“We don’t need a handful of people doing zero waste perfectly. We need millions of people doing it imperfectly.” -Anne Marie Bonneau
It happened as I stepped on the garbage can pedal to throw out a clementine bag. All of a sudden, I thought “Why am I doing this?”
I had just bought an orange mesh bag with a big blue plastic label whose only purpose was to hold some fruit until it got thrown away. This plastic was made out of materials mined from the earth, shipped to wherever the clementines were packaged, then shipped to my grocery store. The amount of pollution involved in its creation is incredible, and its destination is a landfill where it will wallow for centuries leaching its decomposition into the groundwater.
I’ve bought many of these clementine bags and other garbage packaging, knowing that it was wrong but thinking I had no choice. But this bag brought me to a realization—I do have a choice. It maybe involve no more clementines. We have control over our consumer spending, and over what we pressure manufacturers and lawmakers into doing. We vote with our dollars, and the step beyond that is directly agitating lawmakers and manufacturers.
I know we are all pressed for time. I deeply desire to slow down and I’m sure other people do as well. Much of our garbage is produced in our haste: you have to buy a gift and there’s no time to shop so you grab a weirdly packaged thing, or you have no time to make dinner so you grab takeout. I’ve done both—and recently, too.
Thinking back in time, people used to eat out of their gardens. No plastic was used, and no refrigeration. Food simply waited on the plant for people to eat it, and after that it was stored in a root cellar. Protein needs were met by meat stored in barrels and beans stored in cloth sacks. People didn’t take out the garbage because there wasn’t any. Yes it took a lot of time and know-how, but it may be healthy for us to incorporate some of that into our lives, as much as we are able in our fast-paced world.
Our waste-filled lifestyle is a new thing, not the way it’s always been. We can take cues from the past when envisioning the future. When I saw an infographic about how our refrigerator uses more energy than entire households in some countries, I realized that I wanted to get rid of my refrigerator altogether.
There, I said it.
It will take a lot of time and will be done in stages. Before I saw that infographic, using a refrigerator was just a fact of life, like having eyeballs. I’m human, so therefore I have eyeballs and a refrigerator. What else am I not seeing until I slow down enough to really look?
We are already making positive changes; the world after the plastic bag ban feels fresher to me, it feels like the world I want to live in. Can you imagine how good it would feel if our cars no longer produced greenhouse gases? If chemicals used in warfare weren’t used on lawns? What if we could live our lives without the guilt of burdening the planet?
Start noticing your garbage. Look past the film over your eyes that says “this is how it has to be” and question whether it’s true. If someone (maybe you) gets another genius idea for what to ban, pressure lawmakers and manufacturers to comply.
The world is big, but our choices shape it. We start in our own personal lives, and the effects ripple outwards, they have to. Let’s make a world we want to live in.
I am starting some of my plants from seed. A lot of them are trees and shrubs, which is a new world for me. Clockwise from top are Hazelnut, Echinacea augustifolia, Bayberry, Viburnum cassinoides, and in the center are persimmon. I have more, but they weren’t as photogenic.
I chose to grow some of my plants from seed out of sheer curiousity, and a desire to save money. Fall is an excellent time to start many seeds, as they can naturally get the cold treatment needed to break their dormancy, and sowing in spring will mimic their natural growing habit. My seeds are outside in pots getting their cold treatment (called stratification) right now.
Here are some reasons to grow from seed:
1. You want something that’s hard to find. I wanted stinging nettle. There is no way you will find that for sale at a nursery, because, well, it stings! Something uncommon like this may only be found in seed form. But if you want something like a Shasta daisy, just save yourself the time and buy a plant.
2. You want to save money. A pack of seeds averages $3. The perennial seeds I got were more, around $6. A potted plant at a nursery is several times the cost of a pack of seeds. If you are willing to spend the time and energy to grow from seed, you will save money. Keep in mind, though, that when all is said and done, your plants from seed could be more expensive than a potted plant if you factor in the time and energy you invested.
3. You want to experiment and are ok with some failure. I’m so curious about my seeds. I can’t wait to see how they germinate and grow, especially since I’ve never grown perennials (and certainly not shrubs) before. I have already accepted that many of my tiny plants will not make it, and I’m ok with that. For the ones that do, it will be worth it. Oh, and each plant from seed is its own genetically unique individual! How special is that??
4. You want to make sure your plant is organically grown. Many plants available for sale are grown with chemicals, for one reason or another. The cheaper the plant, the dirtier the growing practices probably were. Don’t be tempted by cheap plants at big box stores. Shop with local nurseries and ask how the plants were grown. They’ll be able to give you an answer. Spoiler alert: it’s extremely hard to find purely organic sources for perennials, so you may be disappointed. Native plants are more likely to be grown with fewer chemicals, since they’re used to our climate. But, if you grow your own plants from seed, you know exactly what went into them.
5. You can reduce transplant shock by growing in place. I have this dream of setting my newly germinated seeds in their spots in the ground as soon that little root tendril peeks out. If I plan my yard out entirely, maybe I can even place the seeds in the right spots without having to transplant. Most plant roots don’t like being disturbed, but most can handle a little disruption at transplant time. The reason most seeds are started in pots is that they may get lost in the ground.
5 reasons NOT to grow from seed:
1. You want a specific type of plant. Take fruit, for example. Apples, pears, plums, etc. are all selected for flavor. This means that if you plant an apple seed, you will most likely not get a delicious Macintosh. You’ll get some random fruit that probably won’t taste too good. Yes, some fruit varieties are born from chance seedlings. But do you have space to take that chance in your 60x20 foot suburban lot? I don’t, that’s why I’m buying grafted trees from specialty nurseries
1. Failure would discourage you and cause anxiety. The goal is to have a gardening experience that will bring joy and a sense of accomplishment. If babying pesky seeds only to have some of them die sounds like it would ruin your desire to garden, don’t do it! Go support your local nursery and buy potted plants!
3. You don’t have time to wait. Perennials started from seed usually take two years to flower. Trees and shrubs may take even longer to produce. Potted plants at nurseries are ready to flower and give the quickest results. A tray of plugs (tiny plants) could be an option if you’re looking to save money but get ready-grown material. Plugs will usually take a year to flower and can be mail ordered or ordered from a local nursery.
Where to get seeds
Sheffields—Trees, shrubs, weird stuff
Prairie Moon Nursery—native perennials (plugs too, I believe)
Sources for grafted fruit trees
Cricket Hill Gardens
Cummins Nursery (upstate NY)
Adams county Nursery (PA)
Trees of antiquity
Sources for herbaceous perennials and shrubs
Broken Arrow (trees, too)