To quote a famous frog it isn’t easy being green – or is it? Change can be scary, inconvenient, a hassle. Just thinking about it can turn people off. I would like to share with you some of my personal journey to live a greener life, which spans more than a decade.
It started back in the early 2000’s when I decided that recycling sounded like the right thing to do. I went to Home Depot and bought large indoor and outdoor recycle bins (this was before a lot of the waste companies were offering large bins for curbside pick up).
Now my family is well versed in recycling protocols, although we did have a few discussions through the years that went something like this:
- “Honey – can you please put the junk mail in the recycle bin instead of the trash?”
- “No – I don’t want the recycling guy being able to get to our personal information.”
- “How is that different from the trash guy being able to get to it. Different trucks, but basically the same guys.”
End result – it dutifully got put into the recycle bin after that. Just like they teach you in sales school – identify and overcome your customer’s objections.
Fast forward to 2012, and I added composting to our household routine in an effort to reduce the amount of waste leaving my property on a weekly basis. We were very successful at diverting a large amount of our waste stream to recycling, however it seemed like we were recycling a ton of materials. Time for phase 2 – composting.
I took a few classes from the Solana Center (free!) and learned a lot about different methods and that you don’t have to put a ton of work into it if you don’t want to. Just the answer for a busy person like me! I currently have 3 different types of composting on my property – open bin, closed bin, and vermi. Don’t be intimidated yet – this transpired over several years.
My first one was the open bin. It is just a few pieces of wood to make the base, steel stakes to make the corners, and chicken wire to hold it in – all materials I had lying around with the exception of the chicken wire. Really simple, low investment, open to atmosphere, and critters as I discovered. (I had a long term relationship with a very large racoon salvaging through my pile every weekend when I added kitchen waste).
Then I added my vermi (worm) bin. Worms will eat your kitchen waste – they are quiet and do not smell. They live on my front porch and their waste product is excellent fertilizer for my garden. I actually really enjoy my little worm project – they are hungry little workers!
Once I learned what could be composted, (kitchen waste, paper, cardboard, packaging, etc.) it was hard to stop! I added my closed compost bin ($45 from the Solana Center). The closed bin is thick plastic, has solid sides and a lockable lid, much to the dismay of my chubby racoon. I also added shredding the dry compostable materials to aid in the breaking down process, soaking it in water before adding to the bin.
Once we added the composting to the routine our trash was reduced substantially and a much smaller trash can was in order. My former trash can became our dry compost bin.
My husband who has been so patient with all the change, suggested I add labeling to the bins to help the family understand what goes where.
The last item we added was the counter top wet compostable bin for kitchen waste (most anything but meat or dairy). This was a big deal because my first few attempts were not good resulting in smells, fruit flies, and general unhappiness in the household. We are now using a stainless steel bin with carbon filters in the perforated lid I found on Amazon – it is working great. I was even able to purchase compostable liners that can be tossed right into the bin with the waste.
The end result of all of this is that we have a very small amount of actual trash on a weekly basis – maybe (1-2) 4 gallon bags, typically not full. Recycling is down to (1-2) 13 gallon bags a week, and on site composting is taking care of the balance. Time spent on composting weekly is 1 hour or less. Water spent on composting is exponentially less than what would be used to recycle the same materials – around 1:10. I use maybe 10 gallons a week on the bin (dampening and turning the bin 1x week). To recycle the same materials would use at least 100 gallons.
The moral of this story is that it takes some time and a bit of commitment to trial and error – and yes change. If you take just one step today, and one more step next month, next year – soon you may find that it is easy to be green.