Composting (as well as recycling, for that matter) at my house was always a given, and so I took it for granted. It wasn't that I didn't care about it, it's just that I never gave it much thought — putting kitchen scraps in the bin next to the sink was pretty much an unconscious action. This is what going green should eventually become: standard.
I was raised to think this way, but many people are not, as I learned during my fall semester last year at the Chewonki Semester School in Wiscasset, Maine. At Chewonki, living life sustainably isn't out-of-the-ordinary at all. When green is the default, it doesn't look like green. Throwing away compostable material becomes peculiar, as if it should be designated by some color.
Take the meals at Chewonki, for instance: there are eight participants at each of those round tables (Round Table — Arthurian egalitarianism, because everyone has something valuable to contribute to the discussion, but that's a different story). When finished, a candidate is elected by the table, or, more often, a courageous veteran volunteers, to wield the mighty scraper (actually a rubber spatula, but I don't think I ever heard it referred to as such) and do battle with the forces of syrup and crusts, depositing edible food waste on one plate and everything else on another. A lucky squire then dashes off to put the edible remnants of the meal (slop) and the compost into their respective bins, ready to be fed to the pigs or have the honor of decomposing back into soil. So, when compared to slaying a dragon, it's really not that difficult.
The trouble is, it is much more convenient to just throw leftovers in the trash, where someone else will deal with them. Convenient for us, that is, but not for the planet. Thus, my interest in composting, cultivated by Chewonki to burgeon into something more than an unconscious habit, is from an environmental perspective. Reduce trash density by composting as the earth naturally recycles the food waste. At a recent lecture, the Bins and Outs of Composting, at the Brookfield Library, however, gardener-cum-author Colleen Plimpton enlightened me with a whole new reason to compost: gardening. Compost is a renewable, organic substitute for expensive fertilizers that keeps gardens growing healthily. Plimpton taught us all how easy it is: it can be done directly on the ground and can even break down ripped-up, thin-walled cardboard like tissue boxes and milk cartons (her advice: if it tears, it isn't plasticized, it can go right in the compost pile).
I was the sole youth representing my generation at said lecture, which didn't surprise me. Gardening is a hobby that most teenagers don't have time for (ok, or interest in, either), but plenty of Brookfield's seasoned citizens were looking to improve their gardens with homemade compost. Therefore, I feel that if composting is ever going to take hold in the younger generation — and it has to, for the 'sustainable revolution' to bear fruit — it will be through a sense of responsibility for the Earth's well-being.
And hey, if composting also helps us by saving money gardening (it will), all the more reason to start. If I grew up without thinking twice about composting, then it is possible for future generations to do the same. All it needs is a little nudge to go from an individual's principle to a larger-scale operation, and I hope to provide that nudge at Brookfield High School by implementing a composting system as my Eagle Scout Project. I figure, if we all wear green-tinted glasses, green becomes the default shade.
Together, we can make green not look like green.