An urban landscape is an inherently sterile environment. This environment, that many city dwellers find themselves in, is void of organic matter. Cement lines the streets, and sidewalks right up to the sides of buildings. Buildings jut upwards out of this plant-less environment, leaving no room for a natural ecosystem to support a habitat, however small, for plants and animals. This may appear to be inherent to an urban cityscape that has developed over time, but in fact this sterility is avoidable. It is advantageous for our mental and physical well being to have oxygen-generating plants, and to encourage a healthy co-existence with animals.
Being animals ourselves, we consume lots of organic matter as a food source. Food is essential to our existence, as is the oxygen generated by the plants that supports our lungs. So it seems strange that once we consume part of our food or oxygen, we make efforts to rid them from our environment. We export this organic matter in garbage bags off to distant dumps, or pollute our left-over oxygen with carbon monoxide.
In an effort to break down this inefficient chain of waste, we need to fuel our ecosystem and add use to this “waste.” We can do so directly – and it is as easy as opening a window. Our neighborhoods need our trash. Our ecosystem is dependant on our generosity to give what organic matter we may have, particularly in the face of such hostile sterile environments that make up our urban cityscapes.
The next time, you finish a banana, consider the energy saved by not throwing it in the garbage, to be shipped a few hundred miles. In fact, beyond the nearest window is a starved ecosystem that needs whatever organic matter we have to give it. Open your window, and throw that banana peel down to the street! If you have left-over pasta, don’t hesitate to donate it to the ecosystem below your household. Take a step back, think about the benefits of urban street composting, and launch those noodles out the window.
“What about the smell of rotting food?” you may ask? That rotting smell happens when food is in unnatural containers such as plastic bags, and doesn’t receive the necessary sunlight to break it down. In fact, the food may be eaten by our neighborly animals with whom we share our environment – before the organic matter has a chance to decompose. Posed another way: Would you rather smell the exhaust fumes of a diesel truck, a neighboring coal power plant, or the smell of a decomposing cucumber?
“But what about the rats?” Rats overrun areas because we don’t have an ecosystem to support a predator to keep the rat population under control. By throwing our apple cores out the window, and dumping old hardened polenta onto the street, we will encourage a population of larger animals that will feast on the rat population, as would happen in the food chain of any functional ecosystem.
“Will I get hit by food thrown from my neighbors?” This is a legitimate concern. As a pedestrian, it is important to look both ways before crossing a street, so in the same way, you should be vigilant to avoid stepping on garbage as you walk, and you should pay attention to objects that may be falling from above. But, the responsibility is a two-way street. As a car driver, one must always watch out for pedestrians crossing, and so one must also look before one throws anything out the window. This is a good habit to cultivate not only to avoid pedestrians, but also to avoid throwing organic matter in the same spot. It is best to spread the matter across a larger area to increase sun exposure, and to prevent buildup in a spot that may become a potential road hazard.
The benefits of urban street composting are numerous. Most notably you are participating in the rejuvenation of your immediate ecosystem. Consequently, plants will grow and animals will thrive off their new food source. In turn, new plants will generate oxygen and the animals will provide a new food source. In addition, we will be cutting the amount of waste we export to landfills in half. These are a just a few a benefits – one cannot possibly hypothesize the potential when introduced on a large scale. Urban street composting will revolutionize our sterile cityscape into a dynamic ecosystem that can sustain our mental and physical well-being for years to come. The next time your sushi goes bad, take a second to consider the options available to you right outside your window. You will be doing yourself and your ecosystem a favor.