Today’s Solutions: January 30, 2023

Composting is an easy and fun way to cut down on our carbon emissions while making our own fertilizer. Despite this, a lot of green waste like vegetable scraps and lawn trimmings wind up in landfills. Here they rot and release methane, a greenhouse gas far more potent than carbon dioxide. California, though, is doing something about this. 

California jurisdictions have started reducing green waste as per a composting law that will take place in 2025. 

Branching benefits

Senate Bill 1383 requires local California governments to reduce the amount of green waste sent to landfills by 75 percent by 2025. Decreasing greenhouse gas emissions isn’t the only benefit of a state-wide composting increase. More compost will noticeably improve Californian agriculture. Not only that, but it will reduce costs for California farmers while improving climate resiliency. 

California is continually hit hard by drought, and more organic material in agricultural soil via compost helps retain moisture and cools the soil temperature. It also increases the infiltration rate, so water moves more quickly through the soil and crops expend less energy to absorb moisture. The soil also holds water more effectively, reducing the amount of water farmers need to use. 

Compost in the soil also introduces much-needed nutrients and improves crop yield, vital for a state with an enormous agricultural sector. “Once we get that microbial life established, we can minimize the amount of fertilizer we put out,” said Mike Barrett of Caspar Farms in Dixon, California. His farm has been able to decrease its purchasing of fertilizer by about half thanks to the influx of compost. 

Working out the bugs

Farmers and legislators hope that SB1383 will increase compost production and reduce the cost, making it prevalent throughout the state. 

Challenges to the implementation of SB1383 are mostly about funding and outreach. Cities have to pay for these initiatives themselves and educate their citizens on proper composting behavior, while most people stick to the habit of throwing green waste in the trash. There are, however, cities that are leading by example. 

Pasadena is providing compost bins for its citizens and offering free composting workshops. While San Francisco cannot use all the compost it produces, it gives all its compost to San Mateo County for farmers in that region to use. “We’re reaching our target at the same time, but also we’re helping the farmers use that compost,” said Marissa Garin, the management analyst for the City of South San Francisco’s Public Works Department.

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