Eco-Fails: When Good Green Goals Get Ugly
Going green while saving green often means creative DIYing. Turn old pants into a new cute handbag! Make your own jam in the exact flavor you want! Grow your own food to feel self-sufficient! And DIY projects often have a nice bonus: You feel more resilient, skillful, empowered.
Except -- DIYing isn't so empowering if you suck at it.
One need only browse through Regretsy -- the website and now book that features the fugliest of craft site Etsy -- to know that green projects can go wrong, way wrong. A big chunk of Regretsy's fodder comes from would-be upcyclers -- who apparently have a lot more eco-awareness than ability. From a "crapeau" made from wrappers (right) to a clock made from a rusty cheese grater, trash from the landfill is often turned not into treasure, but uglier trash.
The same, sadly, goes for other eco-DIY projects. Take composting, for example. Ideally, composting lets you prevent veggie scraps from going to the landfill while creating free, rich, organic fertilizer for your backyard garden. Unfortunately, for Lisa of Condo Blues, composting created Dog Vomit Slime Mold. Yep -- that is in fact the name for the "yellow spongy, foamy and phallic looking blob" growing on Lisa's composter in Columbus, Ohio:
Boy did it ever stink! Bad.... Oh and just you [sic] gross you out a little further, when I emptied the bin I found a nice big family of maggots in my compost.
Then there's the case of eco-adventurer Leslie Richard, author of The Oko Box blog, who got a composting toilet. Now ideally, a composting toilet turns human waste into rich fertilizer while keeping things clean and odor-free -- no indoor plumbing required! In real life, environmentalists make human errors -- like waiting too long to empty the urine container:
When I finally at a glance saw that it looked 'almost' full I went ahead to dump it out.......
NOT realizing it was more then full & had just hit it's capacity at the top, filling up into the draining part of the toilet - when i took the toilet apart to open the lid and casually pull out the little urine holder the URINE EXPLODED, SPiLLeD out like a waterfall into the bucket that holds the container!!!!! THEN onto the floor! and on my hands!!
BLECh blech bleCh......
If the smell and experience wasn't bad enough.... When i started undoing the bolts to take the secondary container out to for washing off, the freaking bolts would fall off RIGHT into the overspill puddle of urine!! Gawd and Babee Jezuz!!!!
Then there are the eco-kitchen snafus. Cooking or baking yourself makes it easier to opt for local and organic ingredients, to avoid weird chemicals and processed crap, and to reduce unnecessary food packaging. And fellow BlogHer contributor Beth Terry, a.k.a. Fake Plastic Fish, especially wanted to reduce one-use plastic packaging -- which is why she decided to bake her own pita bread.
Alas, her baking inexperience meant that after misreading 1 and 1/4 cups of water as just 1/4 cup, Beth just kept following the recipe -- no matter that her "dough" did not feel like doughy, much less rise:
I put them in the oven to see what would happen. And what happened are these little bread stepping stones. The outside is hard. The inside is heavy and doughy. And the pocket… um… let’s just forget that they were supposed to be pockets....
Oh, and by the way, in my attempt to bake my own pitas in order to save plastic, I bought a plastic packet of yeast and didn’t even think about it until tonight!
Does this mean you shouldn't attempt eco-DIY projects? Of course not. Lisa got some composting advice and realized her pile was just too moist; she's since drilled more drainage holes into her compost bin and plans to pay more attention to the mixture. Leslie's still uses her composting toilet, heeding the big lesson she's learned: "MAKE SuRe the urine level doesn't overflow!!!" And as for Beth, well, she ate those stepping stones anyway. "They taste okay," was her verdict.
As for me -- Perhaps my biggest green failures have happened in my balcony garden, on which I tried to grow tomatoes for years. Number of tomato plants murdered: A couple dozen. Number of tomato plants that survived a surprisingly long time by growing into a twisted, mutated plant: One. Number of tomatoes produced: Zero.
Now, I grow chard.
BlogHer Contributing Editor Siel also blogs at greenLAgirl.com. Most of her eco-DIY projects turn out just fine.
Photos top to bottom: thrafthappy/Etsy via Regretsy, Lisa / Condo Blues, Beth Terry / Fake Plastic Fish