Something wonderful and weird happened last week.
As I hauled the recycling and trash to the street on Wednesday evening, I discovered we had no trash. For a moment, my brain glitched as I tried to figure out why.
Our house is busy on a quiet day as my partner, Antoinette, and I juggle two demanding jobs, a voracious 7-year-old boy and a noxiously cute pandemic puppy. So, there is no shortage of consumption in our house.
What made the magic happen was twofold. First is the dedication of Antoinette to reusing and recycling. She’s been known to shriek, “Where are you going with that plastic bag?” when I head for the trash.
I happily accept these good-natured chidings and am a bit ashamed that I need them. After all, my niche in the world is sustainable investing, but I confess to being a bit absent-minded around the house.
The second bit of magic is that we started composting all our food scraps and biodegradable waste, also thanks to Antoinette. It took her about four months to house-train me to stop throwing my banana peels in the trash and put them in our compost bin.
But when I finally mastered that simple skill, we hit a critical moment last week when we had no trash.
Everything was either reused, recycled or composted.
The idea of a sustainable, closed-loop economy with no trash always seemed like the utopian dream of a hippie fantasy, but here I was witnessing it in action.
As investors, we have an obligation to protect the future we are investing for, be it with our money or our trash. This means investing according to our values and live according to them as well — something that I’m continually learning how to do, right now with composting.
However, Antoinette’s diligence would not have worked without Reunity Resources, a local nonprofit organization that runs the Doorstep Compost Collection program.
As Juliana Ciano, the program director of Reunity Resources, explained, “When it comes to reducing your environmental footprint, composting is the biggest bang for your buck. If food waste were a country unto itself, it would be the third largest greenhouse gas polluter in the world.”
This insight inspired Ciano to initiate a citywide composting program. For $36 a month, Reunity Resources provides an airtight composting bucket for your kitchen, picks the bucket up from your doorstep each week and replaces it with a clean one. Plus, each household gets two free bags of compost a year, closing the loop and giving subscribers fresh compost for their yards.
Using Reunity Resources is much easier and more effective than doing it yourself. A home compost pile can’t handle items like meat, dairy or citrus peels because it never gets hot enough to break these items down. However, Reunity Resources can take almost anything that was once alive as well as BPI-certified compostable plastics.
Plus, a home compost pile improperly managed can attract pests. Who wants coyotes, raccoons or mice camping in their backyard?
“About 30 to 40 percent of the stuff in your garbage can is food waste. And in the trash, it’s wrapped in plastic where it can’t decompose properly,” Ciano says. “Food waste decaying anaerobically [without oxygen] creates methane, which is 70 times more planet-warming than CO2.”
Composting is a game-changer.
Instead of your food scraps creating methane, composted material is put back into the soil to help plants grow. Plants growing in nutrient-rich compost breathe in CO2, a greenhouse gas, sequestering the carbon into the soil through photosynthesis and pushing out oxygen needed to sustain human life.
In short, composted waste helps scrub the atmosphere, cooling the planet, rather than rotting in a landfill and contributing to climate change.
I’d love to see the city or county launch a composting program for all residents. This would reduce waste and methane emissions, build healthier soil and create jobs lost from the pandemic.
Composting must become our new normal, just like recycling. It is a critical part of building a sustainable economy and a healthy planet.
Ciano summed it up elegantly: “We don’t need a few people doing zero waste perfectly. We need everyone doing it as best they can.”
So, what will be missing from your trash next week?
Doug Lynam is a partner at LongView Asset Management in Santa Fe and a former monk. He is the author of From Monk to Money Manager: A Former Monk’s Financial Guide to Becoming A Little Bit Wealthy — And Why That’s Okay. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org