons of waste is deposited in the landfill daily and a little more than 12% is food waste. That's equal to the weight of around 72 cars going to the landfill every day! Multiply that by every city in the world and the amount of waste is mind boggling. In a well-designed landfill with anaerobic (without oxygen) conditions, food rots slowly releasing methane, a toxic greenhouse gas. A head of lettuce may take as long as 25 years to decay in a landfill; however, in an aerobic (with oxygen) environment as in composting, decomposition occurs in as little as two weeks. According to various studies and depending on the kind of food composted, methane emissions are only 2-14% as high as this same food decomposing in a landfill because methane-producing microbes do not function in the presence of oxygen.
Compost, when added to the soil, improves carbon sequestration lowering greenhouse gases significantly while improving the biological and chemical properties of the soil as well as the physical structure. Stormwater runoff is reduced because compost makes the soil more porous allowing it to hold five times its weight in water while also filtering 60-95% of pollutants. Compost enhances plant disease suppression, increases microbial activity, encourages root growth, and buffers soil pH. Composting is one solution to climate change that can be integrated into your lifestyle.
Springfield Compost Collective–a grassroots nonprofit organization can help. First piloted in 2018 by a group of passionate composters and co-founders Justine Campbell and Tim England; this organization focuses on composting food scraps and regenerating soil through mindful waste management. Educational information, from teaching the basics of composting for beginners to troubleshooting specific issues requiring technical advice, is provided to make composting attainable and successful.
Participation for those who aren’t yet ready to set up their own composting system or are restricted from doing so by where they reside can still be achieved through a food scrap pick-up subscription currently available in Springfield. Subscriptions are available to homeowners, apartment and condominium dwellers, and businesses. Residents receive a five-gallon bin and businesses receive either a 32- or 64-gallon bin along with the weekly food scrap pick-up service. Community bins are also available at several locations around the city. For more information about these services and current prices, visit Springfieldcompostcollective.org.
While climate change can seem overwhelming, you can make a difference. Effective solutions don’t require a few people doing everything right, but rather everybody contributing what they can to tackle this problem.
Last year, Springfield Compost Collective collected 43 tons of food scraps and turned them into rich compost which tackled climate change on two fronts–diverting food waste from the landfill to reduce methane and sequestering carbon by adding compost to soil. That’s called closing the food loop, and that’s something that we can all sink our teeth into.
Linda Chorice & Justine Campbell