Americans throw away 40 million tons of food each year. That number rose during the coronavirus pandemic. Many families have been cooking more frequently at home, which means more food purchased and more food wasted. This is a big problem for the environment. Food garbage is taken to landfills. As it rots, it gives off methane, a powerful greenhouse gas that is worsening climate change. In honor of Earth Day on Thursday, wouldn’t it be great to reduce our methane emissions?

The most obvious way is to stop wasting so much food. That might mean buying fewer vegetables than we can eat in a week. Or storing fruit in the fridge so it lasts longer. Or freezing leftover dinner if we won’t eat it before it goes bad.

Beth Simone is a big fan of composting. She is the development and marketing director of the Compost Research and Education Foundation in Raleigh, North Carolina. Many more Americans got interested in home composting this year, Simone says. That is good news for the environment.

To compost, you collect leftover food scraps such as apple peels, eggshells and bell pepper seeds and stems. You mix them with leaves, grass clippings and twigs. As they decompose, fungi, bacteria, insects and other organisms turn them into rich organic matter. That’s compost. If your family also started gardening during the pandemic, applying compost to your soil helps put nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorous (pronounced FOSS-for-us) into it.

Composting not only keeps food out of landfills. It also “makes healthier soil that helps to grow better vegetables and flowers,” says Simone. “You can see the benefits immediately.”

If you have a yard, find an out-of-the-way spot where your food waste can go. It might be smart to have your parents buy a special box that critters can’t get into. Mix in the right ratio of food and yard scraps. A simple rule is 2-to-1 brown (leaves and twigs) to green (fruit and veg). Don’t put animal products such as bones and cheese rinds on the compost pile; they take too long to rot. Get more details at epa.gov/recycle/composting-home.

No yard? Start a vermicompost box inside. That means worms! In particular, special composting worms called red wigglers. You’ll also need a large, flat plastic box with a lid, newspaper to line it, and a dark area between 55 and 75 degrees. Sell your parents on the idea by telling them this is for science, and for the health of the planet.

Maybe you’re not ready or able to make compost at home. Research compost drop-off sites in your area. Lots of farmers markets and community gardens take compostables. But “it’s different in different communities,” Simone says. So is the kind of waste that sites take.

You can also call your mayor’s or county executive’s office to find out if there is curbside food-scrap pickup where you live. If not, write letters to your local council members to tell them why it’s important for your community to be part of this climate solution.

“The more you get excited about composting’s facts and benefits, the more you can teach your parents” — and other adults — about it, Simone says.

You can learn more about composting during International Compost Awareness Week, which will be held May 2 though May 8. Check out the event website at compostfoundation.org/icaw-get-involved-events. Simone’s organization hosts an annual video contest for kids ages 10 and older. This year’s winner is Addy Ackerman-Leist from Vermont. You can see the video she made at youtube. com/watch?v=Lk6-EnNjxIE.