“Life comes from the earth and life returns to the earth.” Chuang Tzu
A few weeks ago, I was having drinks with an old hometown friend who now lives in Los Angeles. As we sipped our fancy specialty drinks discussing my upcoming move to another town, she said to me, “When you move, you’re going to compost right?” “Um yeah, I think so,” I replied. She continued, “Steve and I even recycle our DENTAL FLOSS.” “Hmm,” I thought to myself, “impressive.” When I got home that night, I sheepishly walked by my gigantic overflowing trash cans in our kitchen that our family of seven produces. I googled ‘composting’ on my laptop. While I knew generally what composting entailed, I honestly had no idea how to actually integrate this into my lifestyle.
So here is the thing – I hate trash. I think it’s disgusting. I hate looking at the trash, and I DESPISE taking out the trash. Rather than take out the trash, I will actually start a NEW trash bag and set it down next to the overflowing trash can until someone else decides it’s too gross and takes it out. I will avoid it at all costs. I’m pretty sure one of the many reasons God sent me my wonderful husband is so that he could rescue me from taking out the trash. So the idea of composting sounds absolutely wonderful..for someone else. Even at Whole Foods, they have the bins clearly labeled compost, landfill, bottles/plastic, but when my kids are tugging on my arm spilling things on me, I’m tempted to just dump it all in the landfill bin when no one else is looking. Who has time for this stuff? But being the nature loving, vegan wannabe, green-minded person that I am (or strive to be), I decided that I had to at least check this whole composting idea out to see if it was possible for me. What I found was that composting can fit into anyone’s life if one chooses the right option for them.
#1 – HONESTLY ASSESS YOUR LEVEL OF DEDICATION AND AMOUNT OF SPACE you have available for composting. There are some very simple approaches, and there are some that require more space and time. You’ll also need to decide if you actually have a need for the compost for your own plants or garden, or whether you’ll be donating it to a local community garden.
#2. SELECT AN OPTION THAT FITS BEST INTO YOUR LIFESTYLE. In order to simplify this, here is a list of options for various types of people:
– The ‘I just don’t have the time or space for that’ people – so maybe you live in the city, or an apartment, or you are they type of person who doesn’t even know what day it is let alone worry about composting. The brown bag in the freezer is a great option. It’s free, eliminates odors and keeps the critters away. Each week just dump the scraps into the bin supplied from your city/county, drop off at a local Whole Foods or farmer’s market, or have a service pickup your scraps. Amazingly, as Americans, approximately 1/3 of all of our trash can be composted! Here is a great list of items you should and shouldn’t compost as well as instructions on how to store your scraps using the brown bag freezer method.
You can also consider a more clever option like an automatic composter: you simply plug it in while it heats and turns your compost for you. The automatic composter also fits well with people like me who fall into the ‘I hate gross trash and I don’t want to see, smell or deal with it’ people. Another option is to purchase a simple 3 quart container to hide away the scraps under your kitchen counter and empty it weekly to a composting drop off location. Now if you’re really feeling adventurous, but you don’t necessarily have an outdoor composting space, you might consider using a worm composter that you can keep indoors or outdoors. I have to admit I may need to personal evolve for a few more months (or years!) before I go this route.
– The ‘bring it on’ and ‘DIY’ people – you’ve got space in your backyard and you want to buy or build your own compost bins outside. You’ll still store your table scraps in your house and move it outside weekly. If you have some space in your backyard, consider an industrial compost tumbler bin or a DIY yard compost bin. There are some great resources out there on how to get the perfect “recipe for compost” if you’re creating your own.
Composting is really one of nature’s amazing alchemic processes – a process that transforms trash into nourishment – into the gardener’s “Black Gold.” Paohlo Cohelo writes in The Alchemist, “Lead will play its role until the world has no further need for lead; and then lead will have to turn itself into gold…when we strive to become better than we are, everything around us becomes better, too.”
When we participate in the process of composting, we are participating in a practice that has a life-giving, transformational energy in it. SO, I’ve decided to rise above my fears of gross trash and the overwhelming guilt and disgust of my overflowing trash bins. Start simply by acquiring some type of bin that fits ones lifestyle, label it ‘Compost,’ throw table scraps in it, and then allow this amazing universe do its thing.
“The ground’s generosity takes in our compost and grows beauty. Try to be more like the ground.” Rumi
Special THANKS to my hip friend from LA for her expertise. Happy Composting!
Also by Jen: 3 Tips for Mindful Gift Giving
Related: 10 Easy Ways to Be More Eco Friendly
Photos: kirstyhall via flickr, solylunafamilia via flickr