waste

Recycling Gone Amuck?

Call me a waste-not-want-not kinda gal, but this is a motto I can live by, but I think we can all agree there’s no sense in waste. From frugal consumption to garbage disposal, we should all practice clean living habits, using the old instead of increasing our dump sites and generally be good stewards of our environment. I mean, even a dog knows better than to soil his living space, shouldn’t we humans?

We should. And we gardeners know better than anyone the value of leftovers and waste—we collect it and build gorgeous compost piles with it! From our veggie omelet to our lawn clippings, we reuse everything. And for good reason. We’re building piles of black gold, a.k.a. organic soil for our gardens.

But how about your coffee? Sure, we use old coffee grounds to decrease the pH of our soil, scattering them among the blueberries, raspberries, potatoes, azaleas and gardenia (don’t fight kids, there’s enough for all of you!). My rose bushes, too! Some plants simply thrive in acidic soil. But what about the coffee I didn’t drink? Need I pour it down the sink?

coffee-grounds

Absolutely not! Save that old coffee and dilute it with water for a most effective spray against insects. Whiteflies abhor the stuff, but your plants don’t mind a bit! And don’t forget that newspaper you’re reading. When you’re finished, use it as mulch in your garden, maybe beneath the more beautiful hay or pine needles? More

Composting on Vacation

I think I’ve come up with a new invention.  I call it the Travel Composter.  Not sure if it will take off or not–maybe needs a catchier title–but I think it’s a great idea nonetheless.  It occurred to me over the past summer (past, as in, my kids went back to school today — yay!). Yes, well it occurred to me that everyone should have a Travel Composter.  Easy, odorless, compact and storable (or packable) this item is a must for eco-minded people.  Think of the guilt it would relieve!

And I am so all about relieving guilt.  No room in my life for the emotion, at all.  But this past summer, I felt it–to the core.  Gut-wrenching, heart-aching guilt.  Can you imagine? There I was, clearing the dinner dishes while on vacation and–as is my habit–automatically went for the kitchen composter to deposit my food scraps.  Ouch.  A kitchen composter that wasn’t there. 

Well of course it wasnt.  It was at home.  I was on vacation.  Staring at the plate of leftovers, my first instinct was to return them to nature.  My gaze drifted outdoors.  I’m in a rural setting.  No one will notice.  Maybe the wildlife will enjoy them. 

On second thought, maybe not.  If gone uneaten, they might cause an unsightly mess or worse–a stench.  Then of course there’s my husband.  If he saw me toss the scraps outdoors he would not be happy.  Nor would he let me keep them until we returned home.  Already tried that and it didn’t go over well. 

Trust me.  It’s never good when your husband spies you stashing away leftovers in a Ziploc bag.  “What do you think you’re doing with that?”

Wasn’t it obvious?  “Um…taking the leftovers home for the compost pile?”

“No, you’re not.”

What?  Why not?”

“I’ll not have my car smell like garbage number one and number two, you’re not saving the planet by taking them home.  They’re biodegradable.”

Hmph.  Doesn’t he appreciate the fact that I’m environmentally conscious?  That this will serve a higher and better purpose as organic fertilizer than it will as building supply for the local dump?

Not when it stinks up his car, he doesn’t.  Though he does have a point.  Is it worth ruining the interior of an automobile for items that will biodegrade anyway, no matter where you deposit them?  But what about the bottles, jars and cans we had to throw away?  The place where we stayed had no recycle bins, no options for guests to do the right thing. 

I have to admit, I was bothered.  It wasn’t right.  It’s too easy to accommodate individuals such as myself.  We only ask for a separate container.  A bin, a bag, heck–I’ll drive my trash to the corner if you’ll point me in the right direction!

But alas, there was no such offer.  Which is sad.  While I don’t like anyone being forced to comply with recycle standards and practices (I’m a Libertarian at heart), I would like to see them offer the same.  It would keep the skip in my step, the smile on my face, not to mention the guilt out of my heart.

On a brighter note, there are some companies out there doing the job I wish I could have done.  One of the largest in the Southeast happens to be GreenCo.  This company works the greater Atlanta area by taking food waste from not only restaurants and hotels, but grocery stores, colleges, hospitals–all sorts of places!–and hauls it to their area facilities.  Once there, they turn it into organic fertilizer which they sell to retailers who in turn, sell to the public.  Talk about full circle–the public who made the waste can then re-use the waste.  Ingenious!

Isn’t it nice to know someone out there cares?  Sure does relieve the guilt I feel about not doing so myself.  Perhaps I should restrict my future travel in Atlanta to these green-minded organizations.  At least I’ll feel like I’m giving back, literally.

How about you? Are you doing your part to recycle? Do you know of any companies who are?  If so, let us hear about them!

p.s.  Go ahead and feel free to take my idea for the Travel Composter, too.  Really, I don’t mind a bit.  Just get out there and make a difference (and earn a mint in the process! :))

Use it or lose it

From muscle tone to precious resources, you can view this old favorite from several different perspectives.  In light of the upcoming Climate Conference in Copenhagen, let’s focus on the latter.  While I’m no advocate for the global warming crisis – because I believe it’s a bit presumptive of us to make such vast predictions based on the tiny window of time we humans have inhabited this earth – scientific “models” are just that: “models” – I think we can all agree there’s no sense in waste.  From frugal consumption to garbage disposal, we should all practice clean living habits, and be good stewards of our environment.  I mean, even a dog knows better than to soil his living space, shouldn’t we humans?

Call me a waste-not-want-not kinda gal, but this is a motto I can live by, starting with my morning java.  You’re already dispatching your leftover veggie omelette to the compost pile, how about your coffee?  Used coffee grounds are in high demand around my garden so once I’ve had my fill, the used grounds are scattered among the blueberries, raspberries, azaleas and gardenias – don’t fight kids, there’s enough for all of you! – and my rose bushes, too (you all can thank me later with a bounty of produce). 

stores easily under your cabinet

I even save the old coffee and dilute it with water, to make a spray for insects.  I recently read in an organic gardening magazine one woman had good results keeping the white files from her tomato and basil by doing so.  Granted, it’s not a scientific fact – remember, I tend to question these things – I figure if it worked for her it can work for me!  If it’s easy, the questions become less frequent.  And why not pour some around the base of your potatoes, while you’re at it.  They love acid, they should love coffee, right?

And don’t forget that newspaper you’re reading.  When you’re finished, use it as mulch along your walking rows to keep the weeds at bay.  I’d place mine (if I still took my news the un-green way) beneath the hay so I don’t ruin that lovely “welcome to the garden” feeling I get every time I gaze at my neatly lined rows of straw.  It’s the little things that please me most.  (Big smile, here.)  That, and productivity.  Don’t forget, there’s a reason I’m saving the earth via my garden:  I have mouths to feed and years to enjoy.

But don’t stop there!  After school, what water the kids don’t drink, dump the remainder of their thermos into your houseplants – not down the drain.  Same goes for juices, etc.  I use these in the compost pile, though liquid in the bin does add to the mess factor on the way out — kids are working to fine tune their balancing skills for this amazing feat — another positive side effect. 

However you manage it, I’m a believer in wasting nothing.  Not because science dictates such, but because it makes sense.  Common sense; something we strive for everyday in our household. Without it, momma goes insane!