Composting is a valuable waste disposal tool, and one the County of San Diego is embracing

Many San Diego households are using composting as a way to recycle organic matter; the fruits, vegetables and yard waste that otherwise would have been destined for a landfill. At the County of San Diego we are of a similar green mind.

With 94 county parks and acres of landscaping, we have plenty of great places where we can use composted material. At my urging, the Board of Supervisors has unanimously decided to explore a cost-effective expansion of our existing programs while building composting into how we do business in the future.

Among composting's benefits is the diversion of waste that otherwise would have ended up in a landfill. Doing this is good for our environment. Every metric dry ton of organic waste that ends up in a dump may generate in the first 120 days up to a quarter metric ton of methane, a very strong greenhouse gas.

In California we are disposing of about 35 million tons of trash in landfills each year. Of that amount, 32 percent is suitable for composting. The more we compost, the less greenhouse gas in the air.

As a member of the California Air Resources Board, I am aware that reducing greenhouse gases is a top state priority and a major matter of discussion at our meetings.

While you will frequently read about carbon dioxide emissions, methane is 25 times more damaging, according to a report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that included several scientists from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography as authors.

The county's new composting program will help us build partnerships with individual residents and homeowners who also are looking to do more to green their garden while combating global warming.

The good news is it has never been easier to compost.

Several modern composting systems priced under $100 are available at local home improvement stores. Or people can choose to build their own for even less using simple directions found by searching online.

Every little bit we do for conservation can make a difference.

For example, two years ago the Board of Supervisors, at my recommendation, agreed to shift to double-sided printing of county documents. In 2007, we used more than 330,352 reams (165.2 million sheets) of paper. Last year we cut that to 260,554 reams (130.3 million sheets). While other paper conservation efforts also played a part, the end result was we used 34.9 million fewer sheets of paper.

In the last decade our springtime lawnmower exchange program has swapped nearly 6,000 zero-emission electric rechargeable models for gasoline-powered models, removing the pollution equivalent of thousands of cars.

In July we broke ground on a new emission-free solar project that provides the equivalent air cleaning benefits of two Balboa Parks filled with trees.

Like all of these programs, composting will start carefully to ensure we get it right.

If you are interested in additional information about composting, please visit

My hope is San Diego County's efforts will inspire more residents to pick up, or create, a composting barrel of their own, or take other green actions. It is good for the air we breathe and the gardens we grow.