Sunday, October 10, 2010

Strength to be Green

It seems like everywhere we turn these days, there is information and publicity for green lifestyles and technology. We want to do our part for Mother Nature so we’ve broken routines and adjusted our lives.

But where do we find the motivation to recycle and conserve when it would be much easier to continue with the same everyday practices like throwing all of our disposables in one garbage can? Where do we find the strength?

In an effort to be green, I started composting at the beginning of this past summer. I put a big plastic bucket outside near the back door of our house and asked my mom to throw fruit and vegetable peelings in it, instead of in the nearby pasture.

“It’s going to break down into rich soil,” I said. “It’s like getting free dirt!”

In my fantasy, everything that went into the composter would magically turn into soil. In reality, the bucket filled up with rainwater and became a mosquito farm.

“I’m trying to save the earth,” I said to my mom as I sprayed myself with a can of Off, and grabbed a drill. “I just didn’t realize it would be this challenging.”

After I drilled holes in the sides and bottom of the bucket, the water drained out, the mosquitoes relocated, and the composting began again. That is until I realized the consequences of the next mistake I made, which was not regularly mixing the composted items. Instead of turning into dirt, they became a nesting ground for roaches, frogs and something that smelled like it had been kicked out of a toilet for stinking too much.

It occurred to me that composting was kind of a pain, and it would be much easier (and somewhat green) to just throw fruit and vegetable peelings in the pasture in the back of our house. So I gave up on my composting experiment, and poured old bags of mulch and dirt in the bucket to cover up the smell.

I decided that I would spend my green time focusing on recycling garbage. Although burdensome on occasion because I have to separate my disposables into different containers, (trash, aluminum cans to sell, and recyclables) the work is rewarding to me because I am reducing my carbon footprint.

But even my commitment to that was challenged a few weeks ago when my mom suggested that we increase our aluminum can business by digging through the trash across the street at the old F.I.E.B elementary school.

“But it’s filled with chewing tobacco, barbecue sauce and wasps,” I said. “I can get stung or start smelling like Skoal.”

“I thought you were trying to save the earth,” she said. “That means getting your hands a little dirty now and then.”

Later that day, after dropping my mom off at her sister’s house, and the recycling in the dumpster near the Abbeville Fire Station, I went to sell the cans that I’d retrieved from the garbage. I had avoided getting stung, and we were able to score a large bag of aluminum. But it hardly seemed worth it, because from previous experience, I estimated that my time, work and risks would only get a couple of dollars.

When I arrived at Abbeville Scrap and Recycling, the owner, Earl James Fritz, waved and smiled. He walked over to my car and then helped me unload the cans.

“It’s my favorite customer,” Fritz said. “It’s good to see you.”

After Fritz weighed the cans, he gave me more money than I’d expected. My mom and I usually made a game out of guessing how much we thought we’d get. The one who guessed farthest from the price had to buy the other one lunch. My mom was much better than me at estimating and usually won. But on that day, we both would have been way off.

“Tell your momma that I gave her a little extra this week,” Fritz said.

After I left, I assumed Fritz’s reasoning was that the price of aluminum had gone up. But then I wondered if this had something to do with being his favorite customer. Had Fritz given my mom and I Gold or Premier customer status the way some airlines and hotels do? Would we now receive extra benefits like frequent flier miles and emails on recycling specials?

For some reason, the thought of that put me in a very good mood. Part of it was that someone had shown true appreciation for my effort to be green. The other was that I’d get to tell my mom that we earned almost double for the cans than what we had expected.

When I got home that afternoon, I stepped into our back yard. It had been almost a month since I’d gone back there because of the heat and insects. I was pleasantly surprised to see that from my old composting bucket, there was a vine with yellow flowers growing. From it, were a couple of tiny cantaloupes.

I asked my mom if she had planted the fruit, but she said she hadn’t. We both assumed it was from seeds from the peelings we had thrown into the composter. Regardless, it was a sign that there is a reward in living a green lifestyle; food and unexpected riches.

I am very thankful that my mom has taught me how to protect and save our environment. She was green before it was cool, and has been my motivation to recycle, conserve and prevent littering. Her lessons on a green lifestyle have shown me the value of hard work, and how rewards can come in many forms. Her part in keeping the earth beautiful brings me strength.

For more information on the items Abbeville Scrap and Recycling purchases, call 337-523-9322. To learn where you can recycle glass, plastic and paper throughout the parish, call Solid Waste at 337-898-4338. For a list of items that can be recycled, visit

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