Last week a friend who is a carpenter was tearing down my old, leaky front porch and putting in a new one, as well as replacing the boards on the eaves of the house that are overly weathered. He found a wasps’ nest, which meant he and his laborer were now in danger of being stung if they went further, removed the nest and the rotten wood. “Do you have any wasp spray?” he asked. I thought that I would, but I couldn’t find any type of bug spray. I used to use it when I’d occasionally have ant trails in the house, but using it around my kids bothered me, and I discovered that the problem was more permanently taken care of by finding where the ants were coming in and covering it over with painters’ caulking.
I don’t know of any non-lethal ways to handle wasps’ nests – but I figure that wasps are probably good pollinators. I needed a quick solution, so that the guys could get on with the work I was paying them to do. They had dealt with this problem in the past, and wasp spray was how they would handle it. So we got the wasp spray. My friend recognized the can as the one they usually use – so I had fulfilled their request, which felt good.
Here it is a week later and the can of spray poison is on a high shelf – next to the fish tank, of all things. One of my sons in a fit of frustration threatened to spray it at his brother earlier this morning. I’d leave it outside in a shed, but the aerosol can should not be stored in the heat created by the Arizona sun as summer approaches. I begin thinking about how I do not like poisoning things – not even wasps. I do not like spreading poison in and around my home. But what other solution was there? I am 38 years old, and in my experience, the simplest way to deal with an insect infestation is with poison! I may have modified that idea with the insects that periodically invade my home, but outside my home I have no clue.
And this is one of the biggest challenges we face in creating a society upon sustainable principles. We don’t know how to do it. I find it similar to learning a foreign language. When you are learning a foreign language you go to speak and then realize that you can’t use your native tongue, and must instead search for the words in a foreign tongue. It can be very frustrating to not be able to communicate quickly!
The same goes for sustainability. We stumble upon a problem – or it may be a simple occurrence, such as removing something new from packaging and then needing to do something with the packaging – and the old way of dealing with it is so simple, it is habit, it is known, it is familiar. But living sustainably requires us to stop, think about the results of the familiar solution, and then devise a new solution based on principles of sustainability, test it out, and then revise it if it didn’t work well.
It is doubly difficult to do this when so many of us are operating under limited budgets and a strained economy. However, there is a silver lining.
I have a cat – she is nine years old. I’ve used clumping cat litter with her for most of those 9 years. Recently it occurred to me that it might be useful to compost “her business”. So I looked into that kitty litter. It clumps because it has bentonite in it. Bentonite has dust which isn’t very healthy for kitty (or for me) to breathe, and it apparently cannot be composted. What can? Wood based kitty litters can be composted. I still haven’t found a local store for “wood stove pellets”, but I looked up the price online and discovered not only is it compostable, for the volume, it is about a quarter of the cost of my usual kitty litter. And there is the silver lining – many of the ways to live more sustainably are actually simpler and less costly ways of living.
At Target the other day I found pine pellet kitty litter that was about half the price per volume of the usual kitty litter I purchase so I decided to try it out and see if kitty liked it. I mixed it in with the usual litter, and kitty has done her business as usual. But my kitty litter scoop catches the new pine litter pellets, rather than letting them fall through. Back to the design board. I need to find a scoop that allows the pellets to fall through.
This is why although I feel urgency when I read about or contemplate environmental concerns I temper it with knowing that huge change must be accomplished in small steps, otherwise it becomes overwhelming. It took about a year of working at it twice a week to be able to push back into plank pose from chattaranga in yoga. Sustainability is no different. But it is not something that we face alone. Everything I learn I can share with others; everything others learn they can share with me. Together we can face these challenges and make the needed changes.