May 29th in the United States is National Learn About Composting Day. Composting is a nature’s way of recycling, and most people do this in their backyard or through a town service. While traveling, one would need to find a compost bin or program in the area.
Why is Composting Important?
According to Yale Environment 360, “The environmental benefits of recycling that material are significant. As it decomposes in landfills, food and other organic waste produces methane, a greenhouse gas 25 times more powerful than carbon dioxide. According to the EPA [United States Environmental Protection Agency], landfills are the third-largest source of methane in the United States, behind industry and agriculture. Shipping waste long distances from cities to landfills produces even more greenhouse gas emissions. Composting, meanwhile, takes that waste and turns it into something usable [like] fertilizer.”
What Can I do While Traveling?
The easiest option would be to see if any local food stores or coffee shops have compost bins for their customers. Some stores will have these bins outside their store front. For example, both employees and customers have access to composting bins at Whole Foods Markets in the UK and US. Some countries, like Italy, have organic bins on the streets. You can also check if there is a city-wide composting program. Farmer’s markets, community gardens, or other community spaces are good places to start looking. The last option can be to take a jar with you while traveling, collect, and bury the compost yourself.
For all options, one should first check to see what is compostable. Generally, food scraps: coffee grounds, lettuce, potato peels, banana peels, avocado skins, etc., paper items, 100% cotton items, and spoiled soy/rice/almond/coconut milk are good for the soil.
What is Food Waste and Food Recovery?
In 2011, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations estimated that around 1/3 of the world’s food was lost or wasted every year. FAO defines food waste as “the decrease in the quantity or quality of food resulting from decisions and actions by retailers, food service providers and consumers.” This is a global issue, and while traveling one should continue their efforts. The United States Environmental Protection Agency's Food Recovery Hierarchy describes the ways to reduce the impact of wasted food by the sustainable management of food. The first tier is source reduction by reducing the volume of surplus food generated. Second is feeding hungry people by donating extra food to food banks, soup kitchens, and shelters. Third is to feed animals by diverting food scraps to animal food. Fourth is to use food scraps to recover energy for industrial uses by providing waste oils for rendering and fuel conversion. Fifth is composting and sixth is to use landfills/incineration, a last resort to disposal.
If one makes the change in their daily routine to choose composting, while traveling it shouldn’t be any different. Part of sustainable tourism is trying to make a positive impact on the environment. Be part of the solution!