Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Doing My Part

Besides the fact that I love to read, write, cook, and travel, I'm also a zealous environmentalist. Ever since I was old enough to understand that trees help us breathe, I've been a proponent of the three r's: reduce, reuse, recycle.

But it wasn't until my husband and I moved to Germany and I saw how preserving the environment was more important to Germans than consumption that I really developed my passion for saving the environment. Now that we've been back in the states for over five years, I am saddened and sickened by the sense of entitlement Americans have displayed over the years at exploiting, not only our resources, but the resources of other, much poorer nations.

I want so badly for that to change. I despise being wasteful. It pains me to throw away a piece of paper or a plastic bottle. Before our school implemented a paper recycling program, I would tote all the paper used in my classroom home and recycle it curbside. Even today, we have yet to implement plastic recycling, I tell all my students to throw away their empties in a crate at the front of the room and I will take them home to recycle them when it gets full. Bonus points for anyone who brings in a reusable water bottle instead of disposable (not really, but they will receive my utmost praise).

My husband and I have made a conscious effort these past five years to become less wasteful and to recycle more than we throw away. And now, to reduce our waste even further, I have finally started composting. I have wanted to take on this endeavor for a couple years now, but never knew how to do it in such a small area since my husband and I live in a condo. Luckily, our condo has a backyard, but not much of that backyard is actually space that we own.

I have been concerned about starting this project because I feared that an open compost container would attract rodents and other unpleasant creatures and we already have a mice issue in our basement. But I also didn't want to purchase one of those ridiculously expensive compost tumblers because the whole idea of composting is to be cost-efficient, not cost-promiscuous.

So I was doing some research online about how to compost in small spaces, and I came across a website that talked about just doing it in a plastic storage tub with holes drilled throughout for air. I liked this idea, there was just one problem with it: it's an eyesore. My husband and I have worked really hard at making our back patio a pleasant place to hang out and enjoy the sun and shade. I didn't want an ugly storage container jeopardizing that feeling of serenity. But, my desire to be green was still overriding my desire to make my backyard beautiful.

As luck would have it though, I was cruising around Target the other day and found a small deck bench that gave me an idea: what if I used the plastic storage container and put it inside the more aesthetically pleasing deck bench?

The results were, I think, exactly what I was looking for.

At the present moment, these are the only holes I have drilled in the bench itself. This may change if I think it needs more aeration. I didn't want to put too many holes on the outside for fear of ruining the aesthetics of it.

All our plant waste waiting for the magic of decomposition to do its thing.

My next self-improvement project for helping the environment is to reduce my meat consumption. This has been a much more difficult step for me, but I'm trying really hard to introduce myself to new flavors and textures in my culinary repertoire that will reduce my fixation on meat.

What do YOU do to help the environment?


  1. This looks really good! So I am still nervous about bugs and rodents. Especially the bugs and my dogs' ability to tip open a lid like that bench has. Another option for me is possibly one of those counter-top styles except put it under my sink where I actually don't have a lot and could be cleaned/re-organized to fit one. Except then does that need to be dumped to a larger outdoor one?

  2. I'm not nervous so much about the rodents but it does seem to attract flies. That's why I moved it over to the edge of the patio instead of near the door. I will say though that no more flies have gotten in my house than on a normal day WITHOUT the container so I'm not too worried about that.

  3. I hope you'll keep updating this. We also don't have space for a tradition compost pile. The bench could work, I'd have to think about it (we have even less outdoor space, it could work in the front yard maybe. I'm also just curious how the composting works for a newbie, I've never done it before either. Good luck.

  4. Jen, I will try to remember to do an update. If I don't, you can always ask me on Facebook.