Moving away from Seattle has shown us the wide variety of things we took for granted. It’s been a full year, and they seem to become clearer each day. In the city, trucks and sanitation workers arrived every week at our house and took away our garbage, recycling, and yard waste. The water from our taps seemed as infinite as the hole into which it disappeared. Natural gas was piped directly into our homes from a city-wide network that I never really understood. Is there a giant tank somewhere?
These features are not unique to Seattle, or any city really. These services (and taking them for granted) are a standard part of American life. It’s easy not to pay attention to garbage when a truck reliably takes it away.
Moving to Orcas Island was a stark reminder of how one lives without the services of a city. While there are waste, water, and gas systems on the island, they are mostly limited to more densely populated areas around Eastsound, the island’s main commercial area. Living where we do, twenty minutes from town, means we’re on our own for the most part. We use the same electricity and internet networks as everyone else, but that’s about it.
This means that managing garbage, for example, is something that has become a bigger part of our lives. Because no truck arrives to whisk it away, we transport it ourselves. There is probably no better way to get acquainted with the waste you and your family produce than collecting it, loading it into your vehicle, and driving it to a transfer station (or what some call “the dump”). It works like this for us today…
We have a couple of small trash cans outside the guest house for garbage and pet waste. The status of these cans is our indication that a trip to the transfer station may be required. Inside, we collect recycling in large dog food bags and store them in a downstairs closet the dogs can’t access.
We don’t buy beer in bottles anymore because they are big and heavy. Instead, most of our beer comes from refillable growlers or cans that are rinsed, crushed, and collected in a paper grocery bag. We could just throw them in with the recycling, but we recently learned that separating them is more cost-effective for the organization that runs the recycling service.
Like most people, we usually wait until the last possible moment to take the trash away. The closet where we collect dog food bags of recycling is tiny and used for other storage, including our little chest freezer. Three or four bags can make fetching chops for dinner a bit more difficult. Five or six become a problem.
Yesterday, we packed the car full of trash and recycling for the trip. This was the first trip with new waterproof floorboards and a cargo liner that protects the back. The carpet ones were not going to fare well in this situation. This will be even more important when crabbing season comes around.
On the way, I asked Sachi, “How often do you think we do these runs?” She said probably every two months or so. An SUV’s worth of trash and recycling every two months didn’t seem too bad.