The wood-shavings guy

My little neighborhood has an active community composting project. It’s in one of the small parks one sees around DC. About a year ago, I learned that I could bring my sawdust and woodshavings there to add to the compost. I had previously hesitated to do this because I didn’t want to navigate the bureaucracy of joining another community group and I didn’t fully understand why composting was so great.

On the latter point, I should note that I’ve been composting in my backyard since 2007. In fact, when we moved from our previous house, I packed the compost in a garbage can and moved it with us. I loved that I could create rich dirt for plants to grow from my household waste. However, the amount of wood waste I generate is so large that it can’t be contained in backyard compost project…The thing I didn’t fully appreciate is that compostable waste, when not put in a place where it will decompose properly, remains solid waste. So, all the times I bagged up my sawdust and tossed it, it has just contributed to a pile at a landfill. That bag will be there for a very long time…

Anyway, my buddy Ken told me they were desperate for “brown” material…essentially, leaves, twigs, etc., that you’re supposed to add to compost when you add your nasty household banana peels, coffee grounds, etc. He said my woodshop waste was perfect…he and his wife also explained the science of what I described above. So, I immediately began walking my bag of shavings over to the compost area whenever it was full.

This past weekend DC hosted the Rock and Roll half marathon…an annual event that closes roads and brings neighbors out to watch athletes in their prime (and other mortals determined to prove something, or die trying) run through our neighborhoods. Ken was on my corner, along with some of his composting pals. I stopped by their group was introduced as “the woodshavings guy…”

Anytime we are reduced to a title, it can be a moment of reflection (he’s so-and-so’s husband; he’s the guy that used to sell crack; he’s the furniture builder I told you about). It’s sometimes limiting, sometimes embarrassing, sometimes a moment of pride…but it always gives you a little insight into how you are viewed by those around you. In this case, I learned that for a small community (composters) I have an important role…I supply the brown material they need to make their dirt. I found a little joy in that…not pride or anything like that…I just saw the humor of the moment. That the few extra minutes of walking a bag of “trash” down the street contributed to something people work hard on… and that I have a new title I wasn’t even aware of…”the wood-shavings guy”