Helen is Fremantle Living Smartie who walks the sustainability walk, except with composting, which has eluded her so far! Here is Helen's story.
I've lost count of the number of composting workshops I've attended over the years. Seriously it must be at least ten. I've read books and articles, talked to friends who have been successful. I've even written a how-to guide for a sustainability website. It seems simple enough, layers of stuff then let nature do it's work. But when I try to do it for real, success just eludes me.
Sometimes trying to be sustainable can be self-defeating, at least for me. I am committed to it on so many levels, but they are sometimes in conflict. Compost is a case in point. I decided at my Living Smart course that I didn't want to go and buy a new plastic compost bin or tumbler. So I didn't - I scanned verge collections in the hope of finding one. Months passed, and I realize that if I'd just bought the damn thing I would have had my first lovely batch of compost months ago. But no, I continued to scour for a salvaged bin. Then I found a lovely heap of corrugated iron - I could build three compost bays using the iron and a couple of pallets. My husband even promised to build them for me for Christmas. Great, I'm on my way to reducing waste, enriching my garden and reaching my sustainability goals!
So that was Christmas 2010. Corrugated iron has been lying in the backyard for over a year. To be fair, my husband did renovate the kitchen and almost finish his PhD in the meantime, so it's not really his fault. But I could have had about six batches of compost by now. Why didn't I just buy that compost bin? The last bulk waste collection, out those iron sheets went.
In the meantime I have been throwing food and garden scraps in a pile and hoping to somehow magically achieve the correct ratio of green to brown, carbon to nitrogen. Is that 30:1 by weight, volume or grams per cubic metre? Does my head in, really.
At last, though, a light at the end of the tunnel. Just a few weeks ago a friend gave me her spare compost bin. Goal number one achieved - no new plastic for me!! Just had to wait 18 months but success at last. The bits and pieces I throw in there seem to be breaking down, I can feel the heat being generated. Fingers crossed for some decent compost.
I realise there are so many projects that fall into this category - ride my bike more, finish insulating the roof, install grey-water. But there's only so much time, money and inspiration to go around. These are complex projects and seem overwhelming, so don't get done.
The moral of my story is this - I need to break my sustainability goals into chunks that are achievable. I ended up doing nothing just because the solution wasn't perfect. Even though I might want to build my own, I should have bought a compost bin and not felt so guilty about it. I've decided to be kind to myself, let small successes happen, and take the next small step on the sustainability continuum.