As a REV Sustainability Circle Coach, my colleagues and I help participants develop sustainability initiatives that have a positive impact on people, the planet, and prosperity. Many of these initiatives involve energy upgrades and resource conservation that produce substantial financial savings.
There are other sustainability efforts that are not as easily quantifiable, yet are important to an organization’s commitment to doing the right thing for its people and the planet. One such initiative we have been seeing lately involves composting and gardening at work.
With the passing of AB 1826, some California companies will be required to arrange for collection of their organic waste materials such as food and landscaping waste. The first phase of AB1826 requires businesses who create 8 cubic yards of organic waste to keep it separate from their other waste streams.
However, smaller companies that do not fall under this mandate, and who are looking to become more sustainable in their operations, are initiating their own organics diversion program. Several REV Circle Participants are taking steps to collect food scraps from their cafeterias, lunch rooms and landscape trimmings.
What to Know About Composting at Work
Our mild climate here in San Diego makes for good, consistent composting conditions and year-round gardening. So what does composting and gardening at work look like? It’s a lot more than just a rotting heap of discarded food. Organizations need to be prepared for the commitment associated with a composting program.
First and foremost, the program must be a well-informed, team effort. At least one person should take a basic composting course to be sure they are creating the proper conditions for decomposition and sanitation of organic waste, and the maintenance of the compost (and garden if implemented) must be on a set schedule with assigned responsibilities.
What if you don’t have a garden?
The benefits of composting are obvious to gardeners: it produces a rich, organic fertilizer that amends the soil with essential nutrients. But what if you don’t have a garden? Why does it matter where the organic goes…won’t it just quickly decompose in the landfill? Yes, and that is the problem!
It has to do with a practice called Alternative Daily Cover. Organic material can be a vector for disease. Therefore it is a standard practice to cover it with a layer of dirt or plastic. So unlike a compost pile that gets rotated and watered, the rotting organics in the landfill digest anaerobically (without oxygen). This in turn creates methane- a greenhouse gas that is 21 times more harmful than carbon dioxide and a major contributor to climate change. So if you can’t compost in your own garden, it’s still important to separate organic material into a proper compost container for pick up.
Beyond the landfill issue, composting honors our planet’s natural cycle of life and nutrients that has been occurring for millions of years. At REV we are encouraged to see the State of California stepping up to acknowledge the importance of organics composting through AB1826, and we are very proud of our participants who are joining the effort.