Mosquitoes, Compost and Pizza

I jammed the pizza box into the garbage bag and tossed it in the garage. The biodegradable pizza box from tonight’s dinner is made of cardboard. I stuck it in a plastic bag. The recycling people won’t take it. The grease stains somehow disrupt the recycling process. The waste management company won’t take anything unbagged. That pizza box, if I left it in the back yard, would disappear in three months. Protected by its mandatory plastic cover in a landfill, it might last a five hundred years. The bag itself doesn’t decompose. It disintegrates into microplastics which over time will make their way to the ocean. Fish food for the future.

Today, Susan took a vacation day. Instead of working, she gardened. Really, she ungardened. She filled bags after bag with groundcover torn from our beds. She eliminated a meadow. We’re planting a lawn. Seems today, were the opposite of environmental. We’re anti-environmentalists. I’ve read countless articles about how a varied plant environment better supports the natural world. Spiders spun their webs among our sprigs. Pollinators swarmed our wildflowers. Toads and snakes lurked beneath the tangle of ground creepers. The garden was alive. If things go well. By mid-summer, it will all be grass—green grass, devoid of life.

Just as I wrote last summer in my blog post An American Obsession, it’s time to clean up our property. We’re beginning our long-term countdown to moving away from Gettysburg. It’s a vague plan. We’re not sure where we’re going, and we have no idea when, but we’re going. Our kids will soon move away for good, we’re nearing retirement age, and our nonprofit management careers are easily transferrable to other communities. Eventually, we need to sell our home, and in our conservative area, an attractive property means a green yard.

Currently, our backyard’s a disaster. There’s that overgrown garden, extending twenty-some feet from the back of the house. At one point it was crops. I hated farming. Too much work for too little yield. A groundhog ate all of our lettuce.  We turned it into a wildflower meadow.

The rest of the yard is strewn with mountain bike obstacles. There’s a twenty-foot stretch of dozens of awkward and uneven rocks—all weird angles with wheel-sized divots to navigate. Three tall logs, uncomfortably close together, to hop, one wheel at a time, and ride over. And I built a forty-foot “skinny,” a line of cinderblocks laid end to end to ride like a balance -beam. Whenever I complete a bike ride, I roll around to the back of my house and take a lap or two around the yard.

It’s a complete pain in the ass to mow.

But I’m not ready to let it go. The garden, sure. I’ll throw out grass seed next month and fertilize frequently throughout the summer. As much as I hate to get rid of our environmentally friendly meadow, I know what sells. But the mountain bike obstacles? I’ll keep those to the bitter end.

When Sophie and Eli were young, our backyard was their playground. I attached a raised platform, known as the pirate ship, and swings to the three massive, sixty-year-old pin oaks in the corner of our yard. Tiger mosquitoes hadn’t migrated this far north yet, and the kids could play outside for hours. Since then, first drought, then inundation with too much subsurface ground water took out all three trees, and the mosquitoes arrived. Now, to spend more than two minutes outside requires bathing in DEET.

With mosquitos swarming 24/7, our back yard became a fairly useless place. A screened porch sits off the back of our kitchen, and I rarely venture beyond that. Except for my quick mountain bike loops, the only time I spend out back is doing chores—mowing or gardening, slathered in insect repellant.

There’s really no reason I can’t set up a composting area in our back yard specifically for pizza boxes. We already have a small cage in the yard for garden scraps, although we’re hesitant to compost groundcovers, especially lamb’s-ear, which we have in abundance, due to its propensity to take root anywhere it settles. I’d like to see if I can turn our pizza box landfill waste into arable soil.

When today’s snow stops falling, I’ll fish that pizza box out of the trash, build a chicken-wire cage, and start my experiment. As a family, we’re obsessed with pizza—typically ordering carryout a couple times per week. When you add in the homemade pizza we make weekly, something close to half our meals are pizza. If I’m going to take action for the environment, pizza is a great place to start.

I’ll report back next year with an assessment about how well it went. If I can keep a hundred-plus pizza boxes out of the landfill, I’ll feel that I’ve done my part for one tiny piece of the environment.

Photo by Alexandra Gorn on Unsplash

28 thoughts on “Mosquitoes, Compost and Pizza

  1. it’s not easy being green. Sounds like your backyard was a lot of fun for your kids when they were growing up. Do you plan to stay in Pennsylvania when you move? And I could eat pizza a few times a week as well…

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Tearing the pizza boxes down will help, obviously. Our waste management company is moving toward accepting greasy cardboard in the Green Bin with yard waste and all kinds of food scraps. I’m waiting for my free mini bin to hold scraps cuz Zeus already digs in the trash for the trays & plastic wrap of steak… naughty dawg!

    I think leaving the back yard “wild” won’t hurt. Whoever buys it can put in a pool, or whatever.
    Grass… ugh! But you’re right. Nothing says “American Suburb” like a nice green lawn🙄🤦🏼‍♀️

    Liked by 2 people

    • Our wast management company is moving the opposite way, only accepting plastic if it’s a bottle. I keep reading that most of our recycling winds up in the landfill and it makes me wonder – what’s the point. We’re pretty committed to getting a ‘normal’ shrub garden up against the back of the house. The front yard is absolutely insane with wild flowers and groundcovers and native azaleas. Who ever buys our house can deal with that themselves.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Just this week we received a new wheely bin. It has a bright red lid and it’s for landfill. That sounds retrograde, doesn’t it? But the actual change is that the green-topped bin for garden waste will soon take food waste as well. Presumably that’s where soiled pizza boxes will go, mingling with the grass cuttings from all the green suburban lawns and the bones from chops and chickens. It’s a good idea, bypassing plastic and sending more organic waste back into the earth. But I can’t help wondering what it’s going to be like in mid-summer when there is a week of 40C days. I’m thinking of writing to the council to ask if they are distributing nose-pegs as well.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Your wildflowers and azaleas, pine trees, sound dreamy. I love the “cottage garden” gardens, wish we could have one. Someone will love it.

    It’s delightful that you will have a pizza box compost pile AND that you eat pizza at least twice a week! Love it! (I used to do that almost until the dietary happenings at our place in the last 6 months or so.) Now I buy it about once every couple of weeks. Can’t give it up completely.


    • Two things in my life I can’t imagine living without: coffee and pizza (but not together). A couple of years ago I toyed with the idea of going vegan but then realized that pizza would be out. I lasted one day. You know that question “If you could only eat one food for the rest of your life…”

      Liked by 1 person

    • My neighborhood is full of big green lawns. I think in general, they are pretty boring. It bugs me that we are now growing a lawn out back, but I think it’s the right move. Plus, it will be more room to ride my mountain bike.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I gave up coffee for Lent, it’s brutal but I needed to stop. My husbands favorite food is pizza, tonite we got something called bar pizza it was very good, I admire Susan’s gardening efforts, I’m too overwhelmed by it, some people say it’s relaxing, not me.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Exciting time but bittersweet too, right? Amazing to me how many people are making changes right now–calling a new place home. I hope you find just the right place. And that pizza box bit–I have always wondered why the grease makes them unusable!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. In my house, I think we all could do a little better with our recycling habits. I’m not the best rinser and everyone else seems to feel that trash can go in either bin. I’m constantly separating when I go to our toters. My parents – sheesh – their township doesn’t recycle and they have no feelings about constantly tossing used water bottles in the trash. When I mentioned recycling I got something along the lines of they “don’t understand that stuff.” It will be interesting to hear about the pizza box experiment. Hope it works out!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I used to be great about recycling and composting. I’ve gotten much lazier recently, and I keep learning about more and more plastic things that our recycling company excludes. I do get stressed out when someone throws out something that is clearly recyclable like a plastic bottle or a soda can. I dropped Sophie off at the Philly train station this morning and I waved as I passed your house (not that I know where you live, so it was all metaphorical).

      Liked by 2 people

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