Sustainability. The layers to this word, this movement, this lifestyle, are immeasurable. I have to admit I was rather ignorant to this idea and I still have much to learn as it encompasses so much. Growing up, I knew about recycling. Located in the garage were our different containers for plastics, glass, cans, and cardboard. But that was where my knowledge resided for many years. It was not until I moved to Italy where I learned a bit about the art of composting. Yes, Italy, you are credited for yet another page in my development. You do know how much I love you, right? I digress.
The back story
During 2018, I was lucky enough to be accepted into Alice Water’s Rome Sustainable Food Project. It was here during my time at the American Academy in Rome where I was introduced to the idea that food was much more than sustenance for the human body. To me, food, aside from its deliciousness, gave the body life. It did not occur to me that scraps from food, aka food waste, has a purpose in our world. Yes, you could give excess vegetables to your pet rabbit or guinea pig, but there is so much more.
After preparing lunch and dinner each day at the Academy, we had to take out the trash, separate the recycling and then wheel out the food scraps to the compost bin. Stink…stank…stunk. I am lucky that my term at the Academy ended in June when the heat was only beginning. I cannot image the aroma the compost pile emits during the hottest days of July, August, and September. However, this is a necessary smelly evil that ensures the compost is doing its thing. Over the course of my four months there, I watched this pile of vegetables, egg shells, and grass clippings decompose and create soil that would in turn be utilized for the garden and other plantings around the Academy. The circle of life prevailed from this odorous heap. Who knew? Well… turns out many.
The back back story
Composting is old as dirt. This practice of reuse has been an institution dating back to the ancient empires of Mesopotamia, Rome, Greece, as well as the Far East, and later with the native Americans in the United States. It seems this cultural unifier has been present globally since the beginning. It’s about time I catch up! Returning to Boston after my time in Italy, my awareness of my carbon footprint continued to grow including increased recycling efforts and an improved understanding of the power of the leftover foods to transform into glorious next day meals. However, composting was still just a little nugget in the back of my mind waiting patiently for me to pay attention to it.
Bringing it forward
Almost a year ago, my landlord (boyfriend) and I moved into a house with a sizable back yard. It took some TLC on management’s part to get the grass planted and landscaping started how he wanted it. I steered clear as I know my strengths… landscaping is not one of them. As quarantine hit, we were given the opportunity to plan for our first venture into the world of gardening. As we talked about what we wanted to plant, I knew I wanted to set up a composting system. Especially after I came to understand how much soil and fertilizer we would need.
As stated, my knowledge of composting is limited. There is so much to learn and various ways to compost. But for me, first things first… I need a composting vessel! Should I have spent this time reading and digesting how to approach this venture before pulling out the credit card and hitting purchase? Probably. But I was so excited to start and in my mind “If you build it, they will come.” It was my own little field of dreams. So I bought it, put it together, and then began to compost.
First things first, get into the habit of not throwing away scraps in the kitchen. I know the basics of what can and can’t go into compost. Teaching my landlord was a different story. It is no secret that habits take time to break and time to create. Many a day I would return to our trash bucket to take out the lettuce ends or egg shells or put my hand down the sink drain to put the scraps where they belonged; into my small sink side composting bucket.
By some divine intervention our garbage disposal broke. I believe this is when my landlord decided to pay more attention to my composting mission. And then it happened. The day when my landlord began to take the egg shells across the kitchen to the trash, he stopped dead in his tracks, and turned to place the shells in the compost bucket. Old dog. New tricks. It can happen.
The now and now
So my composting mission has begun. I have the vessel. I definitely have enough scraps weekly to begin the project, which I understand will take time. Now I need to learn, to create a more in depth understanding of the balance between all that ends up in the vessel. The moisture control. The pest control. This is a big first step in developing my sustainable composting life. I look forward to documenting all the twist and turns that happen over the course of the next few months to enlighten our readers to this world.