The headlines today are enough to make me want to stay in bed.

Charlie left for class at 6:45am and Nia was up at 7am asking for an Anna and Elsa snow globe making kit she saw on YouTube. Peter has graduated from Minecraft to Skyrim and instead of coming up to tell me “Good Morning”, he rolled out of bed and hopped on the PlayStation. While I am low-key happy with their level of morning independence, they really need to find better ways of occupying their time. Another project for another week.

Direct Fire

Gas prices have hit $7.00 a gallon. This alone will bankrupt us come winter. Last year, our bills were around $400 a month for running the boiler. Now I am trying to calculate how many trees we need to cut down to have fire wood to get us through the year. I don’t think we’ll have the funds to add more insulation or install new windows before then either. Another project for another week (I feel like this should be a running list).

Indirect Fire

Back when my husband and I served in the army, there was a huge push for recruitment. The requirement of having a high school diploma was down graded to a GED. I think I had to have a waiver even then for this provision. Others I served with had enlisted by court order because the alternative was jail. It was a mixed pot of true post-9/11 patriots and a whole lot of people with no other options.

A couple of weeks ago, there was an announcement that even the GED requirement was going away. They’ve gone through a few years of pushing people out of the military and downsizing. Now the gates are open to our “all volunteer” army.

If they don’t get the amount of recruits they need, next the age requirement of younger than 35 will be gone. Then, they will recall everyone from inactive reserve. If crazy desperate, call back those of us who served our “free draft” time. Then they will open the draft again. Disparagingly only to men, though. All of this to build back the fighting force. Thankfully my kids have another decade before being eligible. World Wars never last more than a few years.

Uh-huh

If I was called back into service, I would swiftly lose my shit. It’s been eight years since my final contract ended and I still have nightmares about in-processing. I guess if there was a national guard support hospital, I could do that close to home, but otherwise, no. I did my time and went to war and lost too many friends.

*feeling my blood pressure rise just thinking about it*

Trash Class

So today, I am starting over. Again. It’s a new day and I can do that. These steps, no matter how passive or small, are things I can control. I am helping the environment and being prepared. Now to enlist my own recruits.

Charlie understands my quasi-obsession. He agrees with my reasonings and my plans to ease into sustainable living versus going full on homestead. His hard stop is anything to do with livestock or additional animals, including cats and dogs, in general.

Reducing trash is okay with him, but with some resistance. “Why do they make recycling like the most inconvenient thing? If it was easy, then fine. Yeah. Let’s do it. But this is a lot of work just to throw stuff away.”

As if I needed another reason to feel like garbage about my garbage. However, I will not carry this burden alone. The kids are now in charge of trash.

This afternoon, I hosted a “Trash Class”. Peter, disgruntled about having to pause electronics, tried his best to be uninterested. “I already know this stuff, Mom. I already know what you’re going to say.” After forcing a captive audience, we began.

“Let’s look at the things in our trash can and decide if it belongs there.” I pulled open the trash cabinet with one dish-gloved hand, because that’s all I could find.

“What is this here?”

“A paper towel.” They answered in unison, so I had to wait until the jinx game was played and a winner determined before I could continue.

“What is it made out of?”

“Paper,” Peter, the jinx winner, answered proudly.

“Yes! Is there something we can use other than a paper towel for the same purpose?”

“Plastic?!” Nia squeaked.

She loves school so much and her breaking a vow of silence was ignored. That’s how I knew Peter was interested in finding the answer, too.

“Hmmm. Can we use plastic to dry our hands?”

“A cloth” -Peter.

“A real towel!” -Nia

“Exactly! And we already have some that look just like paper towels.” We’d tried incorporating unpaper towels when we lived in our tiny apartment waiting to buy a house. This will be an easy transition because we’re already familiar with them. “We can use these over and over instead of paper towels that you have to throw away every time. Did you know, we can also compost paper?” (another project for another time).

“What else can you compost?”

Peter is so cute. He taps his finger on his chin. “Rotted fruits and vegetables.”

“Yes!” I was actually impressed.

“Banana peels!” Nia added.

“Yes! Unless we have banana water for our plants, right?”

“When I eat a banana, I can put the peel on the counter so you know I ate a banana and you can put it in the banana juice.”

Basically, I just soak peels in water and pour them on the garden food plants for potassium and whatever other nutrients there are. I saw it on TikTok.

We went on to discuss not putting meat, cheese, or bread (I need to check on bread) into the compost because of stink and bacteria. Somethings can be given to the dog, but otherwise they CAN go in the trash.

Next I started pulling out all the soft plastics from the trash. We are great about recycling cans, glass, and #1 and #5 plastics, but wrappers and ziplock bags get us in trouble. I did have to correct some recycling mistakes like rinsing out cans and bottles and removing the outer soft plastic labels. 

Then Nia said something that struck me dead in the heart. “Mom, if we know how to do all of this, why do we just keep throwing things in the trash?” At 5 years old, she basically held up a mirror and called me on being a lazy, wasteful jerk. Which was basically my answer, without the cuss words. I told her sometimes its easier to just throw things away and not worry about what’s happening at the dumpster since we don’t see it (or smell it) at our house.

There are times when being a mom is hard and rewarding. Today was one of them.

Our final bit of class ended with the announcement and explanation of EcoBricks. I’ve decided, after discussing the idea with Charlie of course, that for our soft plastics, instead of throwing them away, we are going to start making EcoBricks. Essentially they are dry plastic bottles filled with dry soft plastics like fruit snack wrappers and grocery store bags you can’t recycle. You pack them as tight as you can with a stick and when you have enough, you can build things with them using a cement mortar.

This revelation made my MineCraft kid crazy excited. We talked about building raised garden beds, a root cellar, retaining walls.

“Mom, at first I wasn’t into all this trash talk, but now? Yeah! Let’s do it.”

They passed my pop quiz on what to do with their trash when they were done eating or had a snack and that was that.

Then I forced them to go outside and play while Charlie was cutting the grass.

Overall, I feel a lot better than I did this morning. The New York Times  headlines an hour ago were about climate change. I fretted a little less knowing I’m taking a step to help and raising a couple of humans to do better. The EcoBrick idea makes me feels less icky about buying their favorite snacks and I can forego having to learn Little Debbie recipe hacks for the time being.

Tomorrow we start practicing this for real. I’m not going to sort through the trash already in the bin. I only have one dish glove, after all.

Until later.

Beth Pedersen

Want to influence the story? Tell me about your best end-of-days minded trash tips or resources? What are your favorite plastic-alternative products? Have products you’d like mentioned in Beth’s journal? Send me samples—or hate mail to PO Box 336 Mars, Pa 16046.

This is a fictional character in a fictional world navigating the collapse of society. This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, business, events and incidents are the products of the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.

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