Mom, Mom, Mom #35: Saving the Earth Gets Messy

I didn’t realize that it’s been so long since I’ve posted. I am busy on Twitter (@mommommom), though, if you are interested in tracking me. This is the latest Mom Mom Mom column and is scheduled to run in the February 26 edition of the Alameda Sun. (I will post the link when it’s live.)

Saving the Earth Gets Messy

My sixth-grader came home from school recently and informed me, with a tiny glimmer of fear in her eyes, that someone in school declared the doom and destruction of the earth in 2010 due to global warming. He read it on the Internet or something to that effect. I laughed it off, telling her that if every prediction of the end of the world were true, we wouldn’t be standing in the kitchen talking.

When she left the room, a little relieved, I turned to see my own form of doom and destruction due to global warming. My kitchen is a mess. More so than usual, that is. In our own humble efforts to extend our lives beyond the next few years, our entire kitchen has turned into a mini-recycling station—and a not very organized one. This is garbage we are talking about here. And it isn’t pretty.

We have many recycling projects going at the same time. In addition to keeping the doom of our planet at bay, we are also trying to get something in return for consuming stuff. In one corner of the room are shopping bags full of plastic and glass bottles and aluminum cans waiting for their trip to the recycle station. My eldest-by-less-than-a-minute twin daughter is hoping the cash refunds will contribute to paying for her own trip to Washington, D.C. with an organization called Close Up. Recycling hasn’t been very lucrative so far, but every little bit helps.

In another corner of the kitchen is the actual garbage can (lined with recycled trash bags) and next to it is a brown paper grocery bag filled with table scraps and food. I am looking for small recyclable bags that fit the small green bin that Waste Management provided to carry organic waste out to the large green bin. That little green bin just gets so incredibly nasty; the brown paper bags are better for now. On any given day, a glass jar or tin can bound for the recycling bin sits on the sink, getting rinsed out for its eventual journey through the land of green. The rain we’ve been having is great for our drought conditions, but contributes to my kitchen’s clutter as the waste usually kept outside is inside staying dry until garbage day.

The point of the multiple recycle stations is to reduce the amount of actual garbage we create. The recycled stuff gets, well, recycled somehow, somewhere.

I am not the only one who struggles with keeping a green kitchen clean. Renee Marx, whose kitchen is otherwise pristine, keeps her food scraps in a decorative ceramic bowl on her sink and struggles, too, with where to put recyclables. My Dad in New Jersey has to tie piles of newspapers together and keep them separate from the plastic, from the cardboard, from the glass.

Jodi O’Neill, a single mom based in Cleveland, Ohio commiserates with my plight. “I keep missing the every-other-week recycling pick up. Plastic bottles line my counters and are taking over my garage!” she told me.

Meanwhile, my sister in Vermont with her husband, five children, two dogs, three cats and rabbits has figured out the ultimate green circle of life. On the kitchen counter next to the sink is a large metal bowl. Throughout the day, as they complete each busy meal, they toss food scraps and debris into the bowl. At the end of the day during last summer, the scraps got tossed to the hungry pigs in the sty behind the big garage that looks like a barn. When the pigs grew large enough, they were sent to slaughter, with the meat ending up in the family’s giant freezer and then on to the table in the form of breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Now that it’s winter and the pigs are gone, the food scraps get tossed into the big compost pile behind the chicken coop. The pile is frozen right now (yes, they have several feet of snow in their yard) but once it thaws, it provides fodder for the garden they’ll start growing in the spring when it thaws. In a few months, their garden will be full of vegetables that make it to their table, and, well, I think you get the picture.

It would be tough to emulate my sister’s lifestyle here, considering we are trying to be vegetarian and there’s no room for pigs or chickens. Still, I am working on green ways of my own. I am working on the plan for a Victory Garden in our tiny back yard. It will be a challenge for my brown thumbs, but it’s important to put in the extra effort to being green. Then, our food scraps can go to our very own compost pile.

In the meantime, my kitchen will remain a mess, all in the name of saving the planet and keeping us around a little longer.


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