Last week I owned up to my cancer phobia and decided to do something productive about it. This I call Organicanize. Step by step I am going through my kitchen and removing items that are harmful. I will pay as close attention to the things I used to cook and store my food as I do to the food itself.
The rules for this pursuit are simple:
1) It has to pan out. I’m not looking for sensationalized, preaching-to-the-choir hype, over-generalizations or political spin. I’m also not going to wade through miles of research. The idea is as a reasonably intelligent person wanting to make reasonably intelligent choices, I should be able to figure stuff out.
2) It has to be affordable. Sure I can spend $30 for a single spatula compared to the three-for-a-buck package in the Dollar Store. But it’s not feasible for most people. What’s the best option?
3) It has to have some mileage. I’m not fad-chasing. Anyone who has read my emails about Quinoa can attest I’m not a fan of the latest “thing” that social media dredges up. I want some staying power.
With those three rules in mind, let’s get started. My quest begins under my sink, the foulest part of my mostly immaculate kitchen. I hate under the sinks. Monsters lurk there I am sure. Ours is especially frightful because it has a nasty old water filter that doesn’t work and looks, well, nasty. More on both water and the filter later. To the right of that sits the trash.
I don’t much like trash. It seems oddly out-of-place in a room with such delightful fragrances and tastes. I recently priced a monster deluxe trash can that looks spiffy, could sit out on the floor, open with a stomp of my foot and seal down tight as my neglected bill clip. But it never rose to the top of the “needed” expense list so we still have one of those cheapy open-air plastic things that we never clean very well. We hide it under the sink.
Now I don’t really know what germs lurk down there and what cancerous boogiemen are down there. I’d rather not, frankly. I’m working up to it. For now, I decided to go in a more positive direction. I decided to compost.
I’ve always wanted to compost. I never, ever have for one very practical reason. I’m never in one place long enough for trash to turn to compost. I have planted three gardens in the last seven years and never once made it to late summer in the same place to harvest them. So composting just seemed out there like the stars… a light I see and think fondly of, but had no plans to actually embrace.
As it turns out, there is delightfully little controversy about composting. It’s great. Nobody really argues over its merits or health risks or impact. The merits are so numerous we will save that for last. The health risks are fairly straight forward: Rats. They love certain compost piles and they aren’t a welcome visitor to most homes, certainly not one like ours with The Bride’s rampant spider phobia. God forbid what an actual encounter with a rat would do to her.
Rats are attracted to proteins, like fish bones or meat scraps. But neither are very helpful to your compost, according to a wide swath of resources I checked out. They take longer to break down, they smell and they attract rats, which seems to suggest its best not to compost these items. If you insist, then an enclosed compost pile is in order.
I’m sticking to the basics of composting science: Nitrogen + carbon + water = compost.
Nitrogen is the live “green” stuff: grass clippings, fruit and vegetable scraps, coffee grounds. Carbon is the dead “brown stuff: leaves, twigs, shredded cardboard, pine needles (which my ground is covered in!) newspaper. The water is self-explanatory, but rain rather than hose when possible just makes plain good sense. Egg shells are relatively neutral, so I’m putting them in. I just smash them up before I toss them in the compost bin.
For a good list of items, check out EarthEasy, which has a nice chart. Avoid Organic Gardening. Frankly, I just removed them from my bookmarks. I didn’t find their information near as useful and I detest needing a virtual machete to hack through pop-up ads and subscription requests. Hey, I have a couple of websites and love to make money off them. But some of these sites are just plain insane and Organic Gardening has tipped into that realm for me.
As for the trash situation under my sink, I realized that I couldn’t just let green composting stuff pile up any which way, so I went out and bought a small, very economical trash can that looks pretty, opens up with my foot and seals pretty tight. I bought 100 percent biodegradable bags to put into the small bin and I now love using it.
The under the sink trash is much cleaner and far less in use. I am motivated to finish cleaning under there and ridding it of any foul, noxious or potentially cancerous materials.
My neighbor and I garden together. They have the room and the sun and I have the human power. Plus, it helps I don’t mind weeding. So I’m now working to clean up their neglected compost pile, which once turned their garden into the most beautiful, healthy soil I’ve ever plunged my hands into. I also got a smaller bin for me, that I can easily compost my material in.
I love my used compost bin! Together we will have plenty of healthy soil for our collective garden, herbs and flower projects this year.
So let’s touch on those health benefits, briefly, because I want to spend one of the blogs on the actual evidence for healthy bacteria and probiotics in our stomachs that help fight free radicals and cancerous cells. I could go on and on but I won’t. For now I’ll explain the benefits thusly: The healthier soil I have, the more I’ll grow. The more I grow, the more I will can these items for winter. The less I buy in winter, the less exposure to industrialized produce treated with God only knows what chemicals.
Compost is, therefore, a vital first step of organicanization.
Perfect right? So easy. I felt damn proud of my effort. I looked around the kitchen and thought, “soon… very soon…” it would all look just as clean and healthy as my trash. Then I noticed the label on my little trash compost can. It looked unsightly. I peeled it off carefully. Then I noticed another smaller label, a clear one, I hadn’t noticed in the store. I read it: “The state of California has found that chemicals used in making this have been known to cause cancer.”
FML, as my kids would text. FML, indeed. Back to the drawing board. This isn’t going to be as easy as I thought.
FOR SALE: PRETTY LITTLE TRASH CAN. BARELY USED.
NOTE: For a list of 30 items you should not compost, check out this link to Mother Nature Network.