This isn’t really a new way of thinking for me, but from time to time, it really flares up and bothers me more than it was just recently. We waste WAY too much stuff, people. Cups and bottles and paper and styrafoam containers for macaroni and cheese and bread bags and twisties and post-its and plastic, plastic, plastic, plastic, plastic. It nauseates me.
What I really love is a closed-loop system that is synergistic and in harmony. Recently, I became a chicken owner. I could not be happier with my six “girls” – Henrietta, Eva, Red, Maple, Florence and Juliette. The chickens are cool all by themselves, but what I really love about the chickens is that they fit so beautifully into the system of my household. I grow a garden. For the garden, I make compost. To dispose of food bits, I make compost. The chickens also now eat food bits. They eat garden waste. They poop in the straw that will one day also be compost, which will go in the garden and grow the tomatoes and lettuce. The tomatoes and lettuce will one day partially feed the chickens and make compost. The chickens lay eggs, which adds calcium to my compost, calcium to my garden, nourishing my plants. Which feeds my family and feeds my chickens.
It’s really lovely. If you’ve been thinking of getting chickens, you should. They will eat kitchen scraps, keeping that trash out of the landfills. They will produce eggs, which you can eat, give away and/or sell. They will cut down on the insect population around your yard. Get chickens if there is any way in heck you possibly can. Their bedding is compostable and can help your garden grow. (If you don’t have a garden, you should do that, too.)
Let’s just talk about landfills a moment, shall we? Some people think of a landfill as a giant compost heap, in which their half-a-ham sandwich, leftover spaghetti noodles and fuzzy oranges just compost away, while the endless fields of plastic crap sits there (for all eternity). This is not what happens. Very little of what is in a landfill decomposes, even if it is organic matter that would compost just fine on the pile at your house. For one thing, food in the landfill is usually encased in plastic bags, which retards decomposition. Additionally, so much new, non-biodegradable material is chucked on the landfill each and every day that last week’s trash is totally buried. There is little oxygen available, which is necessary for decomposition. There are few microorganisms to break things down. This is why you turn or stir a compost pile at home to make it decompose – you need to redistribute microorganisms and add oxygen.
This alone should be at least a mild deterrent to sending food to the dump when it could be eaten by your chickens and/or composted at home. Is it? Do you care?
Beyond composting food waste, please give some serious thought to everything else you’re throwing away on a regular basis. Plastic? Plastic never, ever, ever biodegrades. It never becomes soil. It can only get smaller and smaller until it’s a microplastic. I’m thinking of putting this on a bumper-sticker: PLASTIC NEVER, EVER, EVER, EVER BIODEGRADES. Each and every piece of plastic you have ever used is still in existence. I can’t remember now where I read this, but someone out there said she imagines what it would be like if, when she died, all the garbage she had generated in her life came with her to meet her Maker. Would the Creator of All be pleased with her trail of trash? I find that a powerful image, no matter what you might think happens when you die.
Even recycling plastic is only a poor solution. Plastic can only be “downcycled” – turned into a lower-quality plastic that will itself not be recyclable, unlike glass or metal, which can be returned again and again into it’s original state. It also requires energy and waste to recycle plastics into other plastics. Avoiding it at the outset is a far better plan. Not to say that is easily done.
Please consider doing something to reduce your own trash. Thankfully, you will not be a total pioneer. There are lots of blogs and websites where you can get great ideas when you are stumped about how to replace a trash problem with a non-trash solution. For me and my house? We are stepping it up. I am on a campaign to see how very little we can throw away. Will you join me?