Saturday, June 28, 2008

Mmmm, compost!

I have been researching compost. You wouldn't think it needed much research, but you'd be...well, right, ,actually.

When did composting get so complicated? There are dozens, if not hundreds, of sites dedicated just to composting and the finer points therein. When I was a kid, composting meant anything that didn't come from a critter went into the pile and turned into dirt. That simple. Nowadays, it seems you can't compost the "right" way without a bin, barrel, box, or special gizmo for the job.

One of the best things about compost, when I was a kid, was watching the pile every spring just to see what would pop up. We had mystery melons, mystery squash, all sorts of mystery fruits and veggies that happily made their home in the pile. We didn't, as far as I can recall, turn the pile, stir it, water it, lace it with newspaper, add worms, or any of that stuff. Just kept adding to it. When it got tall enough, we might start another, or we might topple it, shovel the soil out from the bottom, and keep going. It was easy.

I'm a little intimidated by composting today. It seems one cannot simply start a pile and let it go - one must have a container for it (plastic, no less, and how is that helping the environment any??), keep it moist but not too moist, feed it the right mix of dry and wet ingredients, turn it, stir it, and play violin concertos to it fortnightly.


I had the idea to start a community compost pile with some friends - everyone would have a bucket which would get dumped on the pile weekly. Yes, even leaves and lawn clippings if they wanted to gather them up. I thought my back yard would be a good place, since it's huge and relatively unused (and I'm lazy and don't want to haul my compostables somewhere else when I could just fling them out the back). Hasn't happened yet - I don't have the money to buy one of those fancy barrel rigs, and there are enough wild critters scampering about that I'm not sure about having a pile just...sitting there.

Then again, why not provide a smorgasbord for them? They live here, too! The critters get fed, and their poo will turn into dirt, too - win-win!

What do you think? Would you participate in a community compost pile? Start one of your own? Or is the Dispoze-All just too convenient? Is it OK to just toss the stuff in a heap like I did when I was a kid? Or do we have to use bins and whatnot, now?

Monday, June 23, 2008

Trip the Plastic Fantastic

I just got home (OK, just may not be accurate - I've been home since around Noon) from my annual trip to Ohio, where I camp, vend the various junk I make, perform with my band, and lead a few workshops.

It's a cool way to spend a week, if a touch (a LOT!!) exhausting. This year, I didn't have the Evil Genius with me, and while I missed him, I was also quite glad he wasn't there. I had too much to do to have a little guy to worry about!

One of the neat things about this community that comes together every year is the way everyone is so focused on community well being, from helping neighbors put up, stake down, and cover over tents to watching each others kids. Hungry? no problem, we have plenty of extra to feed you! Cold? I have an extra blanket, or you may crawl in with me for a snooze! Thirsty? I have gallons of water to drink! It's community wide, and it's a beautiful thing.

Another neat thing is the trash/recycling truck. It's an old RV with the top half cut off, hauled behind a pickup truck. They have bins for non-recyclable trash, as well as recyclables. Cans, bottle, compost, the lot.

Something that puzzled me about the recycling was the plastic bottles. They accepted the bottles, but not the caps. Why? Is it simply that they're different kinds of plastic? In fact, they only recycled numbers one and two plastics, leaving the rest for the trash.

I have recently learned that recycling plastic isn't at all cost effective. It seems that the cost of recycling plastic bags is prohibitive - there's no money to be made in it, and I doubt anyone will do it out of altruism...yet. Several countries have even outlawed the use of plastic bags, they're so destructive and such a danger to the local wildlife.

Do you recycle? Is there a recycling center in your community? Do you reuse plastic bags? Toss them? What's the alternative to plastic bottles, bags, jars, and other containers? Is the alternative any better than the plastic it would replace?

Tuesday, June 10, 2008


Do you think my neighbors would object to one of these?

It's so yellow and happy! I'm not sure there's enough wind here for a turbine, but it would be another way to go.

Oh, or...I could sponsor one in Washington D.C. (all those pompous gasbags must make for some hurricane force winds, right??)(I mean, come on! Politicians, lobbyists, and lawyers, oh my!!!)(Don't get me started on how I feel about the UN in NYC...let's just say if bullshit was our sole energy source, we'd be set for the next thousand years) and get credit for the offsets. Anyone want in on this action???

Sunday, June 8, 2008


A few months ago, Mum and I wandered around a home show looking for ways to spend her money improve our homes and perhaps be a little gentler on the environment.

We saw lots of rain-barrel systems, patios, garden ideas, siding, windows, and some really nifty solar items.

In fact, some of the coolest items were solar powered. Are you a gadget geek? You might like the new backpack with solar panels built in to charge your cell phone, iPod, or other gizmo. The messenger bag had the same features.

In the works is a laptop bag that will charge your little computing buddy while you walk, pedal, or blade to work or the park, or wherever you happen to be going, and will keep charging while you tap away at your keys outside the coffee shop or wherever.

Am I the only one that wants one??

Friday, June 6, 2008

An angle?

My local EMC has a program wherein they provide solar panels to local schools. The idea is to help offset the massive amount of power used by these gigantic buildings while simultaneously providing an educational opportunity to the students - they learn to read the meter, understand solar power, and learn about energy consumption in general.

I home school.

Think they'll hook me up??

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Small Changes

A few months ago, I finally made one small change I should have made years ago - I gathered up all of the various cloth bags lingering in corners gathering dust creatures and cat hair, cleaned them, and started using them as grocery bags. They're mostly canvas bags, and they hold far more than a plastic grocery bag would. I am pleased with this, as it means fewer trips up and down the house stairs to fetch groceries in from the car - oh, and of course, less landfill. Woo-hoo, green and lazy!!

Some other small changes that have taken place here at Casa de Crazy in the last couple of years:

I recycle and reuse plastic grocery bags. They make terrific receptacles for cat box cleaning, holders of various items traveling from my home to anywhere else, and excellent packing materials, among other things.

I'm trying to switch our meat consumption to organic, locally produced critters whenever possible. I have also tried a mail order company, and like their products. Also, they permit co-op orders, so families can order together and save on shipping - cutting cost and pollutants at the same time. Woo-hoo, green and cheap!!

Without consulting my family, who probably won't notice anyway (because who do you think actually does the cleaning around here?)(No, not brownies, fairies, or sprites.)(I wish they would.), I started switching our regular household cleaning products with Seventh Generation stuff. Mmm, I like the smell, and our septic tank is probably a lot happier about it. We aren't fully converted, but more than halfway there.

I bought some socks. Go ahead, laugh - but they're knit from recycled cotton, they're funky, and I love them. Also, I rarely wear socks, so less to wash.

I buy organic or recycled goods when they're available and I can afford them.

I have begun using washcloths and dishcloths that I crocheted myself from cotton yarn.

I filter drinking water at home and refill bottles when I can - and I'm looking at various healthy bottles like stainless or glass to see if they'll work for me.

I believe in using it up, wearing it out, and recycling it.

They're small, so very small, my changes...but I have hope that they'll eventually build into something big.

How It All Started

You could say I was born.

I had an odd childhood, a peculiar mix of wealth and privilege (lobster once a week, leg of lamb often, dining on fine china using actual silver flatware, new clothes just because the old were soiled, and champagne on a regular basis - in crystal flutes, no less) and scrabbling-in-the-dirt poverty that often left our heads spinning and our thoughts wandering along the lines of "A Kool-Aid sandwich on stale bread is perfectly nutritious, right?" Which state we were in was determined by whether we lived with the Grandparents (wealthy) or Mum (not at all wealthy).

I often claim I was raised by feral hippies. And Republicans. At the same time.

I had no concept of environment being something one should be concerned about until I was in my teens, but I often picked up litter because it was just rude not to.

I remember swimming off the coast of Florida and having to stop at a tar removal station before we left to beach to get the sticky black stuff off the bottoms of our feet. Bleh.

I am much more aware of the impact of my life on the world around me, now. I know why the tar was there, and that it didn't have to be. I understand about recycling, both for financial and environmental reasons. I never bought into the idea that there were starving children in China who would be happy for the food I was wasting, but at least I understand why waste is folly.

Being Pagan has added a layer of complication to the idea of being green - the Earth is at once my home, one of my Goddesses, and my temple. I really don't want to use up, deface, pollute, and completely ruin any of those sacred things.

Now comes the fun of reconciling the need for my family to live a realistic life with being as green as can be. In a perfect world, this wouldn't be an issue. There are plenty of people in the world who will scoff at my idea that there's a middle ground, a way to minimize impact while still maximizing comfort and ease.

I have been thinking a lot about this very thing.

I really believe that going green is nowhere near mainstream enough, and it should be. If environmentalists want Mr., Mrs., and Mizz Middle America to get on board, they're going to have to find a way to make green affordable, easy, and comfortable. So far, not so good.

It's all well and good for Ed Begley Jr. to crow about his solar panels and all that...quite another for the average homeowner or even renter to install, maintain, and benefit from solar panels.

Not everyone can compost - we don't all have the space, the time, or the inclination, and composting can become expensive if you don't want a pile of waste sprawling all around the landscape.

Recycling can cause as much damage to the environment as waste, considering the pollutants dumped into the air by diesel powered trucks - and reuse isn't always feasible.

My particular branch of the Pagan tree has a rule...our only one, in fact. In plain English it says "As long as you aren't hurting anyone, do what you like." Think about that. Hurt no one. It's not possible. Just by existing, I am hurting someone. My life is a balancing act - how can I mitigate the harm I do?

Going green is much the same - how can I balance what I consume and how it impact my world (and fellow dwellers thereon) and my desire to be comfortable, my inability to raise my own organic foods, use natural materials for home and living? It's nearly impossible to live a modern life without plastic.

In the coming posts, I hope to share ways my family (and the families of my friends) has found to add a little green to our daily lives.

In the Beginning...

...there was Shade and Sweetwater.

No, actually, there was MySpace, and that begat Shade and Sweetwater.

A post bemoaning the expense of solar power combining with a regular topic of conversation 'round my life begat Mainstream Green. What Mainstream Green will begat is anyone's guess.

Don't expect daily posts - maybe not even monthly. I just wanted a place to put my maundering about the struggle to balance going green with actually, you know, living a realistic life. I have vague, half formed ideas about having some guest-type bloggers lending ahand if they feel benevolent towards the idea.