For several years now I’ve been a religious zealot about composting, whether inconveniently on the road or conveniently at home near my bins. When I travel I have three composting options for dealing with food scraps, including restaurant scraps, random tea bags, and all the rest:
1. Compost local When I travel I try find a local composter through various social networks, or a place to drop off scraps. I did this in London with my friends Alex and DJ, and at a curbside compost dumpster (see below), and thanks to GrowNYC, this is sometimes possible in NYC. Unfortunately, its usually still a fantasy everywhere else.
I am very happy to leave scraps at a restaurant if they compost post-consumer scraps, but that is almost unheard of outside of the nice progressive bubbles (such as Burlington, Boulder, and Berkeley) that dot the country. Toronto has curbside pickup AND sidewalk disposal. Hats off to Toronto!
2. Bury it I like to practice random acts of guerilla composting wherever I can and/or need to. This is sometimes a bit tricky but worth a try in waysides, some parks, and under shrubbery. Think of it as fertilizing!
WILL ADD A PHOTO OF THIS CLANDESTINE ACTIVITY AS SOON AS THE GAL PAL GETS BACK FROM CROSS COUNTRY AND CAN LOCATE IT FOR ME.
3. Carry on my wayward scraps When all else fails one must carry ones rotting pile of food scraps back to whence one came: in my case, Vermont. Like an eco-sherpa I have hauled and hoisted not literally TONS of scraps over the years in carry-on luggage, cloth bags of all sort, and of course in buckets in the back of hot cars (sorry, Alison!). Sometimes I’ve gotten quite creative. Check out my phone case packaging/food scrap carrying case:
But here’s how it usually looks en route:
And why do I do this? To stop climate change and to restore the health of our ecosystem. I know, it’s one small thing. But it’s one small thing that I can do, that we all can do. And if we all did, it would add up.
What do you do with your food scraps when you travel? Please share any tips!
Holly, Compost Maven who has pledged her allegiance to the soil.
I’ll bet you’re wondering what the world needs now (besides love sweet love, of course!), and why I put a photo of Anderson Cooper next to a mailbox. Okay, this has been on my mind for a long time: what the world needs now is to redefine the banana peel from a piece of garbage to a value resource.
I was reminded of this basic need the other night while watching CNN’s New Year’s Eve celebration with the outrageous and hilarious Kathy Griffin and the charming Anderson Cooper. Anderson told us a story about how he recently stopped a woman on the street from depositing a banana peel into a blue USPS sidewalk boxes (like the one pictured here). As he told it he grabbed her hand just as she was about to release the peel into the pulldown slot! He chastised her for intending to put the peel into the wrong box. His very strong belief was that it should be recognized and treated as garbage, so he put it in a garbage can. That banana peel is probably sitting in a landfill right now, offgassing methane, a potent greenhouse gas. And there’s the rub: food scraps need oxygen to decompose. If there’s no oxygen then organic matter produces methane. And there’s no oxygen in landfills, so all the organic matter that we send to the landfill, including autumn leaves and food scraps, makes methane.
I actually think the woman who was putting the banana peel in the mailbox was more right than Anderson simply because she recognized that the peel wasn’t garbage and should be treated differently. Sort of like putting a recyclable bottle NEXT to a garbage can instead of in it. Because putting it in the garbage is anathema, and there’s always the wishful hope that it will miraculously be recycled. Maybe the mail person will come along and compost the peel the same way the garbage person might throw those bottles into the recycling bin when the garbage is collected? But that’s probably giving her too much benefit of the doubt.
When I see banana peels in garbage cans I have the same flinching reaction that Anderson had: WRONG. The fact is, banana peels aren’t garbage any more than they are parcels of mail. They belong not in garbage cans or mailboxes but in compost receptacles. They are pre-compost, or pre-soil, or rather, pre-another banana. And so I usually stick my hand in there and save that peel from an interrupted life cycle. Banana peels and all other organic matter belong in a natural cycle of soil and nutrients. Of course this isn’t news to many people in rural areas or to folks who grew up with a garden or on a farm. Back then there would always be a compost pile because they knew that organics were a crucial resource for sustaining life. The good news is that lots of places around the world are starting to relearn this knowledge.
On a recent trip to Toronto, Canada, I was surprised (see the stunned look on my face?) and heartened to find this multiple choice receptacle on the street.
Good for you, Toronto! Now that’s a cool city, and like New York City, one that benefited from Jane Jacobs residing in it. But that’s for another blog post.
When we compost we place ourselves in an ecosystem, where there is nutrient cycling and soil production. Healthy ecosystems are what give us clean air, clean water, healthy food, happy citizens, and ultimately, normalized climate patterns. I understand that paradigm shifts are hard and that it is a radical change to say a banana peel isn’t garbage, but given the state of the world, I’d say shifting paradigms is what the world needs to do right now. And hey, it sure would help if mainstream media like CNN would start reflecting this change. So come Anderson, let’s do this thing!
Holly Rae Taylor, compost maven
New year, new website!
I’ve been thinking a lot about this website for ages. Now’s the time to do it!
2012 was a time of change, travel, and reflection: I closed a retail business and I started a life coaching practice; I got to go on some amazing trips this year, including London, Paris, and to my beloved New York City several times; and I realized that many of my passions and interests are combined in the field of landscape architecture. I’m looking VERY forward to 2013, and can’t wait to blog about my life and thoughts here.
Happy New Year!