Ever since coming to the good ol’ University of Oregon I’ve been amazed to see how some people recycle. It’s not that the idea’s a foreign concept to them (hallelujah), but you’d be surprised how many people recycle pizza boxes or plastic bottles without removing and throwing the lid in the trash first. I understand that these things may be less obvious for some, but after recycling my entire life, of course it makes sense that they would be second nature for me. Even in kindergarten we were told to bring in recycled items for art and craft projects. I loved collecting toilet paper rolls, yogurt containers, cans and eggshell cartons to see what kind of a masterpiece I could create. Sure, it sounds a little ridiculous now, but looking back, it was fun and it definitely encouraged my recycling habit at an early age.
Before I get carried away, I should mention that recycling isn’t the only eco-friendly gesture I’ve really opened my eyes to since “being on my own”. During the period of making new friends and discussing family and hometown lifestyles (you know how it is), I realized just how uncommon composting can be. Hearing responses like “oh cool”, or “that sounds fun” helped me better understand what exactly people mean when they call Oregon a green state. It’s hard for me to give composting a second thought when my family’s been doing it for as long as I can remember. We don’t put banana peels in the garbage can or coffee grounds down the sink. Instead, all fruits, vegetables, eggshells, etc. are tossed in the shiny blue container that rests next to the kitchen sink and tends to grow ripe and attract flies within a couple of days.
It’s such a habit that living away from home, without access to my own composting system, takes some getting used to. I’m still not there yet. Of course, my family would jump at the opportunity to tell you about my tendency to be a little squeamish when it comes to taking the kitchen container out to the garden and dumping it in the composting bins. Before you jump to conclusions, no it’s not the smell or swarm of bugs. Though unpleasant, it’s tolerable. What keeps me as far away as possible (whenever I can swing it that is), is the fear of crossing paths with one of earth’s slithering creatures, or worse, a raccoon. Why a raccoon you ask? At some point in my life, (I’m not exactly sure when), I developed an unexplained fear for the animal. I wish I could say I’ve had at least some kind of a terrible experience with one because that would offer somewhat of an explanation. I don’t know what it is about the creature that irks me, but it’s enough to set my hair on end and put me in fright mode.
I know what you’re thinking, what on earth do raccoons have to do with compost? Honestly, I have no idea. All I know is that a couple of encounters at the bins, okay maybe close encounters, is enough to keep me moving as swift and alert as possible when I’ve failed to get out of the task and set out on a mini garden adventure. Now that I’ve give you a reason to poke fun at me (probably not my smartest move), let’s get to the point. Ever since discovering that composting isn’t as common as I thought it was, I’ve found myself questioning the other ways people manage their kitchen waste. Imagine my excitement when I came across a post by USA Today discussing restaurants composting food waste.
How many times have you been sitting in a restaurant, dying of hunger, and glanced over to see an un-bused table full of plates covered with half-eaten food? At that point, it’s hard to believe someone could let so much food go to waste. Well, before you know it, you’re in the very same position, staring at your plate trying to understand how your tummy and plate can be so full at the same time. Good thing for doggy bags, right? Then again, if you’re like me, you ask for one so that you can take all the leftovers home with you, then realize on the car ride home that you’ve left it on the table. Gah! So even though you were trying to keep the food from going to waste the whole time, what happened to it? In many cases, it was automatically tossed in the trash. That’s why it’s so great that today, more and more restaurants use composting or the “burgeoning table-to-farm movement” to combat the ecologically and economically expensive issue of food waste. When you think about it, all that food has to go somewhere! I’m glad more people or catching on to the composting style and I hope for their sake they can stray away from the scary snakes and ‘coons!