Monday, May 7, 2007

Worms gone AWOL

The honeymoon was short. After our initial rocky start (documented here), I thought we had an understanding. I chopped up my banana peels and leek leaves, fed them every few days, and sprayed the bedding when it seemed too dry. And in turn, they behaved and stayed alive.

I won't say I totally overcame my fears of their sliminess, but we were cohabitating, or so I thought. Then, last week, I got back from a long weekend and found a grisly sight on my balcony. I shudder to think of it now. Eek. There were a few dozen carcasses strewn all over my balcony. At first glance, I thought they were plant droppings, but within a few seconds, the disturbing truth set in: My worms were escaping, dying and shriveling up on my balcony. How horrible is that?! I mean, first of all, that can't be a pleasant death. And so dramatic! What it said to me was that the conditions in the little world I created for them were so bad that the better option was to fling themselves out of the air holes I had drilled. Agh! I took on the responsibility of life and clearly was a terrible steward of nature. For the last few days I've been walking around with a cloud of guilt above my proverbial head. I finally mustered the courage to check out what was going on in the bin (sounds lame, but remember how long it took me to open the box they came in?) and although I saw some live worms, I also saw uneaten food, which is not a good sign. I've been convinced that the worms that didn't jump to their deaths must have just resigned themselves to a less dramatic end, kind of like that old couple in "Titanic" that stays in their bed (that was the one scene that got me in that movie). Anyway, today I finally did what I should have done a few days ago and actually did some research. There's lots of composting troubleshooting info out there. The good news is, I might not have killed all my worms in a few short weeks. But now, I have to figure out exactly what was wrong in the bin. From the symptoms and my own guess-work, I've surmised that I let it get too acidic (too many coffee grinds and orange peels), and that because the weather has gotten hotter, I should have been keeping it moister. So...I'm going to buck up, figure out what I can do, and attempt to salvage the rest of my little friends. If there are any composters! (Practical advice and moral support both greatly appreciated!). I'll keep you posted...

Friday, May 4, 2007

Earth to recycling

Ah, remember those halcyon days when you recycled your bottles and cans and could feel good about doing your part? The world made sense back then, didn't it? Actually, I admit I'm idealizing the good old days. If I'm honest, I always had a lingering suspicion about whether my milk jugs, aluminum cans, and paper--all mixed together, mostly rinsed out--were actually making it from my curbside to anywhere other than a landfill. I mean, come on. Were workers really paid to sift through and separate my colored paper from my cans of black beans? As we often do to get through the day, I squelched those doubts and continued to go through the motions of "doing my part", not really knowing what could or couldn't be recycled in my area. And in the last several months, I've steered clear of even mentioning the "R" word, well, because we know we need to be focusing our efforts on the first 2 Rs--Reducing and Reusing, of course.

But, we obviously shouldn't throw the baby out with the bath water. After I've reduced and reused, I still have plenty of materials that can be recycled. So I was thrilled to discover an exhaustive, invaluable resource-- Earth 911. Ever wanted to know exactly what types of plastic and glass your curbside recycling service accepts? If you can mix newspaper with white and colored paper?

This site is amazing because you simply enter in your zip code and get a list of the curbside services in your area and what materials they accept. THEN, if you have still have materials that they won't pick up--like packing peanuts, or green glass, you can search for drop off centers in your area. But the most invaluable aspect of this site is that, in addition to the basic items we all know we should be recycling, it provides recycling/reuse information for all those miscellaneous materials that would otherwise end up in a landfill or rotting out on your curb. Metal clothes hangers, inkjet cartridges, old telephones, musical instruments, mattresses, floppy disks, cooking oil, magazines...that's just the beginning. Remodeling your house? There are sites that will accept your old carpet, ceramics, linoleum, and roof shingles. What a revelation! Check it out and forward widely. This site should be at the top of everyone's bookmarks. Go forth and recycle everything!

Earth 911

Maybe because of all the attention they got on Oprah's Earth Day special, Earth911 has totally revamped their website in the last couple weeks, so much so that I thought I had the wrong site when I needed to look something up today. Unfortunately, it is much less user-friendly. You can still get the info you're looking for, it just seems to be a little more obscured.