In the early days of the movement, when meeting goals was a simple matter of personal choice, sustainability was a lifestyle decision made by individuals and families with minimal influence on the larger community. But today, decisions about sustainability result in big impacts, because the people making those decisions do so on behalf of cities, corporations and countries.
As a result, sustainability is no longer about lifestyle choices – it’s about systems, the infrastructure upon which a sustainable society can anchor and grow. Sustainability has become a very large composition made up of many technologies, services and policies. Like the web of life, many of its components are interrelated and, sometimes, symbiotic. If one component is faulty, undersized or missing, the entire system suffers.
Organics recycling is a subsystem of the larger whole. Farmers, foresters and horticulturalists produce raw materials, turning the valve on a long and intricate supply line of goods and services flowing to consumers. At every stop, waste products are generated. When collected and used as feedstocks in the manufacture of compost, those by-products and residuals transform into soil amendments, growing the next generation of raw materials, controlling stormwater, conserving drinking water and reducing chemical use. This full circle is what makes it a recycling loop.
But even if the infrastructure does not yet exist for you to send your biodegradables to a community or regional composting facility, you can still make an important contribution to your region’s sustainability system.
How? Develop a management plan which calls for the use of one cubic yard of compost in landscaping and turfgrass management for every ton of biodegradable waste generated at your facility — be it a municipality, a manufacturing plant or a military base – and you will balance the scales for your operation. In so doing, markets for compost products expand, giving compost manufacturers competitive advantages in waste procurement. This allows natural market forces – not laws, taxes and sustainability mandates – to do the heavy lifting, and is almost always the faster, less painful path to progress.