When my kids were younger and we were living under the sunny skies of Scottsdale, AZ, I would tease them about the difference between real problems and “Scottsdale” problems. For example, a desperate cry from a naked boy awaiting a soak in our jacuzzi tub that sounded like this: “MOM, HELP! WE ARE OUT OF LAVENDER BATH SALTS,” was clearly relegated to the “Scottsdale problem” list. A tearful lament that a sibling wouldn’t share any of his gluten free banana pecan scone, was also quickly shifted into the “Scottsdale” category. My favorite was the “There is nothing to eat. Someone finished my salmon skin sushi roll!”
I tried to kindly explain that these minor inconveniences were not really problems for most people in the world. Real problems had to do with homelessness, poverty, world hunger and the deteriorating ozone layer which is leading the planet towards its fiery destruction.
Now we live in Seattle and I have finally realized that each and every geographic region has it’s own set of hideous problems facing todays children and young adults. No, it is not the epidemic of youth suicides, the plethora of school shooting massacres, or even the long term harmfulness of rampant opioid addiction. I have found the PNW problem that is ruining our children, destroying their sense of self and contributing to the powerlessness and depression overwhelming young people today. Composting.
We dutifully have separate garbage cans for garbage, recyclables and compost. My children are avid supporters of composting and have also insisted that there are undercover refuse police who go through our garbage cans in search of an errant unwashed yogurt container or a bags of pungent pet poop, (which surprisingly is not compostable). While I have researched extensively regarding the hefty fines imposed by these “refuse regulators,” I have found inconclusive and confusing reports of fines ranging from public shaming to $1 per oversight.
Since the thought of actively allowing food scraps to accumulate on my counter or under my sink was more than a little unsettling to this city girl, I embarked on a research project to find the most convenient, sanitary and bug-free method of composting I could find. I settled on a YukChuk under the sink and a small (dishwasher safe) mini bin for the freezer. I got compostable bags and explained the system to my kids.
The key to successful composting is simple. EMPTY THE BINS OFTEN. I’d love to say this lesson wasn’t extremely disgusting, stench-filled and painful to learn, but that would be untrue. Once we got the proper system set up and running, I found myself being the sole compost remover of the clan. This bothered me quite a bit.
“Take out the compost,” I urged multiple times a day. Sometimes I would even remove the bags and set them outside the back door for easier disposal. But my children merely saw that as a stumbling obstacle and stepped over the bags in order to avoid touching their disgusting contents of gross, moldy, food remains.
One night I emptied the compost trash and as an experiment decided not to fill the bins with the compostable green bags beside them. The next morning I awoke to find the unbagged bins filled with food waste. I snapped. “That is it,” I announced to myself since I’m obviously the only one who pays any attention to me. Then I washed out the bins, dried them and hid them deep in the garage.
My younger son was dismayed about this. But I calmly explained that I was not willing to be the sole composter in the family and had unilaterally decided to revoke all internal composting privileges. He took that in and then acknowledged that he understood and believed I had made a sensible choice.
But when my 17 year old son discovered the missing bins, the fireworks began. “How can you do something like this to me?” He raved. “You are literally ruining my life!” “How can you be this cruel and unfeeling? I’m literally horrified.” (Literally seems to be the word of the week in my house).
While I totally acknowledge that feelings are real and emotions are nothing to laugh at, this reaction struck me as a bit over the top. “Are you serious?” I asked. “You’re melting down over compost?”
He left in a huff.
When he returned from school, he was still ruminating on my sick, twisted effort to destroy the planet. “Look mom, this is extremely important to me,” he stated with clear, calm coherence. “I’d like to make you an offer.”
Since I am unable walk away from this type of intriguing proposition, I say, “I’m listening.”
“I will pay you for the privilege of indoor composting,” He reasons.
“Hmmm,” I say with an open, inviting lilt. “How much?”
“I’ll give you a dollar,” he proffers.
I laugh heartily and recommend he come back when he has a serious offer to submit.
“Okay,” he acknowledges. “I’ll give you five.”
I walk away with an expression of disappointment at this lame attempt to negotiate a settlement.
“Ten?” he suggests.
Still I say nothing.
“Okay, I’ll give you twenty bucks for the tiny little freezer bin,” he pleads.
Since I could actually use the extra twenty, I offer my hand and we shake in agreement. “But,” I add, “Failure to empty the freezer bin will result in permanent loss of internal composting privileges.”
He nods in resigned assent.
“And,” I insist, “This twenty is non-refundable.”
It’s been several months since the compost accord, and I’m pleased to report that the Gettleman household is actively composting, recycling and garbaging according to all State and local government regulations and statutes of political correctness.