Blog/Opinion

Learning Food Sustainability: Consistency - A Composting Example

Authors:
Nicole Haas-Loomis
Saede Eifrig
Contributor:
Publication Year:
2020
  • SDG 2 - Zero Hunger
  • SDG 3 - Good Health and Well-Being
  • SDG 7 - Affordable and Clean Energy
  • SDG 12 - Responsible Consumption and Production
  • SDG 13 - Climate Action

It’s super hard to stay consistent. In many circumstances, we are told consistency is key. If we stay consistent, then we can make anything happen. Yet, without a buddy to keep us in check, without a regimented schedule, or without a strong-willed mind, we often fail to do what we planned out to do.

I was capable of doing something, and I felt responsible to do something positive.

In terms of sustainable practices, one instance in which I have personally failed to remain consistent is in my composting practices. Senior year of high school I began seriously thinking about the environment and the little things that I could be doing to make a positive impact. (At this time, I was also considering majoring in environmental studies at college.) One thing that I wanted to begin implementing daily was mindfulness about food waste. I knew from the get-go that buying in bulk from wholesale stores was a step too far for my busy and cost-conscious family, but I knew that I had to do something; I was capable of doing something, and I felt responsible to do something positive. I thought composting would be a good step.

After talking to my parents, we figured that we could afford for a company to come to my house and pick up a company-provided food scraps bucket every other week. While it was a bit on the expensive side, the effort required was little and that was something that I knew was necessary if this was going to last long-term. It felt worth it. With reminder post-it notes around the kitchen, we continued to use this company for the entirety of my senior year.

At this moment, it was clear that even though I really enjoyed composting and it didn’t impact my schedule or my life heavily, my mom couldn’t dedicate the time with her busy schedule, opting for the easiest and commonly least sustainable options, and my dad was stuck in his old ways without a reminder from me.

With so much success, it was to my disappointment that when I came back from college that following October during fall break, my parents were no longer composting. Tons of bananas skins, apple cores, and coffee grounds were thrown into the trash can. It hurt my heart to see all of that in the trash can and it felt worse when I was done eating a banana that I was adding to the compostable fruits mixed in with the saran wrap and aluminum foil. This was really discouraging. At this moment, it was clear that even though I really enjoyed composting and it didn’t impact my schedule or my life heavily, my mom couldn’t dedicate the time with her busy schedule, opting for the easiest and commonly least sustainable options, and my dad was stuck in his old ways without a reminder from me. I gave up at home.

When I went back to school, I decided to compile my own food scraps from fruit I took from the dining center or snacks I had in my room, and ever so often bring the scraps to the dining center so they could be taken care of in our anaerobic digester. However, when I placed the container outside my room so the rest of my hallmates could contribute, the container disappeared on trash day, likely thrown out with the rest of the garbage. Again, I felt defeated.

We are not all at the same pitstop in our sustainable practices cross-country road trip, and rather than shaming others and ourselves about what we aren’t doing, we should be celebrating what we can do! It’s all about balance.

I could continue to speak about all of the times that I have tried to productively sort my food waste and begin composting, but each anecdote ends with me defeated or burning out. I’ve realized through this journey, it is important to make goals that are suitable for my own needs. That way, I can control the outcomes and I won’t burn out easily. While it’s great to include other people in this endeavor, sometimes parents stop paying the composting company to come by the house or your hallmates throw out the compost container by accident. But, that’s okay! We are not all at the same pitstop in our sustainable practices cross-country road trip, and rather than shaming others and ourselves about what we aren’t doing, we should be celebrating what we can do! It’s all about balance. Not every person can feasibly compost, eat a vegan diet, buy cruelty-free clothes and products, or have a backyard garden. The list goes on. However, we can all do one thing each day, and in order to consistently be sustainable, we need to start with a small and attainable goal.

Every day that I decide to compost food scraps at home instead of putting them in the nearest trash can, it counts. Every day that I bring a reusable water bottle with me instead of buying a plastic one, it counts. Every time I decide to buy fairtrade or from a local farmer’s market instead of a large grocery store chain, it counts.

If I have a small, attainable goal, then later on I can build to a bigger goal. Incremental steps can make big changes less intimidating, especially when many of us are stuck in our old ways. Little changes won’t scare us away. And while trying to make changes with a buddy can help us stay engaged, we shouldn’t let the actions of our buddy discourage us from continuing if they tire out. I need to remind myself that every little bit counts. While, ideally, I would change my lifestyle and prioritize sustainable practices helping to heal the Earth, a host of reasons including my daily schedule, my financial capabilities, and my living environment, prevent me from doing so. Instead, what I can do is remember why this all matters. Every bit I do counts. Every day that I decide to compost food scraps at home instead of putting them in the nearest trash can, it counts. Every day that I bring a reusable water bottle with me instead of buying a plastic one, it counts. Every time I decide to buy fairtrade or from a local farmer’s market instead of a large grocery store chain, it counts.

I’m still on this journey, but I think that if I’m able to do what I can and not beat myself up for not being able to do more, I’ll be happy. I hope that my journey can teach other people that every little bit counts. We don’t all have to compost and be vegan, for example, but we should all do what we can feasibly do because it all counts.

5 ways to stay consistently sustainable

 

Composting

 

Composting resources

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“Learning Food Sustainability” is a six-part series that focuses on food sustainability through the voices of youth and environmental activists from the United States, France, and Nigeria. The posts include interviews, blog posts, infographics, and resource lists that offer readers a platform for conversations on just and sustainable food practices. The series was edited and curated by Haverford College students Saede Eifrig, Nicole Haas-Loomis, and Mia Reyes as part of the 2020 summer UNICEF Youth Researcher Program.

We, the editors of this content, acknowledge there are socioeconomic disparities across the world that impact an individual’s ability to ‘check off’ every suggestion on this page. We acknowledge that being able to sit down for a home cooked meal is a privilege and controlling the quality and production of said produce is an even bigger privilege.

We have tried to create a variety of suggestions and include a variety of voices to fit our diverse audience, but we recognize not every resource on our page is accessible to every person. Please find the resource that works best for your lifestyle and find the information that is most interesting to you.

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