Around the world, the concept of zero waste agriculture or zero waste farms is becoming more and more popular. As we become increasingly aware that we have only one planet and that our resources are finite, we are coming to realize that we must make the most of what we have and behave as good stewards to the earth. In this article, we provide a brief introduction and a concise manual to give you some good ideas about zero waste farming. Read on to learn more.
What You'll Learn Today
- Why Are Agricultural Waste And Pollution A Problem?
- How Can Zero Waste Farming Help?
- What Are The Rules Of Zero Waste Farming?
- Why Is Composting So Important?
- Is Zero Waste Farming Possible On A Large Farm?
Why Are Agricultural Waste And Pollution A Problem?
In the process of raising animals and growing crops, agricultural enterprises produce a large quantity of waste materials that are neither wanted nor useful. These materials have to go somewhere, and when they are irresponsibly disposed of they create problems for all concerned.
Both chemical and natural products used in farming can lead to the contamination and pollution of the farm itself and the surrounding areas. Pollutants that get into the water system can cause problems for miles around and may even make their way into the ocean.
Pesticides and toxic fertilizers that get into the water table, streams, reservoirs and the like can cause serious health problems for people and wildlife.
Inefficient farming practices, such as allowing runoff of excessive water, can cause soil erosion. This leads to both depleted soil and polluted water.
How Can Zero Waste Farming Help?
When you use the concept of zero waste agriculture, you apply organic farming principles on a larger scale to minimize the amount of agricultural pollution produced and to maximize your use of naturally available resources.
This creates what is known as “closed-loop” farming. This method of farming eliminates the risk of contamination and the danger of waste.
With zero waste or closed-loop farming, all processes support one another. Examples of this waste and damage free farming method include recruiting earthworms to help you with your composting and reusing water from one process to support another process.
How does zero waste farming “close the loop”?
With zero waste farming, you use everything that you produce – even the waste! This process ideally results in sending nothing to the landfill, but if nothing else you can at least sharply reduce the amount of waste your farm produces.
Why are we just now discovering zero-waste farming?
It’s important to understand the zero waste farming is not a new concept. Traditional, old-fashioned farmers who believed in the idea of being good stewards of the earth practiced this type of farming for centuries before what is known today as “conventional farming” took over.
Zero waste farming can bring success to even the most poverty-stricken of farmers dealing with the lack of equipment and rather poor land. Patience and effort combined with wise choices reap greater results.
This is why farmers in undeveloped nations have used and continue to use this thrifty method of farming to reduce expenses while maximizing yields.
What Are The Rules Of Zero Waste Farming?
This type of farming is a creative process and a partnership with the earth. The concept of zero waste farming works best when you are able to bring the qualities of common sense and creativity to it. You must be able to evaluate what you have in hand realistically with a sharp eye to its potential.
Think outside the box for ways in which you can:
- Make the Most of Plant Waste
- Reduce Overall Waste
- Reduce Water Waste
- Guard against Pests
- Create Rich Compost
With a creative and thrifty outlook, you can save a great deal of money on products such as fertilizers, anti-pest chemicals and more.
Tips For Zero Waste Living
Turn the 3 R’s into 5 R’s!
With zero waste farming, you not only reduce, reuse and recycle, you also rot and refuse! What does this mean? Instead of the 3Rs, you practice these 5R’s:
- Refuse to use items that will ultimately become waste. Buy products for your farm and your home in bulk, and use reusable and refillable containers as often as possible.
- Reduce your purchases. Buy less, and buy less frequently. When purchasing materials for your farm and your home, put some thought into it. Make a mindful list before go shopping or place your order. Try to combine all of your purchases into one order or one trip to reduce the amount of resources consumed by travel.
- Reuse any plastic and glass containers that come your way. Whether on your farm or in your home, make use of plastic and glass containers for storage, growing seedlings, feeding animals and more.
- Recycle inorganic items. Be sure to deliver all waste plastic, glass and metal to your local recycling center.
- Rot organic items. Be sure to recycle all food scraps, yard trimmings, used animal bedding and manure with an effective composting program. Composting is your farm’s #1 waste recycling process.
Why Is Composting So Important?
Well composted organic matter is the best soil amendment you can add to your gardens and fields. Composting will save you money in disposal fees and in fertilizer expenses. Natural compost feeds your plants and crops in a gentle and slow release manner.
Furthermore, you’re very unlikely to contaminate the water table and nearby streams when you use organic compost as a soil amendment.
In addition to composting your own yard, garden, farm and field trimmings and other organic matter, you may be able to set up an arrangement with a local food store to gather their disposed of produce before it ends up in their dumpster. This will save them money, reduce landfill overflow and give you a valuable resource.
In the United States, millions of pounds of food are thrown away annually. In fact nearly half of our total food supply ends up in the landfill. While composting may not reduce the amount of food that doesn’t make it to a person’s plate, it can at least turn that food into something valuable and useful.
Is Zero Waste Farming Possible On A Large Farm?
There are a number of large farms that are certified as zero waste agricultural facilities. These farms set ambitious yet attainable goals in place and focus on good communication, training and teamwork for all employees and hands to meet those goals.
Large agricultural concerns can have a real and positive impact on the environment through initiatives such as:
- Streamlined Packing and Shipping Techniques
- Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions
- Recycling Organic Waste Materials
- Decreasing Landfill Contribution
- Reducing Incoming Materials
- Reusing Existing Materials
- Improved Data Tracking
Large farms may attain large goals even through simple steps such as choosing to use reusable containers rather than disposable ones.
By taking positive, measurable steps, many large farms are able to have extremely impressive impacts that equal the effects of taking tens of thousands of cars off the roads and more. Focused and well organized employee training programs lead to uniform success on large farms.
While you might think that these zero waste farming techniques might add up to more expense for a larger farm, the fact is that just the opposite is true. Striving to attain environmental goals is also an excellent way to save money and keep large farms competitive.