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Californians discard more than 4,000,000 tons of food, leaves, grass and other plant debris annually, accounting for more than 30 percent of the state’s residential waste stream. By using ‘Bay-Friendly’ gardening practices – composting kitchen scraps, converting plant trimmings into mulch, leaving grass clippings on the lawn – we keep valuable resources out of our landfills and replenish our own soil.Compost shovel wheelbarrow

Mandatory recycling went into effect in 2012 for California businesses and institutions with four or more cubic yards of garbage service and multifamily properties with five or more units.

Phase 2 began July 1, 2015, for all commercial entities regardless of garbage service volume. On July 1, 2016, businesses, institutions and multifamily properties will all be required to collect food scraps and paper separately from garbage.

How much more waste is eliminated – and water conserved – when home gardeners join the effort and become more intentional about how they go about it?

Partner up

Bay-Friendly Landscaping & Gardening Coalition, in partnership with public agencies, the landscape industry and property owners, educates, encourages and facilitates ‘Bay-Friendly Gardening.’ The non-profit is all about reducing waste and pollution and conserving natural resources while creating vibrant landscapes and gardens. Together, Alameda County has set a goal of having less than 10 percent of what is sent to landfills consist of ‘good stuff’ that can easily be recycled or composted.

San Leandro’s Evergreen Nursery has been at the forefront, informing local homeowners and businesses about the benefits of water-wise landscapes through expert advice and offering a vast collection of native and drought-tolerant plants. Their complete landscaping services embrace the design and care of water-wise xeriscapes. Evergreen has participated in community work parties to replace lawns using sheet mulch while spreading the word about rebates and other resources for those converting water-guzzling lawns to water-efficient outdoor spaces.

Re-think the model

Standard gardening practice is to remove all plant debris off site to landfills or large compost facilities, effectively mining our soils of organic matter. Urban soils have often been compacted, eroded and so depleted that they are no longer able to function naturally. Soil can, however, be brought back to life and fulfill its function in the ecosystem.

By keeping plant debris and fruit and vegetable trimmings on site in the form of mulch and compost, we restore the soil’s ability to absorb water or filter pollutants. Returning organic matter to the soil is the link between protecting the Bay’s watersheds and conserving landfill space.