Lessons from a Composting Bin

I have been composting for about 3 years now. Maybe 2.5.

Yep. I’m a tree hugger. See a picture from 2008 below…

Me Hugging a Tree

It all started after several months of getting my food from the Union Square Farmers Market during my lunch break on Wednesday afternoon.  One day while walking around, I came toward the end of the row and noticed all these tall gray plastic garbage bins with lids and a woman with short blond hair. We started talking and I found out that she collects vegetable and fruit scraps to compost down at the Lower East Side Ecology Center.  The LESEC does all the composting and then they sell the soil at the farmers market.

I’m not quite sure what hooked me that day, but I decided then and there that I would start collecting vegetable and fruit scraps in a plastic bag in my kitchen. Of course, at the time I was living in a different apartment with two roommates who I hid my collection from.  After about 8 months or so, I discovered freezing the scraps so that they wouldn’t smell bad or rot and result in flies swarming the kitchen.

I haven’t looked back since then. I have successfully been “composting” through the Lower East Side Ecology Center for some time now and it is something I do. It’s along the same lines as eating breakfast, brushing my teeth, doing laundry every week, or waking up to go to work in the morning. As a matter of fact, it is so much so a part of my daily routine that I barely notice that I do it anymore.

Okay, I do notice when I have to haul the bag on a weekly basis to Union Square, but it is not a great imposition. As a matter of fact, I usually drop it off before going to work-it’s on the way.

I’m not sharing this story with you as a way to say, “check out my green badge”, I’m sharing this because yesterday, I altered my composting pattern a bit and in the process I discovered something about myself that I hadn’t noticed before.  Let me set the stage…

It’s about 12:10pm at Union Square and I’m running a few minutes late to meet my client (who was extremely pleased with her completed order, btw!). The sun is beating down, I’m sweating like crazy as I speed walk over to the compost bins.  I get there, reach for my compost collection, quickly untie the bag, turn it upside down and empty the contents.  Out come tumbling out, ears of corn, onion and garlic skins, cucumbers, zucchini tops, peach and plum pits, apple cores and coffee beans, lots and lots of ground coffee beans…

It was at this point, maybe half-way through the emptying bag, that I thought to myself, “I have been doing this for so long that the thought of just throwing away a vegetable or fruit scrap in the regular trash disgusts me. I could never go back to throwing away compostable goods!” My thought immediately after was, “If I can do this and if that thought could disgust me, then so can the idea of eating unhealthy foods, not exercising and spending money unnecessarily!”

THAT was my lesson (I kid you not),  or as my coworker and sister-friend later called it, perspective.

I have for days now been thinking about my discipline for some things and not for others. I have discipline when I am working on orders. I also have disciple for things such as collecting vegetable scraps to compost and yet, I’ve noticed that recently,I have had no discipline when it comes to training for this marathon (November 6th-NYC!!), saving and paying off debt, and falling into the trap of eating lots of unhealthy food. All this while, I’ve been thinking about how “something needs to change!”, but I had no idea that it would come from a gray garbage container filled to the brim with stinky food scraps.

As I walked to the coffee shop where my client and I had agreed to meet, I realized I am in so much more control of things than I think I am.  I know that I can’t control everything, nor am I trying to, but I know that with a bit of focus, and maybe an adjustment in my priorities, I can accomplish the things in my life that I want to. Part of this is thinking positively, but it’s not just that, it’s my values-what I find to be important and unimportant. My health is important and therefore, I need to be more proactive about it. The same goes with my saving and debt payment plans and my marathon training.

Of course in all of this, I realized I really need to get down to the nitty-gritty about some things, but I see September as my entrance to that.  Which is why I’m so pleased that today is September 1st!

If you’re looking for a message, lesson, or just some good ol’ perspective, I hope you find it in a less common place, like a garbage bin. Happy September!

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s2 stationery & designs

A rule-breaking designer, artist & entrepreneur who's passionate about paper and handcrafting stationery. I also write, travel, and focus on eco + social good.

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