Earthworms’ Castings

With Jean Ponzi

Not Perfect

I stopped into Scheidt Hardware, a practical institution in Maplewood MO, for my weekly purchase: two dozen eggs from the free-range chickens on a nearby farm. Fresh and local, buying these brown eggs is one way I strive to live Green.

“You know about recycling,” said Ben, one of the owners. “What can you tell me about Styrofoam?”

I proceeded to explain why this material is artificially cheap, environmentally gastly, and wrong in recycling collection bins. This recitation I can pretty much give in my sleep, including why we should not use the stuff.

Then I reached into my cloth bag to make room for the two reused paper-pulp cartons of eggs. I had to shove over the Styrofoam box filled with leftover dinner I was taking to work that day for lunch.

“Jean,” I sternly addressed myself as I left the store, “you are a fraud.”
Stowing those eggs in our modestly sized ENERGY STAR fridge, I confessed this encounter to my husband Dale.

“So?” he very kindly said, “You’re not perfect.”

I felt better as I trundled a load of cold-water washed jeans, shirts and towels out to pin up on our clothesline. I was willing to forgive myself and move on as I dumped our kitchen food scrap bucket onto the compost pile. Then I hit the wall again when I noticed that the reused paper grocery bag lining our kitchen trash can was overflowing with plastic wrappers from convenience foods like teriyaki chicken meatballs, deli lunch meat and shredded cheese.

I once could recycle cheese bags at work, in our employee Terracycle program, but Terracycle lost their cheese bag sponsor, so now I throw those bags “away.” Loss of a recycling option has not motivated me to shred my own cheese. Not even when I found out stabilizers get added to these products to prevent clumping.

Convenience? Waste diversion? Additives? Clumping? What is a modern human to do when faced with these kinds of conflicting choices?

I say, do the best we can.

Some things have to go to the landfill. Modern landfills are constructed to contain what’s in them, at least until an earthquake or other disaster cracks their capacity. We are not running out of landfill space here in the Midwest U.S. In Manhattan or Japan, that’s another story.

Many materials can be recycled. Some in our conventional collection bins; others – like plastic bags and electronics – in specialized, yet still convenient systems.
Much waste and pollution can be avoided: by always using a durable bag, carrying your own cloth napkin and washable spoon, and skipping the sensual sippy indulgence of a plastic straw.

Some convenience – and support for recharging our human batteries – is a truly smart investment, like soaking in the tub at the end of a hard day, instead of stepping in and out of the water and energy efficient shower. Even buying the doggone clump-resistant pre-shredded cheese to sprinkle on your hardware store eggs, or your frozen burrito sealed in a non-recyclable type of plastic wrapper.

In this age of Climate Change, voting may have more beneficial impact than recycling. Or they may just cancel each other out.

With seven-point-something humans thronging this planet now, individual actions may be no longer even be drops in the bucket.

Yet it’s important to keep on doing the best one can: to keep learning and deciding and collaborating with one another, to identify best options and pursue them.

I’ll answer a person’s question about Styrofoam, even though I’ve said the same thing a zillion times before. And I’ll do my best to speak in a tone that is informative, encouraging, and not preachy.

Most times I can do this, except when I’m feeling tired and crabby. Then I get that know-it-all edge in my voice that zaps any influence I might have on the thinking and choices of others.

I stand inside the screen door of our recycled-plastic floored back porch. This is our little haven up in the trees, but I won’t go out there until the robin we allowed to build her messy nest on the downspout over the porch rail can hatch and raise her spring brood. She is not even a native species, yet we will not step out on this porch, in sunshine or moonlight, probably until the mosquitoes start biting.

I am one with all of this, crabby and beautiful, Green and wasteful, persevering and sometimes just tired. Striving to be grateful.

Human. Not perfect.

Jean Ponzi invites you into her weekly Earthworms conversations about All Things Green. Podcasting since 2015, this community service has now been on KDHX St. Louis Independent Media for 30 years. Pick ‘em up at podcasts.kdhx.org or through iTunes.