What is the Air Quality Flag Program?

Community Air Quality Outreach Program

Water Quality Standards for Groundwater

Water Quality Monitoring and Testing

USDA-ARS Useful Information on Composting and Links to Resources

Composting: Nature’s Way of Recycling Organic Materials

Why Compost?

Potato seedlingCities, farms, windy storms, restaurants, zoos, riding stables … and others … all produce large amounts of bulky organic materials, like leaves, tree limbs, straw, food waste, and manure. These waste materials are typically sent to landfills. Composting, a process that speeds up natural decomposition, provides a recycling alternative.

Compost has a variety of benefits. For example, compost enhances rainfall penetration, which reduces water runoff and soil erosion. This in turn reduces sediment, nutrients, and pesticide losses to streams by 75-95 percent. Compost also improves the soil and enhances beneficial microbes that help reduce plant diseases and pests.

But Why Should I Compost?

Well, for starters, composting …

  • gives “oomph” to your soil—naturally,
  • reduces the need for synthetic fertilizers,
  • reduces greenhouse gases,
  • reduces the need for landfills, and
  • helps the environment!

How Do I Get Started?

The composting approach you take depends on the materials you have available and how much room you have. If you have yard trimmings, leaves, and the like, you’ll need to go the “backyard” route, producing compost that can be spread around your garden•under shrubs, in vegetable beds, or in flower pots. worms

If your space is more limited, and fruit and veggie scraps are the primary materials you want to compost, you might try vermicomposting—worm composting! Vermicomposting is an efficient way to produce a high-quality product suitable for houseplants, seedling transplants, or general garden use. And you can also use the worms for fishing!

Either way you go, here are some helpful resources to get you started.








The Research Scene

TractorCompost properties can be tailored to meet commercial horticultural, land management, and conservation needs. Researchers at the USDA Agricultural Research Service, Beltsville Agricultural Research Center in Maryland are discovering new ways to prepare composts from a variety of mixed sources of organic materials. These materials can be custom designed to produce vigorous healthy plants and landscapes under different conditions. Beltsville compost activities include:

  • creating designer blends to improve the soil,
  • creating designer systems for plant disease control,
  • finding ways to insure pathogens in manure and compost are
  • destroyed and safe to use,
  • developing delivery systems for high-value crops,
  • discovering how pharmaceutical materials can be biodegraded,
  • using compost in stormwater and runoff management,
  • using compost to produce vegetative covers for landfill, and
  • assisting with developing reference materials for compost producers,
  • testing laboratories, state regulators, growers, consumers, and
  • certification programs.

Beltsville’s two-acre composting facility has been in operation for over a decade. Read about it at https://www.ars.usda.gov/news-events/news/research-news/1998/research-center-churning-farm-waste-into-compost/.

Contact for Further Information

Dr. Patricia Millner, Research Microbiologist
Environmental Microbial and Food Safety Lab
Agricultural Research Service, USDA
Pat.Millner@ars.usda.gov, (301) 504-5631

National Invasive Species Week – February 28 to March 4, 2022

quagga mussel - noaa

National Invasive Species Week

February 28 – March 4

California Sea Grant funded research seeks to understand how non-native species can impact California’s lakes, rivers, and coastal ocean. Explore our research and resources:

World Wetland Day

World Wetland Day is on February 2, 2022

Please take a moment to reflect on wetlands and their role in the ecosystem in your home region.



Helpful tips for a greener Thanksgiving – reducing food waste

Here is a useful article from a Blog of the US EPA on reducing food waste and having a greener Thanksgiving:


Recognizing Leaders in Food Waste Reduction this Holiday Season

By Mathy Stanislaus

In just a few days, households across the nation will celebrate Thanksgiving, a cherished tradition of spending time with family and friends and sharing a meal. Many households, after enjoying abundant Thanksgiving meals, throw wholesome food into landfills. Did you know that food is the largest part of our everyday trash – more than paper, plastic, and glass? Reducing food waste results in significant environmental, social and financial benefits to our communities.

Food rots quickly in landfills and produces methane, a greenhouse gas that is 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide at trapping heat in the atmosphere. Not only does wasting nutritious food exacerbate climate change, but we miss the opportunity to feed the millions of Americans that live in food insecure households. Additionally, throwing away food squanders money – an average family can spend up to $1,500 on food that is never eaten. Communities can save money, feed those in need and lessen environmental impacts by implementing strategies to prevent and reduce food loss and waste.

Innovative organizations recognize the benefits of sustainably managing food and are making real in-roads to prevent and reduce wasted food. This year’s top Food Recovery Challenge (FRC) national performers kept tons of food from becoming waste in 2015. Their creative practices range from targeting food recovery at farmers’ markets, creating food waste eco-leader volunteer programs in high schools, and adding infrastructure to better manage the distribution of perishable produce. These are a few great examples of what businesses and organizations can do to reduce food loss and waste across their operations.

The efforts of this year’s award winners, as well as the actions of all FRC participants and endorsers, will help us meet the national goal to reduce food loss and waste by 50 percent by 2030 and aligns with the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals. The federal government, led by EPA and USDA, is calling on leaders throughout the public and private sectors to heed the Call to Action to meet the 2030 goal. To do this, we need help from every sector, organization and household across America. The FRC participants are leading the way and I encourage others to institutionalize these best practices.

What can you do? Businesses and organizations can assess their food waste and related management practices to find out what’s being thrown out and why by utilizing our tools to determine the best ways to implement reductions in their everyday operations. Individuals can make small shifts in how they shop, prepare and store food to reduce waste (e.g., use up overly ripe produce in creative recipes such as smoothies or compotes). Start by considering a new tradition this Thanksgiving of sending your dinner guests home with a container of nutritious leftovers so they don’t go to waste.

Read about this year’s Food Recovery Challenge results and winners: https://www.epa.gov/sustainable-management-food/food-recovery-challenge-results-and-award-winners

Learn more about what you can do at home to reduce food waste: https://www.epa.gov/recycle/reducing-wasted-food-home

Find creative ways your business or organization can reduce food loss and waste from the Call to Action by Stakeholders: https://www.epa.gov/sustainable-management-food/call-action-stakeholders-united-states-food-loss-waste-2030-reduction#opportunities

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