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Dear Wally WasteNot,

I was evacuated from my home as the River Fire closed in on my neighborhood. My home survived but I know others who were not so lucky. I have heard that the extreme heat/weather and wildfires are impacts from climate change and it will only get worse if we don’t do something to turn it around. I’m ready to act now. My question is: I’m just one person, what can I do to help?

Hot on Climate


Dear Hot,
Wally is glad to hear that your home was spared and is deeply saddened by the losses and damage in our beloved Monterey County. You are correct, August 2020 was so far the hottest month on record for the planet, and it is an undeniable sign that humans are creating devastating impacts to our planet and populations. The survival of our species requires people like you to care enough to take action now.  

There are many things we can do individually that make a difference, like minimizing the amount of food we throw away, and reducing plastic (fossil fuel products) we buy/use, but one of the greatest things we can do is to compost organic matter.

Backyard composting and composting with worms are excellent ways to turn kitchen scraps and yard trimmings into a nutrient-rich soil amendment to use in your own landscaping and houseplants.  If you’re up for that, Salinas Valley Recycles can help you get started.  But Wally understands that might not be for everyone.

The good news is, everyone with a Yard Waste curbside collection cart can participate in composting, and simply using the cart correctly will have a tremendous impact on our climate, and our economy.  Most folks in the Salinas Valley have three curbside containers in their weekly trash and recycling services:  One for Recycling, one for Trash to be landfilled, and one for Yard Waste to be composted.  The problem is that if Recycling carts and Yard Waste carts aren’t used the ways they are intended, those contents could all get landfilled.

When we compost organic matter in backyard bins or in a controlled production like the one at Salinas Valley Recycles’ Johnson Canyon Landfill operation in Gonzales, the decomposing organic matter creates carbon dioxide, but when it decomposes in the landfill’s anaerobic conditions it creates methane, which is a powerful greenhouse gas that heats up our planet much faster than nature can handle. 

The compost produced in Gonzales is used in our local agriculture to grow food that fills the salad bowls of the world, and in landscapes throughout the region.  Remember: Yard waste recycled today, grows our food tomorrow.

It is understandable that some might be confused that yard waste means any waste that is found in the yard, but that’s not right.  

The best way to remember what goes in the Yard Waste cart is: If you wouldn’t want your food grown in it, don’t put it in the Yard Waste cart. 

Contaminants include pet waste (compost doesn’t heat up enough to kill bacteria), treated lumber, painted wood, plastic bags, plastic pots, tools, garden hoses, dead animals, or any other trash. Wally wants none of those anywhere near his salad bowl, do you?

Only clean, natural plant matter creates healthy compost. The right stuff to put into your yard waste cart includes leaves, twigs, pruning trimmings, weeds, untreated/unpainted wood, pinecones and needles, grass clippings and cut flowers.

Using your Yard Waste cart correctly helps support green jobs in the local economy, nourish the soil to support a thriving agriculture industry, grow healthy food to feed our families, prolongs the life of our landfill, and prevents greenhouse gas production to help reduce climate impacts.  You can help change the world, right at your curb!

Yours truly,

Wally WasteNot