Compost is a touchy subject. As anyone who’s collected food scraps in her kitchen can tell you, some people see a container full of cucumber peels and egg shells as a step toward sustainability, while others smell a stench. Last week, New Yorkers filed into each of these categories — and a few in between — when they learned that the Big Apple will start composting.
Thanks to successful pilot programs, “the Bloomberg administration is rolling out an ambitious plan to begin collecting food scraps across the city,” the New York Times reported last week.
The compost program could reach the entire city by 2015 or 16, with a requirement to separate unwanted food from other trash not far behind. As with New York’s recycling program, those who do not comply could face fines.
For some Jewish businesses, city composting would align with an interest in environmental responsibility or the sense of a religious imperative to care for the Earth. And, many well-known forces in the city’s Jewish community, in fact, already embrace the practice that has divided residents. But for others, it’s not a chief priority.
Garbage in New York City is transported to landfills outside of the state. Ohio, Pennsylvania and New Jersey all have landfills full of our old clothes, packaging, contents of our last closet purge, and lots of food waste. This last one is the most unfortunate, because food was meant to compost back into the earth and enrich the soil for the next growing cycle. If we can keep food out of landfill and find a way to send it back to the soil that grows our food, we’re giving our future food the opportunity to be at least as nutritious as the food that came before it. It’s a simple concept. However, when you live in New York City where backyard gardens and opportunities to compost are scarce it seems like the only option for our food waste is to throw it into the landfill with the rest of the garbage.
When President Obama spoke about climate change in his inaugural speech, it was a small victory for the hard working members of environmental organizations everywhere to finally hear that their agenda was being acknowledged on a large scale. One of these hardworking individuals is Mirele Goldsmith, the director of the Jewish Greening Fellowship (JGF), a program created by UJA-Federation of New York to mobilize the Jewish Community in response to climate change.
With terms like “CSA” (community supported agriculture) and “CFL” (compact fluorescent light bulb) becoming increasingly common, it’s easy to be excited and quickly overwhelmed by climate change and sustainability. In an interview with Mirele, she explained, “It’s hard to think of things to do between changing your light bulb and saving the world; as a community we can make a difference in ways that we can’t as individuals. That is what the Jewish Greening Fellowship is about.”