What is Compost?

This above is the composting symbol. It is a tool to help educate individuals on what compost is, how compost is made and the benefits of composting.  To download the image of this symbol, right-click your mouse and save. 


Individuals will immediately recognize the composting symbol’s close similarity to the recycling symbol. This was done purposely and with intent because:

  1. The recycling symbol is an ingenious adaptation of the Möbius Strip, a design illustrating the full potential of a system where every aspect is utilized and nothing is wasted.
  2. Mother Nature is the original recycler, and she does it by composing. 
  3. The recycling symbol is already universally recognized and accepted, slightly but significantly altering  the symbol greatly  increases the awareness and importance of both symbols. 

The arrows were colored blue, brown and green  and represent the four elements needed to make compost. There are only four.  These four elements are air, water, carbon and nitrogen


In the symbol, blue represents air and water. Brown represents high carbon materials (eg. paper, cardboard, brown leaves, dead grass, wood chips, etc.). Green represents high nitrogen materials (eg. green grass, fresh leaves, food scraps, coffee grounds, bread, etc.).  Combining these four elements, and with a little help from microorganisms, the organic materials will naturally, and seemingly magically, decompose.

The third arrow was replaced by a green leaf, symbolizing the life that is created from compost.


The Benefits of Composting

Green – Nitrogen

Composting quite literally creates life. Mother Nature takes something that is dead, breaks it down physically, chemically and biologically and creates a rich dark brown organic material that is loaded with trillions of beneficial bacteria,  miles of fantastic fungi, and a plethora of other micro and macro organisms. It is these organisms that help break down minerals in the soils, consume other microorganisms, excrete plant available nutrients and actually surrounds and enters the plant – becoming part of the living plant. So much so that there are actually more bacterial cells in and on a plant than there are plant cells. 


Healthy soils are not only the foundation of our food system, but  humans’ very existence. Civilizations have risen and fallen based on the soils ability to sustain them and it is no coincidence that the words humus and human are so closely related, the later literally meaning “of the earth”.  By returning the nutrients to the soils in the form of compost, we are creating healthy plants which directly translates to healthy humans.  


Brown – Carbon 

Composting captures carbon and builds soils. The final result of composting is humus; a rich dark brown amorphous yet structurally and molecularly stable organic material composed of long, strong chains of carbon. It is the humus in the soil which plays a large role in increasing the soil’s tilth, making it more workable and productive, holds nutrients, captures and holds water, increases the exchange of ions, binds minerals and assists with disease suppression.    


Blue – Air 

By keeping the organic material out of the landfill and composting it, we are not only creating and building soils, but preventing the formation of methane, a gas that is extremely effective at trapping heat. And in terms of warming the climate, methane is greater than 80 times more potent than carbon dioxide over the first two decades of the gas’s lifespan. 


Spreading a thin layer of compost on the ground has been shown to accelerate the plants ability to take up to 75% more CO2 from the atmosphere and capture and store it in the soil, one of the greatest carbon sinks on the planet.


It captures and binds heavy metals (lead, cadmium, etc.) and helps reduce the particulate matter in the air.  


Blue – Water 

Compost, with its large carbon content, has a tremendous water holding capacity.  One pound of carbon can hold up to 40 pounds of water. Mixing 3 inches of compost in a sandy soil to a depth of 6” can increase the soil’s water holding capacity 2.5 times, thus making your soils more drought AND flood tolerant.    


The importance of composting  can not be underestimated.   The list of the benefits of composting is considerable and expanding. Communicating and educating the public on these benefits is made simple by the composting symbol. This symbol is open sourced and free for anyone to use.