Today I want to talk about garbage. And I should warn you right off the bat, I’m stepping up on my green soapbox for this blog.
Garbage is a timely topic, given the latest study showing that climate change is very much a reality. Greenhouse gasses (including methane—garbage’s perfume) are creating an extreme-climate mess for the planet. Deserts are more arid. Droughts, more insidious (hello, California). Torrential storms, more pervasive (East Coast, this means you).
Our elected officials have plenty that they need to do, but this isn’t a treatise on that. It’s about something individuals can do to, well, do our part. And that’s compost.
These bags are what Husband and I generate in compost each week:
Our fruit and vegetable scraps, coffee grounds and egg shells have been packed down, smashed up and frozen to keep odors at bay until I carry my compost to the greenmarket (which I’ll do later today). I’ve written about my composting ways before. My grandmother, who was raised on a farm in southern Ohio, grew up composting. When she and my grandfather settled down in an east-side suburb of Cleveland, they composted in their backyard. My mom composts to this day in her own backyard. And now I do it too in New York City.
City composting comes with its own special challenges, as you can imagine: Finding the space in your likely smaller-than-normal sized fridge, figuring out where to take it, actually transporting your frozen compost poundage while riding the subway to the drop-off point. The challenges are unfortunate—and hopelessly out of date if we have any hope of not drowning in our own trash someday.
Back to my frozen scraps. Granted, I don’t eat meat, so there’s lots of vegetarian fare in our home. Also, I’m an avid cook. However, we aren’t the norm, either. Husband and I are only two people. There are no kids to compound our composting weight.
The norm is a family of four or five. We also live in a dense city—people are above, below and next door. There are visitors and day-trippers by the tens of thousands. Everyone eating, consuming, creating scraps. We also reside in a city that worships at the divine tables of its restaurants. Daily. Again, eating, consuming, creating scraps. When you picture all of that food-scrap making on a residential scale, then on a commercial scale, then on a city-wide scale, and then roll it all up, it boggles the mind.
Surely we should be composting, right? Doing what we can to not bulk up our already-bulging landfills. Doing what we can to help cut down on the gasses that are cooking the planet. Doing what we can to feed the earth so we might enjoy it a bit longer. And yet, we’re not. Instead, New York has barged its garbage around waterways, or shipped it to spots west.
Yes, we’re good about recycling—far better than, say, Cleveland (where I’m from), which is so far behind the recycling trend it’s troubling. Just because there’s more room west of the Hudson doesn’t mean an entire swath of country should ignore the recycling imperative. Shame on you, Midwest. For shame.
But I digress. What we’re not doing in New York is composting on a systemic level. And we need to be. San Francisco should be our role model: It’s integrated composting into the city’s recycling mandate beautifully, to the point, that there are composting bins at the airport.
At some point, before it’s too late, we as a people need to take responsibility for our garbage to help normalize the wild swings in climate. And one of the easiest, no-brainer ways is to compost.