Don's Way of Living Green

I’m pretty pleased with myself ever since we moved to this new place.
The first thing that struck me was that I could have my own organic composting area. In my previous apartment, we didn’t have space at all so putting 10 pots on the balcony was simply out of the question.
Now that I have a bit of garden space, we’ve reduced the amount of rubbish we throw away each day.
We do this because we compost our organic materials.
I first learnt this technique from Don who teaches people how to recycle easily and successfully without much hassle.
When I think of traditional composting, I think of smell! It would stink to high heaven, right? And attract flies and ants. And maybe even birds!
Don rubbished my fears. He showed me his 10-pot system, a system that’s so simple yet works so beautifully it’s hard to believe! (See below for the link to the method).
So I am trying it out.
First you need a container to store your food scraps of the day. You only compost it at the end of the day so you ‘collect’ them first. I bought my clay container from a crockery shop in Carnavon Street for RM13. It is usually used to store salt (or in some hawker stalls, to store sauces for cooking) but I use mine to store food scraps (veggie peel, fruit peel, fish bones, chicken bones, anything you’ve eaten etc). Here’s how mine looks like:

A traditional Chinese salt container made of clay is used as a food scrap container
A traditional Chinese salt container made of clay is used as a food scrap container

As it has a heavy clay lid, I don’t have to worry about Margaret getting her fat paws into it or the scraps stinking all day.
This clay pot is also glazed on the inside so you can easily wash off oil and grease with soap and water. This pot is about 9 inches tall and sits next to my sink.
I toss all sorts of stuff into this – garlic skin, vegetable peel, fruit peel, stale bread, cooked leftovers, fish bones, chicken bones, lala shells, leftover rice.
Basically anything that you can eat, you can compost.
Next you need 10 pots of about 12 to 14 inches in diameter. Any cheap clay pots would do. We bought these for RM5 apiece in the local nursery as they were a bit chipped and cracked.
10 pots for composting
My 10 blue pots for composting...sue me, I

And then go here for the full instructions on how to compost. We usually compost the scraps at night, once dinner is done. So 1 pot should last you 3 days before you move on to pot #2.
In case you have a large family, go get bigger pots. (It’s only Nic and me but then again sometimes we eat a lot so we have a mountain of food scraps!)
I’m now filling up the 5th pot already. By the time I’ve filled the 10th pot, I should be able to go and dig the 1st pot and find all the food scraps disintegrated into fresh, rich soil.
Which I can use to grow the plethora of herbs I’ve been meaning to.
Which also means, my regular rubbish bin isn’t overflowing with stinky rubbish. It’s just mostly plastic wrappers which cannot be recycled.
Underneath my sink, I’ve put a collection container for recyclables such as glass bottles, plastic bottles, newspaper, cardboard and tins. These go to the nearest recycling centre every once a month. The nearest centre I go to is the SIMA Handicapped Centre just off the Jalan Tengku Kudin roundabout. Our ‘junk’ actually helps the disabled earn their living.
I always like dropping off my recyclables (they also take in usable household items like clothes and furniture) because the disabled are always so appreciative of the things you give. They light up with their innocent and generous smiles and never fail to thank you with a friendly wave.
If you have a small plot of garden, do try this system of composting. I assure you, if you follow Don’s method to the book, you won’t be smelling your food scraps.
Imagine if all of us who can do this are doing this – how much we can save in terms of landfill space and how much less leachate will seep into our rivers and seas. That’s why I say I am proud to be creating so little rubbish for the rubbish truck!

I'm a Moderate Greenie. You?

Don and Mylene had invited us to their ‘filming’ on Sunday afternoon.
I say ‘filming’ because they were going to be the stars of an eco short film to be made by Ong of PenangWatch with a grant from USM. The venue was at a three-storey building along Weld Quay.
When we arrived, the filming was in process so we quietly slipped into the audience, most of which, according to Ong are friends and ‘cast’ from his other short films. (Ong’s film on the Chew Jetty was one of the winners at last year’s Freedom Film Festival organised by KOMAS.)
Don and Mylene are firm friends of ours, despite the age gap. I enjoy their no-nonsense approach to greening the environment and their philosophy is, start with yourself and your home.
A good idea because far too many people want to hug trees, wear eco t-shirts and plant trees once a year but it’s actually simpler and easier to do it slowly, do it consistently and do it proudly in your home.
This couple got our attention so much so that we decided to sponsor them a website so they could do their eco-work and activities more efficiently.
After all, their premise is simple: they can teach you and your taman how to recycle and how to raise funds for charity at the same time. You turn trash into cash for charity.
A delightful 2-in-1 approach. You help Mother Nature, you help the underprivileged.
Anyway, they’ve been doing this for 12 years now. They give free talks if you invite them (although they don’t say it outright, it’s nice if your taman or group or factory can reimburse their petrol or toll lah, after all they don’t charge a single sen for teaching you their method which saves space, saves headache and won’t turn your garden into a dumpster!).
The filming will be edited down into a 15-minute segment and submitted to an eco film festival, according to Ong.
While we have listened to Don and Mylene’s passionate talks for a while now (and now that we’ve become more green and eco-friendly), it’s always great as a refresher!
But what really spoiled my day was meeting an overzealous lady who was part of the audience. She just came up to us without as much as a hello (because I didn’t know who she was!) and started unzipping a little black pouch to show us her steel chopsticks, her cutlery, her plastic packs, etc.
She completely bulldozed her way into the conversation (we were having a break between filming) telling us what SHE does in Japanese restaurants (“I don’t use the disposable chopsticks” – excuse me lady, I didn’t ask!) and that she does this and that.
She asked Nic, “So what do you use when you go to Japanese restaurants?”
Nic’s retort was priceless. “We don’t go to Japanese restaurants… we eat at home.”
That shut her up completely. I bet you she was waiting to pounce on us once we said we ate Japanese.
I spot a wannabe martyr immediately.
There’s persuasion and then there’s stubbornness. For her, it was the latter trait which I dislike completely. Oh and add lots of high and mightiness.
Sometimes, the message is clearer if we don’t push too hard. Push too hard and people go ‘bleah’ and refuse to budge.
That’s what I often see. When people start getting their socks in a knot about their newfound passion in life, they get overzealous and start being preachy to everyone. Like they’re the only ones who’ve seen the light. Like if they don’t keep bugging us, they’ll get no brownie points.
I mean, come on. Did she ask if we’re recycling? (That afternoon, we lugged a bunch of recyclables to the recycling centre in Tmn Sri Nibong.) Did she ask what sort of lifestyle we led BEFORE dumping her philosophy on us?
This very LOUD woman stood up to declare she rummages through the rubbish in her apartment complex to separate out trash and recyclables. Good for you, I say, but that’s how you choose to be a martyr. (I kind of suspected she wanted her 5 minutes of fame during the filming too! She complimented the speakers, Don and Mylene for their eco efforts but I dare say much of the rhetoric that afternoon was purely about her and how she’s helping save the world.)
I help spread the awareness by doing other things – sponsoring a website, saying Tak Nak to plastic bags offered at cashier counters, bringing my own bag when shopping and buying less consumer products.
What would you do if you met such people in your life?
OK, besides sighing with exasperation!

What would you do? What would you say?