Recycling, Composting, Worms, and More
Posted by eemilla on August 30, 2009
Before recycling was so widespread and typical, my parents supplemented our family’s income by recycling our glass at the old Ball plant, and my dad collected aluminum cans to exchange for cash at Biltmore Metal. This early exposure ensured that recycling has always been second nature. My work study was campus recycling coordinator, which was a nice inflated title for the dirty work of sorting recycling on a college campus (albeit a small one). I’ve started the bin at every place that I have worked, and I still remind my colleagues to recycle (even though they have to pass the bin on their way to the main trash can). With our recycling at home, we produce a bag of trash a week thanks to the cat litter, and my honey drives two trash cans and a printer box of shredded and mixed paper once a month to the recycling center on the North side of town. Although we could have the recycling picked up, we would have to put it in a disposable blue plastic bag. I have lobbied the Hendersonville Rd Earth Fare (the “healthy” grocery store) to replace the recycling trailer that used to reside there (incidentally, the old Ball plant used to stand there too), but they advised the annual cost, $60,000, is more than they wish to spend. With the mark up on everything in that store, surely they could spare that much a year!
Composting, on the other hand, scared me. It seemed gross with a huge potential to become a mess and an attractive nuisance for rodents and vermin. My mom started a compost bin one summer, and it really stank. It also become a bee hive, for yellow jackets. Once I did some reading my worries were assuaged, and when we moved into our first apartment (a duplex with a yard and flower beds!) together we started a compost bin. The first bin did succumb to my inherent laziness, but it was far enough away from the windows and the neighbors to not bother anyone. The fencing I installed did little to keep the neighbor’s dog from eating scraps, but it did make turning it difficult. Our current pile is a free form pile on the ivy covered far bank of the drainage ditch stream that divides our little lot. It doesn’t smell even though it almost never gets turned, and I cannot figure out why. However, the soil on the bottom is the prettiest, blackest soil. We used copious amounts to amend the soil of our shared victory garden last year, and we grew some awesome herbs, tomatoes, arugula, and cantaloupes. We don’t put any cooked food in, but it does get plenty of peelings, leaves, twigs, and grass clippings.
I am also interested in starting a worm bin to produce house plant food as well as worms for the compost pile. I have been mulling over the worm bin for about a year or so, so maybe by the end of this calendar year I will have one going. I will even post photos of its supplies and construction, which will hopefully goad those with limited space into starting some form of composting.
As we all know, recycling is one only part of the environmental trinity. Reducing and reusing come first. The first part of this post address last week’s Change the World Challenge from Small Footprints, and this second part is in response to the current challenge. Think about all of the things you have plugged in that draw phantom loads, or even worse all things that you might leave on when you leave a room. When we were kids, my parents were always harping about leaving lights on when we left the room, but now when I visit my mom I’m the one walking through cutting all of the televisions and lights off. I call my husband a Progress Energy agent (after our local power plant) for his habit of cutting on a light in every room.
When the computer isn’t going to be used for over two hours, we turn it off, but otherwise we sleep it (I use the same standard at work for my lunch break or when I have to be in the field, always turning the monitors off). When we are listening to music, we sleep the computer screen (our Mac has one power button which is why we don’t turn the monitor off). We do not use standby mode for our DVD player, and we always turn the TV and the cable box off. One thing we failed to consider when we purchased our dishwasher is that every time you open the door, the display comes on and it stays on for a several minutes; even with this irksome feature, it still had a strong Engery Star rating. The best thing about power strips is that you can unplug all of the appliances with one fell swoop, thereby eliminating the phantom loads from several appliances all at once. Although the appliance with the largest phantom load, our computer, we have a battery back up due to the numerous power surges our area experiences so it cannot be unplugged (it will beep). We do be sure to always unplug the phone charger as soon as the phone is charged; not only does it suck plenty of power, it can be a fire hazard. Although my parents always unplugged everything when we went out of town, it is a habit that I have fallen out of so I will endeavor to bring the tradition back for our travels.
Small steps and changes add up to bring big changes in our lives, especially when we add up all the small steps our friends and neighbors are taking. A few years ago a peak power plant was proposed, but community outcry shut it down. By reducing our electricity consumption, especially during peak hours, we can help prevent the need for another power plant. One of the cheapest ways to reduce your consumption is a clothesline; the line itself was about fifteen dollars (but if you don’t opt for retractable one that I did for ease of installation you could probably put a line up for less than ten dollars) plus a few dollars for braces and extra clothes pins. Check out 250 Megawatts of Community Action; I am lobbying my husband to change our rate plan to the peak power plan, but thus far he isn’t convinced. At least we’ll be unplugging those power strips on our next trip.