Friday, May 16, 2014

Not Actually Garbage

They come cruising through the neighborhood every Wednesday morning, which is our Trash Day.  We live in a two-bin county, where we set out one vast rolling plastic container for trash, and another smaller blue plastic rolling container for recycling.

But other stuff gets set out throughout our little burb, and among the piles of consumer-culture detritus are huge plastic bags of lawn clippings and grass clippings.   Before the trucks from the county shows up, another truck arrives.  It's a beat-up old Chevy S-10, dating back from when I was in high school.  In it, two guys.  They troll up and down the streets, and wherever they see a home with a pile of bagged grass out front, they snag it.

The S-10 limps through the neighborhood, its ancient suspension sagging under the weight of several lawns worth of bagged and discarded grass.

Because that trash isn't trash.

Mixed with the right stuff, it's eight to 12 months away from becoming nitrogen-rich dirt, perfect for gardening and enriching the unforgiving Virginia clay that makes up most of the soil in our region.  Those two guys are taking that earth-stuff to a garden center, where it's being turned right into the healthy soil you need to grow.

I've been feeling that lately, as we've begun composting.  I've always mulched our grass back into the lawn, but now I'm taking some of it to add to a growing pile of soon-to-be-dirt in our back yard.  Mowing the grass feels less like a pointless ornamental chore, and a little more like harvesting.  That mindset has started to change how I think about many of my yard-duties.

The leaves that fall in such wild abundance from the trees in our back yard aren't a nuisance to be carted away after we've spent another afternoon grumbling and raking.  They're "browns," carbon-rich and a necessary ingredient of healthy compost.   The eggshells and carrot-shavings and coffee-grounds that used to go into our kitchen garbage?  "Greens," to be mixed in deep to fuel the constructive decomposition.

So many of the things we discard or cast aside are not actually garbage.  You just have to see them through the right eyes.

Sort of like people, actually.