I’ve found myself once again in the land of my people, my tribe, my non-blood family: Phoenix, Arizona. I lived here before. That part of my life was a constant struggle – I had a lot of learning and recovery yet to do, and I could not reconcile my internal and external worlds. Being unable to accept how much good was in my life, I was unhappy and always running away.
Those mishaps are in the past, and now I can focus on giving the Valley of the Sun its due credit. Here I am, as if for the first time, and seeing beauty everywhere – an adaptation fully supported by the fact that I live closer to the people who make my life amazing (my closest friends, if not in Arizona, can be reached in as little as a 3 hour flight!).
So my people are here, but Phoenix as a place supports initiation and activation. Residents make things happen, get things done, and don’t require a lot of attention for it. Believe me, it’s tempting to look no further than the 14,000 square miles of suburban sprawl and strip malls to build one’s opinion of the metro area. But given a little exploration and an open mind, the urban adventurer will find The Valley is a thriving breeding ground for creativity, transformation, and revitalization. Awesomely, municipalities are making it easier for residents to participate.
Since my living space has a garden and my work involves lots of cooking, I produce a good deal of compostable kitchen waste. A couple of days ago I set out to acquire a compost bin that was free or cheap – but Scottsdale (where I actually live) doesn’t offer anything like that through waste management programs. Shame on you Scottsdale – you’re supposed to be the most livable city! So I asked a friend who is deeply involved in community garden projects here, and she said I could get one at the Phoenix transfer station.
So…to the Phoenix transfer station I went. What an adventure! I mean who would think a landfill would be a fun thing to explore? But it was, and I’m grateful for it – the administrative offices were super cool. Industrial design (my fave) with vines growing all over the structures and landscaped in a minimalistic yet assertive way. Already talking to my soul. I met some foremen who told me I was in the waaaaaay wrong place so I went on to find my compost bin.
The city takes old garbage bins, the ones you’d have next to your house and set out on your curb for pick up, and converts them into composting containers. For 5 bucks anyone can get one. Right. You don’t have to be a Phoenix resident. You could come from Juneau or Detroit to get one if you want. Normally these wouldn’t fit into a Honda Civic, but I made it work.
This morning I finally got the thing set up, and it’s ready to go. No more tupperware containers full of coffee grounds and tea bags and banana peels. Here’s how I did it.
- Clear the spot. You want to place your bin in an area where you are likely to plant some day. Just in case. It’s ok if you don’t, that’s not the important thing. You want to remove gravel (most yards are full of it here) or whatever might be in the way. I used a garden hoe to do this.
- Add a layer of soil or dirt, especially if you live here and the ground is super hard to work. I used old potting soil from containers and other random dirt.
- Throw in the junk you’ve been saving in a tupperware (usually referred to as green waste). If you don’t live in the desert you might want to chop things like banana peels and melon rinds to an inch or so in size. Here I don’t go to the trouble because things decomposition happens super fast with the right attention.
- Add in some dried leaves or saw dust (referred to as brown waste).
- Mix it all up with a pitchfork, shovel, or hoe, and give it some water.
It’s pretty simple and it’s free soil – better than you can buy anywhere. And! You have total control over what goes into your garden. I believe everyone should be doing it even if you don’t have a garden. It’s ok though, if you don’t. Just learn more.
Check out this rad podcast about composting: Instant Everything – The Earth!
How to get your bin in Phoenix + more info: Phoenix Public Works Composting