Wool scraps


Worms know shit! Literally, as in, their entire beings understand organic matter. Metaphorically, street-slang, as in: they are wise! They are wise to the ways of the world! The worms are telling us the truth. Today we're going to talk about the truth about microplastics and natural fibres in clothing, bedding and other household fabrics, that the worms are wise to. Are we finally willing to let them teach us?

Here's what was posted last week by the excellent and important "Region of Waterloo's Waste Whiz app:
"Did you know that dryer lint shouldn’t go in the green bin? Microplastics from clothing, blankets and other textiles are in dryer lint, which is why it’s not compostable. This item should go in the garbage."

Hmmmmm. Yes and no.

If you wrap yourself, your feet, your kids, your bed, your post-shower-self, your dog or cat ... 100% natural plant-based fabrics (linen, silk, cashmere, cotton, wool, flax, hemp...) THEN: TAH-DAH! The dryer lint will not contain "microplastics"! In fact, it will be 100% compostable. We feed our dryer lint to the hungry and smell-free vermiculture we keep in a tote under the kitchen table, and those amazing red wriggler worms eat it up and poop it out. They know shit and their shit is The Shit: worm castings are among the best possible compost on the planet. It is as good and as safe for them to eat the dryer lint snack as it is for them to eat the tops of carrots and the coffee grounds. Better, yes, if the carrots and coffee are not sprayed, but, hey, that might not be an option for you and your household budget. It's understandable! In the summer, the worms get the carrot tops from our own homegrown carrots, dirt and all. No spray, but we really have no idea what is in the soil around the carrots, do we? We do our best. In the winter, we buy bunched carrots from No Frills which are def. not organic or spray-free, but that greenery on top sure helps the illusion that we are warding off scurvy by eating them in December, in Guelph.

The worms seem to understand. 

One of the incredible hands-on learnings you get when you work regularly with your hands in soil, or in what-will-become-soil-if-dealth-with-properly; that is, vegetable scraps, vermiculture, home compost bins, is that you get to witness, day in, day out, the massive primordial power of nature -- of bacteria, fungi and worms in a wild dance with minerals, chemicals, long-chain proteins and the secret ingredient of all possibility: water. You can actually feel the dirt change from one kind of substance into another. You can feel the worms pushing, sliding, stretching, wriggling everywhere. You can see it happening, even if you just peek in every day.

Sometimes our vermiculture is so active that it is steamy warm above it! Well then, isn't that a great place to set your newly seeded tomato tray, or the bitter melon seedlings? They love and need that warmth and humidity. You can do an experiment: put one tray on the worm bin and another tray on the windowsill. See how they respond differently.

A vermiculture or a compost pile, then, isn't best conceived of and handled as if a convenient way to get rid of waste and hopefully get free soil. It's an entire semester's POWERPOINT slides in Soil Science 101. And they are really great slides! Every time my grandboyos come over, they ask if they can look at the worms? They are curious. Be curious! The worms will teach us some truths with our hands, eyes and bodies that we "already know" intellectually, but haven't yet digested the facts into wisdoms. Connaissance (book smart, data-clarity) but not the savoir (know that it is true, with intimacy and evidence affirmed by your head AND the rest of you). 

What we "already know" intellectually is that there is too much plastic on the planet. That we should cut back, where possible, our use of it and our dependency upon it. But are many of us able to shift to behaviour change around plastic use -- in this case we are talking about synthetic chemicals, petrochemicals in polyester-based fabrics.


With your hands in the dirt and soil, you also get to see, in a can't-argue-with-the-evidence sort of way, what simply cannot be digested by those same powers, no matter how hard they are working: PLASTICS. 

Yes, even the invisible microplastics in that dryer lint. (In this way, Waterloo Waste Whiz is totally right!). PLASTICS will be there, and the natural world "out there" can't really do much with it except move it around. You can see that is true by what the worms show you a month after you've accidentally given them a snack of plastic (say, the J-cloth, or the banana skin with that stupid sticker on it. (I'm holding out for mycoremediation, but that's another post, and it's down the road).

So, friends. There is a choice-juncture available to all of us BEFORE the dryer lint goes-into-the-waste-stream sad story: it's the choice of what fabrics we buy. We all have this choice. So we all have this responsibility. We are all involved, intimately and daily, in this way of being. We are consumers and wearers of clothes and sheets and towels and rags and dish washing thingys.

Do this. Right now. Get up & open the cupboard under the sink, open your linen closet and open your clothes' drawers. Let yourself focus on the materials in what we wear, what we dry ourselves with when we come out of the shower, and what we put on our beds to sleep on. Look at that tag on that T-shirt: Polyester? Acrylic? Look at the tag on those (@#)(&!*) expensive new sheets: Polyester blend. It's a petrochemical. It is durable, and relatively cheap to make. (child labour and externalized environmental costs of production and shipping notwithstanding) No wonder it popped into our closets the world over in the mid-1950's. It's understandable that we have, and do, wear these items. I have them. I wear them (see the tag on that cute little top below! Plastic! No wonder I was sweating my ass off walking home the other day, even in the snowstorm).

Hello hello? This is not the 1950 post-war panicky mid-west "Bigger Better Brighter!" epoch anymore. The globe is in a different moment. We need to see (& maybe we need to feel) the absolutely solid causal connections between these consumer choices of ours and the fact that the hard-working red wriggler compost worms simply cannot make soil out of some of those choices.

That nice fitting fancy bra from La Senza? Lookin' good, sweetheart. But, sad to tell ya: it ain't going nowhere after the party except to the Landfill. Where, it will remain intact, if flattened and grossly filthy for quite a number of years.

Uh-huh. The proof in the pudding (well, the soil) that polyester is not putting any of us on the path to a healthy planet. Yup, you. Yup, me. Yup, here and now.

Now is not too late to redial our choices as consumers. Numero uno: buy less, for goodness sakes. Even just one fewer item a year is one fewer. And, numero duo: whenever you purchase anything that will go on your back or under your butt or on the table for a lovely fancy meal, buy only 100% natural items. When you write your wish list to Santa or the Tooth Fairy, or your birthday or bringing a wedding gift to a new couple...Buy only 100% natural fabrics. Yes, they can be more expensive. Honestly, that's the real cost of ethical production, shipping and sales of things the Earth loves. Plus, they usually last longer.

For our part, we go to Thrift Stores or Consignment stores when we need something, like some new onesie pyjamas for the squirt, or bedsheets that don't have period stains on them. It can take a few trips. We understand. Lots of us don't have time for that sort of scrounging. Or are grossed-out by second hand items. Well, okay, here's a getaround: let "Thrift Store" peeps (like us) know what you need: men's dress pants, grey, size 34 waist, 36 long. Done. A pale blue linen square 4 x4 tablecloth? Done. I always have a list with me when I do my rounds of the Thrift Stores. Numero 3: be quick to pass along the non-plastic non-worn clothes when you are done with them: to friends, or Community Clothes' Closets, or back to the Thrift Stores. Keep these small loops of wool moving in little, local circles.

We can make the change, and make it pretty easily.
We have to.

The worms are telling us the truth.


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