We have all encountered the foul smell in our kitchens at some point in our life from the organic waste in our garbage bins. That is simply microbes in an action trying to break down the organic compounds into smaller particles. Especially in summer, those attract fruit flies and we wonder what we can do with the bins. The answer is simple: compost. Composting sounds ancient but do we know what it means? We have been hearing about composting since our childhood, but I believe only a few of us practice it like a routine. Organic material (stuff that rots) in landfills produces the greenhouse gas methane, which is 25x more powerful than carbon dioxide. This is due to the anaerobic environment and is a major contributor to climate change (4% of Manitoba’s greenhouse gas emissions come from the waste sector). Food waste (which includes fruit and vegetable scraps, tea leaves, and leftover food that have gone bad) end up in our landfills. Our landfills provide a perfect nursery for the growth of those anaerobic bacteria that release methane. It takes one active step beginning in our homes to reduce this waste and tackle climate change.
I performed a waste audit of my garbage and realized that most of my waste is food scraps and is preventable or compostable. I wanted to go green, but I didn’t know where to start. Although this sounds easy, there are a lot of things associated with it. The traditional way would be to dig a hole and bury the organics there or simply compost in a backyard bin. But, not all of us are privileged to have a backyard composting mechanism. The social enterprise Compost Winnipeg, which picks up organic waste weekly in some areas of Winnipeg for a monthly fee, is not affordable for a student like me. Winnipeg does not offer curbside organics pickup as a City service yet, like it does for garbage and recycling. I live in an apartment and I had been meaning to start composting for a while now. I came across Manitoba Environmental Industries Association (MEIA)’s webinar on composting and thought this might be the best way to get my foot wet.
The event was organized by MEIA’s student chapter in association with Green Action Centre. The event was insightful and pushed me further to start my compost. The facts that I have been hearing in my university classes were true. I have heard about vermiculture, but I wasn’t aware that the process was simpler than I imagined. For a student like me who lives in an apartment, vermiculture is the perfect fit. All I need is containers and the red wriggler worms and I have my compost regimen. The vermicompost doesn’t produce the smell that we associate with organic waste if done right. The worms are friendly, and you need to add bedding (like shredded newspaper or dustless straw) and the rest is simply up to the worms. You must make sure the moisture content is adequate for the bins, so the worms do not die (they need to be damp to breathe, but not so wet they drown). More information is available on https://greenactioncentre.ca/module/composting-2/vermicomposting/. If you are like me and want to go green but are directionless, vermiculture is an excellent place to get started.
MEIA has helped me learn more about something I am interested in and I think events like these help students start initiatives at home. Plus, you get to meet professionals who have been doing these for years. I talked with the representative from the Green Action Centre and learned more about the compost program. There is also Master Composter for those interested in volunteering to promote and support composting. Honestly, these things should have been taught in schools so we could tackle climate change starting from our homes. After all, what can be composted wouldn’t end up in landfills and that is already a huge step in methane reduction.