Posts tagged Compost

My Green Gurus

Well its been about a week since my last post, but I have a good excuse.  My aunt and uncle were in from out of town and I had the pleasure of hosting them and showing them my version of Boston.  In addition to the Arnold Arboretum and the Mt. Auburn cemetery, we went to Harvard’s Museum of Natural History to see the glass flower exhibit and took a day trip to the Cape.  It was a great visit!

It was also a good test of my “greenness” since my aunt and uncle have been doing the green/sustainability thing since before it had a name.   In fact they are my green gurus, and much of what I know about sustainability I learned from them as a child, when my sisters and I spent summers with them.

They live on the West Coast in an area that was very rural until very recently, and was filled mostly with hippie transplants from other places when they got there in the early 1970’s.  They built their first home themselves, and lived there for years without running water or electricity.  Only after the birth of their second child did they move to a modest home on a small farm with a well and a septic system.  They reuse, recycle or compost almost everything.  They grow their own fruits and vegetables, raise their own chickens and sheep, and drive a hybrid.  Their washing machine is a front loader and their hot water heater is tankless.

Because they live on a farm with only well water, they are extremely conscious of their water consumption.  They were the first to introduce me to the concept of “If its yellow let it mellow, if it’s brown flush it down.”  As a city kid I was horrified that there were people who didn’t flush the toilet every time they used it, and quite frankly even today I would rather save water in other ways.  I also couldn’t understand their obsession with shutting off the lawn sprinklers, until they were accidentally left on one night and we didn’t have water for a couple of days.

So when they asked if they could stay with me I was very excited to show them how much of what they had taught me I actually adopted.  The first thing I did when they arrived was give them the eco tour of my apartment, pointing out the counter top compost container, the compost bin the yard, the organic milk, eggs and vegetables in the fridge, the bowl filled with organic fruit on the dining room table, the CF light bulbs.  I was a little nervous.  Would they approve?  Had I done enough?

Overall, I think they were happy with what I had done, but my uncle pointed out my areas of improvement.  He followed me around the house shutting off lights that I had left on, and suggested that I put all of my electrical appliances on power strips and turn off the power strips when the appliances aren’t in use.   I thought those were great suggestions for next steps.  I have a long way to go before I get to their level of greeness, and I don’t ever picture myself living without plumbing and electricity. (To be fair though, at this point neither do they.   I think we would all agree that  home powered fully by wind and solar would be nice. )

I feel very lucky to have had them as such a strong influence in my life.  Everyone should have such great mentors to help walk them down the path to a green life!

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Cultural Differences

I kind of take it for granted that in this day and age everyone recycles.  I take the time to separate out all of my glass, plastic, paper and aluminum.  I even compost.  However, it’s become very clear to me recently that not everyone does.  It seems that there are what can only be described as “cultural differences.”

This became abundantly clear to me in regards to the women who clean my house.  Over the time that they have worked for me, I have noticed more than once that my recycling has ended up in a trash bag and left neatly by the door for me to take out to the trash cans outside.  When I catch the error, I take the recycling out of the trash bag and put it back in the recycling bin.  I’m rarely home when they come to clean, so there is little opportunity to talk to them about it in person and even if I did I’m not sure I could convey my point effectively because English is not their first language, and it is the only language I speak .  Instead, I remain vigilant and rescue the recycling whenever possible.

The situation reached a new level of ridiculousness last week.  I (finally) purchased a counter-top compost container, lined it with a biodegradable plastic bag, and diligently collected my food scraps to be taken out to the compost bin in the backyard. I forgot that the cleaning people were coming that day, and so therefore didn’t take out the compost before they got there.  When I was cooking dinner later that night I went to put some food scraps in the compost container and realized that it had been emptied and in place of my food scraps was a fresh, bio-bag.  Ughh!  Then the search began.  I opened the trash bag left neatly next to the door to find all of my compost scraps neatly tied  up in their bio-bag.  I pulled  them out and took them straight to the compost bin in the backyard.  Ordinarily I don’t like picking through the trash, but this time it was fine since the only other “trash” in the bag was my paper recycling!

I can only imagine how this must all appear to the cleaning ladies.  They probably think I am so lazy that I can’t be bothered to put the trash in the trash can, even though it is right next to the recycling bin.  Either that, or they think I have some strange hoarding disorder where I must compulsively stack all of the wire hangers in a little caddy (to be returned to the dry cleaner, and yes this has ended up in the trash bag, too).

A friend suggested that I put labels in their native language on the recycling and compost, asking the cleaning people not to touch them.  I think that’s a great idea.  A simple, yet brilliant solution that I wish I had thought of myself.  We’ll see if that helps to  overcome our cultural differences!

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Times, They are A Changin’

A few days ago I wrote about my experience last Fall trying to find a contractor that could source green materials.  I figured that my experience would be the same while dealing with caterers for my father’s upcoming birthday bash.  I’m glad I was wrong!

My father is turning 80, and we want to celebrate in style.  My mother decided that we should throw him a big party and invite everyone my father cares about and who cares about him.  We’re renting a place and getting outside caterers, which is way more effort than my family has put into any party in a long time!  My job is to work with the caterer to handle all of the logistics.

I called the caterer my mom chose this morning.  We were discussing table linens and dishes and she gave me my options: china or premium plastic.  Hmmm.  China is more fancy than we need for this party, but I just can’t in good conscience order the plastic.  I mentioned this to the caterer, and started talking about other options.  Unlike the contractors I dealt with for my home repairs, her response was “Wait, there is another option. There’s stuff that’s, um, what’s the word that starts with a C?” “Compostable?” I ask.  “Yes!” she says. “We’ve had some vendors come in to talk to us about them.  Let me talk to my boss and see what we can do.”

I can’t tell you how happy I was!  Having a little more time on my hands these days, I was ready to source the plates and cups myself.  (A simple Google search returned several vendors including:  www.ecowise.com, www.MyGreenSupply.com. and www.biodegradablestore.com.) However,  it was a great surprise to find I didn’t have to.  Next time I talk to her, I’m going to bring up using only organic, locally grown produce.  We’ll see how she handles that.  Based on our plate conversation, I’m very optimistic.

Times they are a changin’!

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Down to Earth in Boston

The other day some friends and I headed over to D2E, the sustainability expo now in its second year in Boston.  They had a great range of exhibitors from vendors of solar panels, to green clothing and lots of baby goods.  There were definitely some favorites:

  • Green Depot (www.greendepot.com)- They have a wide range of household goods from LED lights for your chandelier to monitors that let you know how much energy your appliances are using when they are turned off.  I bought a counter-top compost container, which was identical to the ones at Williams-Sonoma, but at a much better price.  They have great customer service (which I will probably talk about in another post) and I definitely plan to shop with them again.
  • Jute & Jackfruit (www.juteandjackfruit.com)- Great selection of designer clothes made from sustainable materials.  They do a great job of finding clothes and accessories that are cute and green.  My favorite were these clutch handbags made from soda can pulls crocheted together by women in Brazil.

In addition to the booths, they had some great workshops and demonstrations, including a green fashion show and a talk from MIT researchers about the future of transportation.  The organizing team did a great job and I’ll definitely go again next year!

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