Recently, I was reading an article related to the Wethersfield Indian Massacre of 1637 and the
archaeological excavation that was being conducted at the Webb-Deane-Stevens Museum in Wethersfield, CT. The dig was undertaken prior to the construction of a new visitor/education center and over the course of two years over 19.000 artifacts were uncovered. The objects unearthed represent centuries of human occupation of this site. All manner of detritus have been found including broken dishes, furniture hardware, nails, medicine bottles, wampum beads and food remains. The garbage of over 400 years, layers upon layers, all in one small landscape, revealing the lives of folks long gone. (Learn more about this project by clicking on the image to the left.)
I put the article down and headed out into our yard. I walked around with an eye towards deciding where it would be that I would place a garbage dump in our yard if I had to. Yikes! A scary thought, but an important one. Based on human history, our inclination would be somewhere in the backyard as far from the house as possible and yet still accessible. For us, due to the extreme slope of our yard this could simply involve tossing our garbage off of one our decks. But this approach, although pretty convenient, would not be very sound as once the chicken bones and olive jars stopped bouncing and rolling down the hill, they would come to rest either at the edge of the lake or actually in the lake. Yuk! I concluded that the only logical location would be the side yard, tucked behind the ever-expanding patch of Black-eyed Susans and adjacent to our compost bin. If our garbage pile was situated carefully, it could be hidden from our view and that of our neighbors, but for how long?
What if curbside pick-up of trash and recyclables were to come to a screeching halt overnight? Everything that can be thrown into the compost bin would continue to transform themselves into garden-enriching soil, but what would become of the tin cans, cereal boxes, yogurt cups, plastic packaging and animal-based food waste? We do our best to limit our purchases of processed and packaged foods, but we still produce a bin of recyclables and a bag of garbage each week. Very quickly, I fear, our garbage pile would outgrow its designated area near the Black-eyed Susans and jeopardize their well-being as well as our relationship with our neighbors. My sister, my brother and I have often joked that our parents saved and reused EVERYTHING. We thought of this as a folly or an outmoded, Depression Era holdover, but I think the last laugh is theirs as we disappear under the mass of waste we generate. "In your own yard" garbage disposal might be just the ticket we need for entry into a more sustainable lifestyle. Anyone need any empty yogurt containers or flattened pieces of cardboard? My collection is growing.