Dear faithful reader, I have a confession to make: I’m a cheater.

I know, I know. It has been difficult for me to admit and come to terms with this, but it is true.

I mean, I still love recycling and truly believe we have to have a closed loop system for sustainability. And I still think that it is beyond silly/ridiculous/dumb to extract a natural resource, use it, and then toss it into a landfill somewhere not be re-used/recycled again… UMHM?

But let’s get back to the truth: my cheating.

Recycling will always have a place in my heart, but compost and extended producer responsibility/sustainable purchasing has stolen it completely.

Compost: The Once Cauliflower of the Produce World (best ‘glow-up’ of the decade).

It’s like the Beast in "Beauty and the Beast" – completely misunderstood, considered to be the bad/gross/icky/terrible thing. But in reality, it is pretty amazing on the inside (and well, the outside too).

Compost, as the kids say, is pretty darn rad.

Why is it so rad?

Well first, let’s get down and dirty and address the elephant in this column: the notion that compost is GROSS and will only attract new pests coming to your cart!

I hear it all the time when I mention my love affair with compost.

Compost does not have to be gross and I’ve included some tips and tricks below to make it less “gross”. I’ve also included some important facts to remember to help you overcome those perceived barriers:

1. Truth: Your brown compost cart accepts all food (even meat and dairy), soiled paper products AND your yard trimmings! (so put your PIZZA BOXES HERE!!) Soiled paper actually helps absorb liquids and minimize orders.

2. Truth: Food scraps in your compost cart won’t attract any more pests than they will in your trash cart (it’s the same stuff – just in a different cart!)

3. Truth: You can used certified compostable bags or paper bags to put your food scraps in and then put into your brown compost cart – just no plastic bags please! Check out NapaRecycling.com for a full list of locations where you can purchase certified compostable bags in town.

4. Tip: Keep your food scraps in the freezer to help ease that ick factor and fear of fruit flies coming to the bin – just take your compost out the night before to the cart and wabam!

Or if you have space in the fridge – an excellent storage location as well!

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5. Tip: Keep your brown cart in a shady area so it’s not directly in the sun (accelerating the decomposition process)

6. Tip: Add newspaper or non-glossy shredded paper to help absorb some of the moisture and smells.

7. Tip: Consider rinsing out your pail and cart once in awhile OR sprinkle some vinegar/baking soda to minimize smells.

And when you feel like you just CAN’T do it, remember this:

1. Landfills create a HUGE amount of greenhouse gasses (GHG). When organic materials (anything that was ever alive) gets buried into a landfill it makes methane gas, 27 times plus more powerful than carbon dioxide gas.

2. It’s local. Your food scraps/soiled paper/yard trimmings come to our facility and in a 60-day process are changed into beautiful nutrient rich compost that helps REMOVE GHGs from the air and enrich our soils. No fear of what’s happening in Developing Countries and the impacts associated with it.

3. Closed loop, in the simplest way possible.

And for those of you still sitting on the fence – think of this (I will admit as I stood in front of a group of 5th graders talking about this, I got a little teary eyed because of how real it was):

A head of lettuce will get mushy and gross in your fridge just after a few short weeks. How about at our facility? Here it’s completely composted in 60 days. If put in a landfill, it will take 25 years to fully decompose (anaerobic – methane creating - decomposition, no less).

And this is why I got teary eyed:

I kind of remember being 10 years old and having no idea my little actions created HUGE problems. But for today's kids, in 25 years they will be 35 YEARS old and that ONE head of lettuce will have barely decomposed fully while continuing to emit methane gas into the air.

Thirty percent of what we send to a landfill is organic.

Landfills create a lot of methane gas.

What I truly believe: you can make an impact and composting is one of the easiest and most effective ways to do so.

I am just one person, you say? Well, if everyone said that, we would have more than 7.5 BILLION people saying they couldn’t do anything.

PS. The County of Napa and City of Napa worked on a Recycling and Composting short film and created this: https://youtu.be/uN8r6Wry2kI


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This monthly column is written by Kendra Bruno, aka Compost Girl, who is the waste prevention specialist for the city of Napa. To submit questions, email kbruno@cityofnapa.org.