I typically get flustered by reading the Urban Dictionary. Referring to this online resource typically means I’ve uttered an innocent, old-fashioned phrase that’s recently been twisted into a double entendre by crude modern culture standards and everybody sitting around the table discussing the locution, no matter which generation, ends up blushing.

Not so with The Urban Dictionary’s explanation of ecoguilt: “The feeling you get when you could have done something for the environment, but consciously made the decision not to.”

As we become more aware how even the little steps we take render a carbon footprint – either light or heavy – the opportunity for this acute green guilt rises. Social scientists say this self-flagellation is the by-catch of eco-consciousness.

It can strike you when you walk past the sign at the grocery store that reads “Did you remember your reusable bags?” It can arise as you sit in your idling car listening to an NPR story on warming oceans. And, it can present itself when you notice your morning banana is sporting a “From Guatemala” sticker.

It always hits me at the end of a family meal when my mother-in-law drops hints about composting. We’ve been having this discussion since 2007, when she put all the inedible but compostable scraps from one dinner we had while living in the United Kingdom in a bowl on my counter. I promptly put the bowl out under a willow tree for the fox who frequented our lovely English garden.

That’s right, folks. I, like you I am sure, have a dirty little eco-illogical secret. I’ve routinely bucked the composting trend. I’ve countered my mother-in-law’s pleas with a concerted effort to use every kitchen scrap possible in soups, salts and secondhand leftover concoctions. And I argued that since growing things that require good compost is not part of my skill set, the act of composting itself is a waste of both time and energy for me. But the real reason I haven’t composted is the fear of a fruit fly infestation in my happy place: my well-kept kitchen.

Given the propagation of sleek-looking countertop composting pails in kitchen shops, most of which come with a charcoal filter that fights odor and fruit flies; my request on this Mother’s Day for my children to help me build and fill our first raised bed garden; and the sheer ease with which one can compost with the help of local services like We Compost It! and Garbage to Garden, there is no longer any way I can avoid feeling guilty about not composting.

There comes a time in the cycle of guilt (I was raised Roman Catholic and am now a practicing mother, so I feel qualified to speak to this point) where you have to either let it go or let it motivate you.

The only thing left for me to do now is to show off my new bucket the next time the in-laws come to dinner.

Christine Burns Rudalevige is a food writer, a recipe developer and tester, and a cooking teacher in Brunswick. Contact her at [email protected]


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