Saving the Earth, One Pile at a Time.

One of the reasons my house is not a bastion of cleanliness is the fact that I am a recycling nut. I already came from a family that was afraid to throw anything away, and the mantra “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” was hammered into me so much during grade school that if scientists posthumously examined me I’m pretty sure they’d find a triangle made of arrows stamped on my brain.

When I clean my house instead of throwing things out, I put them into piles. There are piles for the recycling bin and piles for Freecycle and piles for Goodwill and piles to go to my friends and family, often consisting of items that my friends and family put in piles to give to me. And of course, nothing is as irresistible to a small child as a pile of things mother is trying to put away, so quickly my piles become spread over the carpet like leaves in the underbrush of the forest. If only carpet could be nourished by trampled plastic toys and crumpled paper the way the forest floor is nourished by rotten logs and animal carcasses, but then you’d have to add mowing your carpet to an already staggering list of chores.

Speaking of this, all food waste (except for meat) goes under my sink into a bucket made of biodegradable corn plastic that originally held organic spring green salad mix. From there the scraps go to the tumbling barrel composter in my backyard that my friend Josh built for me. I have been composting for over a year but I have yet to grow any vegetables because last spring I was busy growing an Alice. My husband refers to my composter as our “house fly farm” because every time we dump things into it we seem to disturb a thousand large, fat maggots. I’m not sure that this is supposed to happen, but I figure if my compost can support life then I’m doing something right, even if it is life in its most annoying variety.

I am not alone in my obsession with rescuing things from the trash. My husband jumped into a dumpster full of office waste to pull out a couple of enormous bags of plastic peanuts. These were sitting innocently in our house, waiting for us to ship out something elephant sized when the boys discovered them and decided to play Scrooge McDuck. I heard them screaming “I’m rich! I’m rich!” and found them rolling and diving into piles of "gold." Now you can’t walk two feet in my house without finding a plastic peanut, either on the floor or in my daughter’s mouth.

In my attempts to go greener I have a new challenge. Cloth diapers! I was recently given a large bag of homemade diapers, lovingly stitched by a mother of 7 children. They are polka-dotted or flowered, made from old bed sheets (now that's my kind of woman!)

In my research I learned that wool diaper covers are wonderful because they absorb moisture readily without feeling wet, they are naturally anti-bacterial and breathable. And the best part… you can just air dry them and only launder when they get visible soil! I have personally knitted about half a bib in my lifetime, and I could probably learn to knit a wool diaper cover but I need it now, and not in a year, which is how long I have been working on that bib.

Recycling to the rescue! I found this website with basic instructions for creating wool diaper covers out of sweaters from the thrift store! I purchased two wool sweaters at Goodwill for $2.50 each, one in neutral grey and maroon and one in bright stripes of red, black and grey. I brought them to my mom, who is a brilliant seamstress with the soul of a craftsman. She took the basic design and made it better with the additions of elastic and Velcro. It fits Alice well and I don’t even have to use diaper pins! And now the acid test…Alice woke up this morning with a wet, poopy cloth diaper and a dry sleeper! Mom is going to make a few more, and she is going to take the arms of the sweaters to make some diaper “soakers” with long pants!

So finally my recycling has resulted in some success, but now the question remains…what to do with all the wool fabric scraps left over from the cut up sweaters? I will probably put them in a pile while I try to figure it out, and my children will probably pretend they are slices of pizza and they will wind up strewn throughout the house and eventually become one with wall-to wall. Time to mow the carpet.