Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Leaf them be

Now that the colors are changing and those leaves are falling, many people are beginning the fall chore of raking their leaves, the good news is that this isn’t necessary! Skip the raking and bagging and enjoy a game of football or go for a hike instead. The leaves that you pack up and leave curbside to go to landfills are filling up space in the landfills and contributing to the production and release of methane, a formidable greenhouse gas.

According to the EPA landfills accounted for 18% of the total methane emissions in the United States and globally more than 60% of methane emissions are due to human activity. Methane only makes up about 0.00017% of our atmosphere, which may make methane look less important than it really is to us. The problem we face is how powerful methane is, pound for pound the impact of methane is 25-28 times greater than Carbon Dioxide over a 100 year period (EPA), this makes Methane the 2nd most important greenhouse gas behind Carbon Dioxide. We have made a difference and we can continue to make a positive impact on our methane emissions, the lifetime of methane is much shorter than that of Carbon Dioxide a primary greenhouse gas. This shorter lifespan of atmospheric methane means that it can be removed from the atmosphere via chemical reactions in 9-12 years, this means that we can reduce the amount of methane in our atmosphere.

When we place organic materials into our landfills they undergo anaerobic decomposition, meaning they are not exposed to oxygen while they decompose and thus produce methane. When composting, our organic material experiences aerobic decomposition, breaking down in the presence of oxygen. Because of this access to oxygen, carbon dioxide (carbon from the organic material and oxygen from the air) is produced rather than methane. Now this is still a greenhouse gas, but composting done correctly has produces a negligible amount of greenhouse gasses when compared to anaerobic decomposition that takes place in landfills. Plus we can reap many benefits from our compost that we do not see when we take our leaves curbside for the landfills.

Once your compost is ready, it can be added to your soil and gardens as a replacement for chemical fertilizers. Compost is rich in carbon and when distributed back into the soil, it not only provides valuable organic material to your dirt but it also helps to sequester carbon and create what is called a “sink” an area that takes in or absorbs carbon from the atmosphere. If that is not enough of a reason to stop throwing your leaves away and start mulching or composting, they can also help to reduce your water bill! With the added organic matter from those leaves/compost, happily absorbing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere in your soil, they are also increasing the soils capacity to hold and store water, reducing the need or the frequency with which you have to water or irrigate your soil. It helps to reduce soil compaction, making for wonderfully workable soils. The healthier the soil, the less the risk of erosion as well, which will in turn help to reduce the amount of sediments in our storm water runoff, improving the water quality.

If you have a new found love of composting or want to try it out this fall, our Urban Ag. program has some great information for how to get started with composting in an urban setting. Contact Sandy Letzing at SandyL@cascadiacd.org or call into the office at 509-436-1601 for more information or with questions regarding composting.


Works Cited:

No comments:

Post a Comment