Better Paganism Through Composting and Tree Planting

Is environmentalism part of Paganism? Part of Wicca?

Many Pagans believe strongly that environmental conservation is a necessary part of their devotion to the Goddess. However, if you go to Pagan festivals where there are many traditions represented you’ll find that others do not.

I was going to write this all not-judgy, and neutral, analysing the difference based on whether people believe in the Gods as literal beings or abstract concepts, or whether you are a religious Pagan who integrates your spirituality into your everyday life, a ceremonial magician interested primarily in energy workings and magick or a celebratory or ‘mead and cape’ Pagan. This is true, but in my opinion, not very interesting.

The thing is, I’m very solidly in the religious, the Gods are real camp and so it’s hard for me to understand how someone can sincerely believe the Earth is sacred but not feel the need to make their actions both inside and outside sacred space match those beliefs.

If find that I am much more motivated to do a thing if it’s part of a devotional practice. In service to Mother Earth / Gaia, I compost everything I can, participate in my city’s recycling program, have a solar panel on the roof of my house that heats water for bathing, and abstain from using household or yard chemicals that are harmful to the water and soil like bleach and pesticides. I believe my religion requires this. I have chosen not to birth any children, which saves our overpopulated Earth from lifetimes and generations of human consumption.

But I’m also a bit of a hypocrite. I eat meat, which is one of the biggest causes of greenhouse gas emissions (particularly beef, because cow burps contain a lot of methane). I also drive a gasoline powered car, albeit a gas-sipping smart car.

All of us make choices according to our values and our willingness to sacrifice for our Gods.

I think its far better to start and be imperfect, than to do nothing at all. In that light here are some environmental devotions for Pagans to start with:

Plant trees – Plant trees in your yard or other land you have access to if you can. It could be a live Yule tree you ritually plant each spring. Growing plants pull carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, preventing it from contributing to global warming. The trick is, though, that when those plants rot or burn, they release the carbon dioxide again. In order to keep the carbon dioxide out of circulation as long as possible, plants that will live a long time and therefore have a body that will not rot for a long time are best, making trees a good choice.  For every bonfire or campfire you have, make sure you take responsibility for that CO2 you released by  planting a fast growing tree to remove it again.

Compost – How the plant and animal matter you discard rots makes a difference to what kinds of gasses are released and therefore to how harmful that rotting is. Composting releases CO2 (carbon dioxide), which contributes to global warming, but that same plant or animal rotting in a landfill, where it is usually buried underground without oxygen, rots in a different way that releases methane. Methane does a lot more harm from a global warming persective. Think composting is a lot of work? Check out my composting for lazy people post.

Planting and Composting are Very Pagan

There are lots of things you can do to honour Mother Earth, but I find planting and composting to be a good fit for Pagan devotional practice. Tree planting works well for new beginnings magic, atonement, recognizing births or prosperity magic. Composting connects us to the life-death-life cycle, and the recognition that what we let go, can come around to nourish us. It can also make concrete the process of letting go of what  no longer serves us and ties us back into the full circle of nature.

Composting for Lazy Witches

No-Effort Composting

Rodent Proof ComposterComposting doesn’t have to be hard. I have composted for 30 years, and here the simplest, lowest work way to do it in a city yard.

Buy the biggest composter that you can afford and have space for. In composting size matters. The bigger the diameter of your composting chamber, the faster your material will compost.

A purchased composter will likely be made from nylon or plastic and have a perforated bottom. These are designed to be rodent resistant. Get some zap straps / zip ties and secure the base tightly to the body of the composter and secure any hatches in the sides or base closed. This will help prevent rodents from getting in to your composter, which is the reason most people are afraid of composting all the materials they can.

Put everything that will rot into your composter – meat, coffee grounds, citrus, cooked food, food-soiled paper, animal manure, everthing. Don’t turn it, stir it or aerate it. If it gets dry (which slows it down), put some water in it. If it smells, put some dry plant matter like leaves or paper on top of the pile.

Hate cleaning smelly compost buckets? Me too. I buy paper compost bags and then just throw the whole bag in the composter. You can buy plain paper ones that will line your compost bin, or wax lined ones that you can used without a bin.

Don’t worry about your composter getting full. It will rot and the pile will reduce on its own.  I’ve lived in my home for 15 years and have had to empty my composter once. If yours does get too full, it’s probably too dry or you haven’t been putting your leftover food in it as well as leaves. If you fix that and wait a few weeks, it will shrink down again. If it is truly getting food, getting a second composter will allow you to give the first one more time to shrink. It will also let the composter ‘finish’ so you can use the soil.

Other benefits of composting are:

  • You are preventing methane (a very powerful greenhouse gas) from entering the atmosphere.
  • Your garbage will no longer be smelly
  • You will have some nice soil to put on your garden.
  • The Goddess will know you walk your talk when you say the Earth is sacred.

And doesn’t that feel good?