The Single Best Way to Save the Planet

Remember that not all heroes wear capes.

Saving the planet is an undeniably big job. As our carbon footprints increase and our use of natural resources grows, we're adding to the amount of strain on the earth. Scarier yet, we're putting our lives at risk along the way. The good news? If we all pitch in, we can make a major difference. Better yet, our impact starts at home.

Sarah Womer, founder of Zero to Go, an education-based waste management company based in New York's Hudson Valley, says that reducing your household waste is the single greatest way to make an impact. Doing so is especially crucial during the holiday season. Her big tip? Stop tossing those food scraps in the trash can. Instead, start composting them. You'll reduce personal waste and create healthy soil for growing new food, creating a cycle of sustainability in the process.

"40 percent of what we throw away is compostable. Americans throw away an additional 5 million tons of trash—25 percent more than usual–between Thanksgiving and New Year's Eve. On average, Americans throw away $1500 worth of food every year," says Womer.

On a global scale, the impact of our waste is huge. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, approximately one third of the food created for humans each year is tossed in the trash. Across the globe, we're throwing out $990 billion worth of food every single year—that's about $134 dollars' worth of wasted food for every person on the planet.

So, how should you get started? Even if you're a bit squeamish about having Tupperware full of decomposing food in your kitchen or a bin full of worms on your patio, there are plenty of ways to start composting and stop the cycle of waste.
"Find your nearest compost program, whether it be curbside pickup, drop-off at a community garden, your own backyard, and start making an impact!" says Womer.

Luckily, it's easier than ever to find someone who's just dying to take those orange peels and chicken bones off your hands. The BioCycle Compost Navigator will help you find a composter near you where you can turn those food scraps into nutrient-rich soil.

Those who don't have qualms about hosting a worm party are at an even greater advantage. At-home composting is simpler than ever, with plenty of odor-reducing compost bins on the market. You can keep your kitchen scraps in these bins as they decompose until you're ready to bring them outside or take them to a composter. If you have some outdoor space, following these easy steps will have you enjoying perfect soil for your garden in no time:

Brown fall leaves

Lay down some brown materials, like leaves, hay, or other desiccated plant life in two-foot thickness. Make sure these are adequately dry before you add them to your pile.

Food Waste

Add your collected kitchen scraps on top.

Watering garden soil

Water your collection of green and brown materials. Combine materials with a rake, mixing every week. If your plant materials don't already have worms living in them, add some. You can buy worms at a garden store.

Man gardening

Monitor your compost pile for a month or two. Continue mixing until it has the approximate texture of your regular garden soil. A compost thermometer can help you know when it's ready; a lack of heat indicates that the process is complete. At this point, it's ready to be used!

Want to make more of an impact at home and live a healthier, happier life? It's time to discover the 15 Amazing Benefits of Adopting a Pet!

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Sarah Crow
Sarah Crow is a senior editor at Eat This, Not That!, where she focuses on celebrity news and health coverage. Read more
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