The Compost Guy Takes on his Mother

Compost plays an important role in this Green Prophet’s life as has been written about in previous posts, and over the years I’ve become somewhat of an advocate.  I must have spoken with hundreds of people on the topic and have convinced a good many to at least try composting in their backyards, both in American and Israel.  However, I’ve never fully gotten through to my parents.  At least not fully. After enough conversations with my mother I’ve managed to induce a sense of guilt in her every time she throws away food scraps, though I haven’t successfully provided her with a composting option that meets her needs.  Recently, when hesitantly placing carrot shavings in the trash, she turned to me and said, “I’m ready.”

Now I’m on a hunt to make composting simple and easy for her. Like many people I’ve spoken to about composting in the suburbs, my mother is really into the idea but has a list of basic concerns:

1)    How will it look?  Especially in New Jersey, but also definitely in Israel, people are wary of neighborly judgment, and it’s important for yards, as small or big as they are, to look neat and orderly.  I’ve always been more of a let it grown wild kind of guy, but my parents aren’t so much.  My mother’s asked me for something that will not attract attention, and that doesn’t look homemade.

2)    Animals.  In Basking Ridge, New Jersey we have lots of deer, squirrels and foxes, and our backyard is essentially a forest.  We have no fences to keep anything in or out. Thus, my mother wants a closed container that won’t become a hot lunch spot for wildlife.

3)    Low-maintenance.  It can’t require too much tooling around or mixing, otherwise my parents and plenty of others won’t bother.  I’m searching for the bins that have an easy to open top and that have an opening on the bottom to extract the healthy compost.

As per my mother’s requests, I’m looking into professionally made compost bin that’s made from recycled plastic.  Since I move out in a few days I can’t commit to building a decent looking structure for her, and I want her to start as soon as possible.

I’ve been to every Home Depot and Loews in New Jersey, or at least spoken to them, and have been speaking with garden centers throughout the garden state. Most places just don’t sell compost bins.  In a few of the larger stores workers had not even heard of compost, which created a teachable moment.  One Latina woman shook my hand and said “thank you for saving our planet.”  And strangely a few places I spoke to had sold their only bin the very day I called.

At this point we may just order online, though I was trying to avoid the expense and the need to ship a product that already exists here.  However, now about thirty garden centers in New Jersey have heard at least one request for a compost bin, which may constitute demand in what I hope they consider to be an emerging suburban market.

The search continues…

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2 thoughts on “The Compost Guy Takes on his Mother”

  1. Jeff says:

    Compost girl, I understand your problem and face it myself. I had a conversation with my father tonight as we searched online for compost bins and he was similarly grossed out by the process. He claims to have composted when he was younger, though is very resistant to the idea. I don’t know how to sell it yet. I’ve spoken to wealthy housewives in suburban New Jersey and somehow converted them, though I don’t know what part of my spiel they liked. Even when Oprah had someone on her show to explain composting, Oprah showed disgust which some environmentalists think dealt a real blow to making compost mainstream. I just found this compost blog, http://blog.composters.com/, which may have some helpful tips.

    All I can say is keep on talking it up and let me know what works because I feel as if parents are the hardest audience.

  2. Compost guy…this compost girl faces a similar issue with parents in suburban New Jersey. My father actually built a wood-and-wire compost bin about a decade ago when he worked for a home improvement magazine that featured his creation.

    However, I find the real challenge in composting for us is not the vessel. It’s convincing everyone in my house that composting is not strange or gross but rather the most logical and easy step to take to reduce our landfill waste and return nutrients to the ground. I have put a compost container on the counter, but still wind up wondering daily whether to go dumpster diving in our kitchen garbage to retrieve the orange peels and soggy coffee filters.

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