Why you should start composting now

11 May 2022

#WorldBiodiversityDay Autumn is the perfect time to start composting food waste and lift your sustainability game, say University of Canterbury (UC) students Kaitlyn and Jess Lamb, who will share their love of composting on 14 May for the Ako Ōtautahi Learning City Christchurch.

  • Kaitlyn and Jess Lamb

    University of Canterbury (UC) Environmental Science students Kaitlyn and Jess Lamb will indulge their love of composting and share practical tips on 14 May at UC’s community garden.

SDG 12

Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 12 - Responsible Consumption and Production

All those dead leaves are perfect for all composting systems, including systems that don’t require much space, or even a garden.  

“Composting is a big deal because we send far too much rubbish to the landfill,” Jess says. “About 30% of waste being sent there is organic waste, which means it could be composted!”

The latest climate change report, from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, spells out the dangers of further warming the planet by emitting carbon and other gases, such as methane. It’s not just our well-publicised cows who produce methane, but potentially every single one of us as well.

“In the landfill, food scraps produce methane gas, which is in fact 23 times worse than carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas,” Kaitlyn says. “Composting is a way in which we can minimize the waste we produce, therefore decreasing the impact we have on our one beautiful earth.” 

“We can all make compost,” Jess adds. “It is just a mixture of organic materials such as food scraps, brown leaves, paper, grass clippings... the list goes on! And from this, we can make dark, crumbly compost, which brings life back into the soil and feeds our plants.”

The two young women manage to fit a lot into their days. Both are studying first year Environmental Science; Kaitlyn is majoring in Environmental Contamination and Jess is majoring in Ecosystem Health & Biosecurity. They volunteer at the University’s Waiutuutu Community Garden, with the Student Volunteer Army and with activities coordinated by UC Sustainability Office.

Jess and Kaitlyn came to UC from Rotorua, where they were the leaders of Forest & Bird Youth Rotorua and their school enviro club, and volunteered with organisations including Kai Rotorua, Lux Organics and the Whakarewarewa Pest Control. Kaitlyn was also selected for the 2021 Bayer Youth Ag Summit, (one of 100 participants globally and the only New Zealander) with her plan to establish an urban farm every 1km in urban Aotearoa to improve sustainable food production.

“It is a great solution to the climate crisis and to increase food security, as it improves access to fresh fruit and vegetables and cuts out the need for fossil fuels,” she says. “Urban farms also have an important community aspect, where workshops are run in order to connect consumers to their kai, as well as teaching them how to grow it and how to compost.”

Listen to Kaitlyn and Jess on RNZ here.

Jess and Kaitlyn present Building Community Food Resilience through Composting, on 14 May from 10 – 11am at the Waiutuutu Community Garden at the University of Canterbury as part of the Ako Ōtautahi Learning City Christchurch.

Jess and Kaitlyn’s top 5 tips for compost newbies:

  1. Everyone can compost their food scraps.

    You can use a worm farm, an in-ground worm farm, a compost bin, a barrel composter on a stand, a bokashi container or you can use the Sharewaste app where your neighbours can compost your scraps or you drop your food scraps off at a garden. https://www.sharewaste.org.nz/ 

  2. Compost shouldn’t be smelly!

    It is very important to have over half your materials in the compost as brown/carbon materials (such as ripped up paper, dead leaves, wood chunks, cardboard, generally your 'dead' and non-smelly stuff), compared to your green materials (such as food scraps, fresh lawn clippings, coffee grounds, green plants, generally your 'alive' and smelly stuff). Brown materials allow your compost to not be smelly and helps to avoid flies.

  3. There are 4 important ingredients to making compost.

    You need all of them. It's like baking a cake, without one ingredient it won't work. You need browns, greens, air and moisture.

  4. Autumn is the perfect time to start.

    There is carbon gold everywhere!! We're talking about the brown leaves. If there was a perfect time to start composting, it's now! You cannot run out of brown materials, so your compost has no excuse to smell bad. It is also useful to collect extra to store some brown leaves for later.

  5. Need motivation?

    If you are lacking motivation to start composting, then add the song called Compost by Nate and Hila to your playlist. The song teaches you how to compost!
  • Composting at Community Garden

Media contact:

  • Email: media@canterbury.ac.nz Ph: (03) 369 3631 or 027 503 0168
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