I know. You care about the environment. Everybody does to some extent. Our symbiotic relationship with nature is something that we can only deny at our own peril. Every cell in your body is constructed from things that were provided to you by our planet earth. Our environment is below our feet, above our heads, and it surrounds our entire bodies as it fills our lungs and digestive systems endlessly.
You are simply a product of your environment!
I could go on, and on, and on, about how humans (especially Western humans) have lost touch with, and chosen to systematically destroy nature, but I’ll try not to go down that road.. For now, I want to focus on one thing that we can ALL do to help the situation. It’s extremely easy, inexpensive, interesting and dare I say…. Fun!
Here’s the deal: Acouple of years back, I was at the grocery store one day going through the list of things that I needed for the week. Somewhere near the bottom of the list was a thing that I dreaded. 13 gallon trash bags for my standard American, oversized Kitchen trash receptacle. As I stood there in the aisle of ridiculous, unsustainable, “disposable”, and toxic “home-care” products, I had a slight revelation:
“Why would I pay money for something that I ONLY intend to throw away????”
At that moment, I decided that I was going to find a better way to manage my household waste. The first step was to think about: 1- What am I actually sending to the landfill? and 2-Why do I need to put a plastic liner in my plastic trash can?
Question one broke down into two major categories which influenced my extreme trash makeover:
- paper and plastic packaging items that are not recyclable in my area. (milk cartons, zipper bags, other food packaging I can’t avoid buying)
- Organic, plant-based vegetable and fruit waste! (apple cores, pineapple tops, avocado skins, pits, nut shells, egg shells, potato skins, and on and on)
What I realized, is that the ONLY reason I would EVER need a liner in my trash can would be to contain the decaying matter from the waste in category 2!
this meant that all I would have to do would be to find an easy way to separate the organic, category 2 matter from the dry, and non-decomposing category 1 matter! SO easy!!
Here is a synopsis of my process for dealing with household waste. It has saved me from wasting money on trash, and I literally only have to take out the (actual) trash 1 time every SIX WEEKS!
Let me introduce you to my super-efficient, industry-leading, state-of-the-art trash can:
Not impressed? I understand. The real technology lies within..
I know, I know.. Thank you. Beautiful right? : ] Call me crazy, but I do find a bit of beauty in something so simple, elegant, and downright convenient! I’ve used a large plastic pretzel container (which happens to fit nicely in my existing trash can) to contain all of the banana peels, orange peels, broccoli stumps and other things that would otherwise give the old trash can it’s signature stink. The container also manages any liquid waste prduced by decaying organic material, eliminating the need for a big, wasteful plastic bag. As SOON as the Cat-2 container gets full, or shows any sign of mold or bad smell, I move it to step 2. Each time I empty it, I put a couple of inches of fresh soil in the bottom which acts like nature’s kitty litter, absorbing fluid and most of the smells associated with a typical trash can.
Ok, this is where the real magic happens! Outside on my patio (or: Lanai as we call them in Hawaii) I have two 61L plastic tubs. This is the first one. All matter from my big pretzel container gets emptied into here about 2-3 times per week. It is also a convenient place to put all of the leaves and dust that I sweep up on my lanai, as well as trimmings from my living plants. I live in a 1 bedroom apartment, and this saves me SO MUCH hassle! Otherwise I’d be dragging my stinky, half-full, store-bought, scented trash bags down 6 flights of stairs at least once a week!!! Now, I know what you are thinking, because I thought the same thing:
“But doesn’t it……..STINK?”
NO! With the lid on the container, it creates a perfect anaerobic environment for the decomposition to take place, and you won’t smell a thing until you open it! In fact, my bed is only about 9 feet away, the window is always open, and I never smell a thing!!
Here is the stage two container:
I’d open it up, but the contents are not very photogenic. Just imagine a dark-colored, gelatinous, homogenous sludge. At this point, the decomposition process continues, uninterrupted, until the tub from stage one starts to get full. (you can see also how much physical decomposition takes place, as this tub was full when I put it here) I’ll add dry soil to the stage two container, and mix it all up in an attempt to absorb any excess moisture. Once both tubs are full, and tub #2 is reasonably dry and manageable, I will begin to mix the contents of tub 2 with the bed of soil. Seen here:
At this point, tub #2 is now empty, and ready to be tub #1 again. My soil supply is re-charged with all of the broken down matter from the composting process. This leaves me with a constant supply of very fertile soil for all of my potted plants! As a bonus, it’s not uncommon to have food-bearing plants randomly begin growing from the soil bed. This cherry tomato plant (far left in the bucket) came out of nowhere, and has been making bunches of tomatoes for months!
As an extra bonus, the compost tubs provide more than enough food for the little black ants that would otherwise be finding their way into my kitchen! Furthermore, the ants provide food for the green geckos who live on my lanai! Yay Nature!
So, there you have it! This idea came about simply by asking the question:
“Why the heck do I need to buy trash bags?”
And Now, I’ve saved time and money in the form of trips to the dumpster and fancy, dreadful scented drawstring trash bags. I’ve created a small ecosystem of my own right in the comfort of my own space. I’ve saved hundreds of pounds of waste from being needlessly trucked across our beautiful island by big, thirsty trucks only to be dumped somewhere out-of-sight. And most importantly, I’ve learned that we can make big improvements on our environments, gardens, and quality of life just by asking ourselves why we do some of the silly things we do as ‘westerners’.
Here is a quick Re-Cap of the things needed to put this into action:
- A plastic container that fits inside your existing trash can
- 2 or more plastic tubs with lids. Size depends on space and # of people in household
- A garden, or large container of loose, well-ventilated soil for mixing.
Things to avoid composting
- Meat, fish, or any animal products. This could feed certain bacteria that you don’t want around your vegetables.
- paper products, even ‘biodegradable’ ones still contain toxic chemicals that you may not want in your growing soil.
- Large items such as big broccoli stumps, whole pineapple tops, sticks, wood etc. These items can be composted, but do yourself a favor by cutting them the best you can up first!
Tips for success:
- If you have room in your freezer, keep a container for any animal waste that you may produce (food packaging with residue, fluids, etc) as these items may become quite stinky in the trash. Keep it frozen until it’s time to take out the trash.
- RECYCLE anything and everything that you can! I keep a net in the cabinet under the sink where recyclable containers are kept separately.
- Buy food with minimal packaging! Most times the foods that are the most heavily packaged, are also the most heavily processed, and therefore the least healthy.
- If you don’t have anything to compost, then chances are you are not eating enough fresh produce! Go straight to the produce section when you shop, and get the good organic NON-GMO produce. Your body will thank you!
ps. I realize that Hawaii is an ideal place to do this, with the lack of freezing temperatures and such. You CAN DO IT though.. I’m convinced! Get creative! Let me know what you come up with!
Much love.. Np