Dear Umbra,

My girlfriend and I are having a bit of a disagreement. When she is in the kitchen she uses paper towels to wipe her nose. She then proceeds to put the used paper towel into the compost bin in the kitchen. I’m sure that the microbes and worms in the compost pile could care less, but when I empty the bin into the pile it is gross to have to remove the snot-filled paper towels from the container. She doesn’t understand why I find this to be gross. Thoughts?

Matt D.
State College, Penn.

Dearest Readers,

woman blowing nose

Blowin’ in the bin?

Spring has sprung, and I’ve been doing a little Spring Inbox Cleaning. There are a lot of letters that I haven’t known what to do with, stuffed in the back of the Inbox Closet (as it were). As I looked over these letters for the umpteenth time, I remembered: Just because I don’t know what to do with them doesn’t mean someone else — youse guys! — wouldn’t find them useful or fun. So here we are in our semi-annual review of questions strange and/or detailed, to which I have short answers. I did not make any of these questions up.

Firstly, Matt, I agree. It is gross to have to touch someone else’s used snot rags. It may even be grody, and is certainly unhygienic. I see three options: You could man up and wear gloves. You could fashion an anti-snot-composting argument based on the prohibition against composting greasy substances. But I think regular old courtesy should suffice. If she wishes to compost her snot rags, she should maintain a separate container for her collection and take the composting of said collection on her own shoulders.

Aaron from D.C., you are not alone in puzzling over the Which Is Better Battle, pens vs. pencils episode. I have written about pencil stubs in the past (amazingly), but they, too, persist in bothering some of you. In your office supply cabinet, Aaron, first choose refillable pens and pencils. If you are forced to use a non-refillable writing implement, try not to lose it before it dies. Remove and chuck ferrules from old wooden pencil stubs, shred the stubs, and use them for pathway mulch (an Original Umbra SuggestionTM). If you’d like more information, here is an older but still useful article from Green Seal all about writing implements — they didn’t put this issue into the back of the closet! It recommends eco-preferable pens, pencils, and papers.

To Walter in Illinois, who wants to know which brand/type of air freshener is best: Choose fresh air. It’s free, nonproprietary, readily available in most localities just through opening a window, and is rumored to have myriad health-giving properties. Commercial air fresheners, on the other hand, contain chemicals that do not tend to give health. For stubborn odors, cleaning with our old friend baking soda can also help.

We end today’s jumble sale with Katy from Austin and her concern about her fridge magnet collection’s contribution to planetary destruction. Katy, I am sad to report that those adorable flexy die-cut magnets in the shape of the U.S. states, etc. may in fact be faced with vinyl. As we know, vinyl is bad. You might have to curtail your collection of vinyl magnets, but that should only render future collecting more thrilling — doesn’t a harder chase make a sweeter victory?

More spring cleaning coming soon — stay tuned.

Magnetically,
Umbra