Submitted by Emily Frith of Davidson County
When I signed up for The Council’s compost challenge I never expected to come to any profound realizations. I was excited to start up a home composting program because I’d been meaning to do so for years and secretly feeling guilty about not having one all along. The promise of a little competition and a little community pushed me over the edge from thinking about my long dreamed about composting project to actually doing it. But aside from mastering the basics and getting some good garden soil, I didn’t expect to learn that much from the project. On this last point I was definitely wrong.
I was well versed already in the interconnectedness of all things. In fact, the famous quote about the web of life by Sitting Bull adorned my teenage wall for an entire decade. I knew we didn’t weave the web. Fast forward a few decades and here I am: 38, mother to a young child, running a small business, have a life, trying to keep up with it all and then some. If anyone had time for extra projects it wasn’t me. But what the heck, why not, I’ve been meaning to do this for decades!
So I got started. I ordered my compost bin and went to Turnip Green Collective to take my composting class and pickup my earth machine. I walked in the door and was surrounded by a thrift store scrounger’s bounty of goodies. Turnip Green Collective collects and recycles stuff, all kinds of neat things. Walking toward the back of the store I discovered a free art studio where you can use their tools and make any cool thing you can imagine without paying a dime. I was already in heaven. The class gave me everything I needed to begin, how to’s, the browns, the greens, the worms, everything.
I got the machine and cranked open the hatch back and headed home. I dreaded putting it together. It took 5 minutes. Not as hard as I thought apparently. In fact, I found this to be a theme throughout this composting project. The mental image of things I agonized over at the end of my list made me feel overwhelmed. Walking outside and doing the things actually relieved stress. And more than just the stress of completing the initial task, getting outside and connecting with the yard, the weather, knowing I was doing another thing to help the environment became less of a chore and more of a soothing ritual for me.
I composted, I got outside, I felt good about it. But that wasn’t all I was doing. Slowly I was starting to feel more connected to our food supply. Somehow watching that half a lovely roasted butternut squash that had been forgotten in the fridge fall into the compost pile made me feel even more awake to the consequences of food waste. Perhaps it was the fact that all the leftover food from our household didn’t disappear. Or maybe it was watching that food decompose and become land again. Either way I became more aware of the preciousness of my food. I felt more connected when I was eating and more concerned when I was preserving. I began freezing and processing food for future meals. I then realized that by doing this I was beginning to save money. Oddly enough, watching my wasted food decompose made me feel more reverent to the soil from which it came. From a mental and spiritual perspective, I felt more attuned to the web of life. I felt more part of the whole cycle rather than a disconnected pit stop on the outskirts. My eating had more context and I did so more slowly and with more care. I suddenly felt connected in ways I hadn’t expected.
It turns out participating in the Come Post Your Compost challenge did more for me than help me start a home composting program. This was a step in my daily routine that I didn’t even realize was missing. Composting has brought my food cycle full circle. Not only did my household become greener, I became more aware of my consumption and more connected to my yard and ultimately to myself. The wisdom of Sitting Bull still rings true. We did not weave the web of life, we are merely a strand in it. And the decisions we make for the planet don’t just affect us physically, they reverberate through us spiritually as well.