Potluck remains, food scraps, and paper napkins are a staple of many congregational gatherings. While the leftovers that don’t find a home are usually destined for the dump, some congregations are trying a more eco-friendly alternative.
When you are trying to dispose of a plate of food, the easiest way to get rid of it would be to throw everything – plate, utensils, food, napkins – in the garbage and be done with it. But many congregations have started recycling, leaving parish picnickers faced with a tougher task – what goes in the recycling and what goes to the landfill? Now, imagine – if you will – that some congregations are giving their members a third choice – diners at these community gatherings are faced with three, often ambiguously color-coded bins with little signage and even less guidance as to what goes where.
The point of this is to become more sustainable and to move the congregation toward a greener lifestyle, but is it worth the confusion? Some houses of worship seem to think so. By offering three means of disposal, they hope to divert waste from the landfill, where organic waste would decompose and release methane (a greenhouse gas) into the atmosphere. The new, third disposal bin returns organic waste to its natural life cycle; composting turns your leftover salads and coffee filters into nutrient-rich soil that works well for fertilizing gardens or for whatever soil needs you may have.
But what about the smell? There are some foods you should not compost: meat and dairy tend to stink up the site and attract unwanted visitors to the compost bin, so, unfortunately for the fish dinners and pimento cheese sandwiches, animal products should still be sent to the landfill.
Perhaps installing a compost bin is worth the confused and pained faces that people will make for the first few trips to the waste bins. After a while, the community will get used to the idea that, in this era of climate change and increasingly limited landfill space, disposing of our waste is no longer as simple as putting it the garbage can and forgetting about it. Taking the time to separate out our leftovers by compost, recycling and landfill may, over time, lead us to make more careful choices about what materials we use and how those materials have impacted and will impact the environment long before and well after the hour or two we used them for the holiday feast.
There are a variety of composters to fit your congregation’s needs; if you’re thinking of introducing the idea of a composter to your community, feel free to use KIPL’s compost proposal – all you have to do is fill in the blanks for the name of your congregation and figure out which composters will best fit your house of worship’s needs. Between chicken wire, churnable structures, and worm havens, there are composters for every home, house of worship, and institution, all to make becoming sustainable a little easier.
To download the proposal, click here.