February 20, 2011


Two recent events have brought this blog post to fruition.

Number 1: Our backyard is covered in a thin layer of compost.

Since we get most of our compost's raw materials from our neighbor's lawn clipping and leaf bags, quality control is low, and for a few weeks after we spread the compost, we find miscellaneous bits of noncompostable trash in the yard.

Number 2:  I read this blog post at Re-nest. Specifically, this sentence, "Remember that every plastic item ever created still exists."

Fruit stickers don't compost
It's true. This fact was a revelation to me almost a year ago when I noticed this fruit sticker in my flower bed. 4030 is the produce code for kiwis. I buy kiwis in the spring when they're cheap, and we spread compost in January. That means the sticker had been composting for about eight months. When I tossed the kiwi skin into the compost bucket, I assumed that the sticker would break down and disappear - it's so small and thin, why bother to peal it off?  But it doesn't break down. It degrades, but it will never biodegrade.

Finding the fruit sticker was the turning point in the way I look at the environment. I tried to compost that tiny sticker. I cultivate all types of the good guy fungi and bacteria in my compost bin. I gave the sticker the best chance to degrade, and it didn't.

The scenario with the sticker and my compost plays out on a gigantic scale in the landfill, but the conditions there are worse. Trash in a landfill is packed tightly and eventually sealed in a dome. There's not much dirt, little oxygen and little water so trash (even biodegradable trash) doesn't break down easily. Most items, even small ones, will be there long after I'm gone.

My 2011 Resolution: No more paper towels
Confronting all of this has changed me. Now, I wipe off the gross bean can lid and recycle it instead of tossing it. We don't buy disposable dishes. We've recently eliminated paper towels. We bring reusable bags to the store. I use a ceramic coffee mug at work. I bring home office papers to recycle, and I try to store foods in Tupperware or other holders to avoid zip top bags.  I'm not as uncompromising about my green values as the girl in the blog, but if the eco-friendly alternative isn't too inconvenient or too expensive, I do it.

My newest idea, taken from this photo (fourth one down), is to bring my own small sacks (maybe a Tom's shoes bag) to the store for holding fruits and veggies.


  1. Yay! Does this mean I get to have another pair of Toms?

  2. Hah! Those shoes are expensive! I just wanted to reuse the sacks we already have. Reduce, Reuse Recycle :)