Gardening Eden

author Michael Abbaté's Blog

Gingerbread Lessons November 28, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — Michael Abbate @ 5:55 pm

My daughter, Brooke, is in Sunriver, Ore. this weekend with her in-laws.  Last night, she went to see the gingerbread houses entered into a contest at the Sunriver lodge.  One gingerbread house stood out among the rest.  It was made by a school class in the local area.  Complete with a worm farm, recycling center, organic farm and hydraulic dam, it was a sight to see.  

What are the lessons we teach our children?  Do we embrace creation care or teach them selfish living?

Brooke told me once of a woman she worked closely with who shamelessly declared. “I buy water bottles at Costco all the time.  And, I don’t recycle plastic bottles.  I don’t care.  It’s too much work.”

Do you think her children recycle?

I don’t think kids need to be obsessed with the demise of the world or the ozone layer.  But, we can pass on some sustainable lessons to our children.  As a result, they probably will appreciate the world they live in just  a little bit more.  And, they may just learn to live a little less selfish than their parents.



Consume My Waste November 25, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — Michael Abbate @ 8:35 am

As we strive to reduce our own waste, Vicki and I are always on the lookout for products that are made from recycled waste products.  It’s not enough to be someone who recycles – we must also become consumers of those products that are produced from our recycled materials.

Some things happen automatically.  Cereal boxes, for example, usually are made from a high percentage of recycled (“post consumer”) paper.  But what about other items – how can you find recycled alternatives to normal everyday items?  There are several good sources that you can check online.

First, try the Recycled Products Cooperative. They have a great selection of paper products, office supplies, pens and calendars.  I have been a fan of their amazing recycled cardboard binders for many years.

A great source for environmentally-friendly home products of many kinds is Green Home. They have an incredible range of products, from recycled toothbrushes to lawn chairs, shopping totes to clothing.  They even have a whole section of compostable products.  This is one of my favorite sources; go to their site and type “recycled” into the search bar – you’ll have 326 items to choose from!

A fun site that offers jewelry and a wide variety of accessories is Eco-Artware.   They offer a wide selection of fun items, all made from something else.  I’m particularly fond of the Vintage Typewriter Key cuff links!  Check it out:

If you have a personal favorite recycled product or source, please pass it on to me.  In the meantime, go out there and consume my waste!

Gardening Eden: How Creation Care Will Change Your Faith, Your Life and Our World, by Michael Abbaté, published by WaterBrook Press, a division of Random House, 2009.  ISBN  978-0-30744-499-8.   For more info:


Three Weeks Down… November 23, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — Michael Abbate @ 8:01 am

Same ol’, same ol’.  Week 3 looks about the same as weeks 1 and 2:  25-30 non-recyclable items, with a heavy preponderance of plastic bags, films, and caps. New this week:  the plastic plates, and straws from a volunteer dinner we attended on Friday night.  We’ve washed the plastic silverware and will use it for lunches at work.

One confusing item:  alkaline batteries.  A helpful website for recycling information is  There, you will read:

Because batteries disposed of in municipal landfills and trash incinerators can disperse significant amounts of heavy metals and other toxic substances into the air and water, battery waste prevention and recycling strategies are essential. Because of the materials of which they are made, these batteries may or may not be considered hazardous waste in your state. Therefore, you should always check with your local government health, solid waste or recycling department before you consider their disposal.

However, when I check with my local provider, there is not much guidance about alkaline batteries.  Even the Environmental Protection Agency’s website does not give consumers very clear advice on how to dispose of them:

I have heard anecdotally from a person who coordinates solid waste recycling for a nearby city that alkaline batteries are too difficult to disassemble in order to get at the recyclable components, and that by opening them up, you increase the likelihood of contamination.  Therefore they should just be tossed into the trash.  That’s what I’m planning to do until I hear otherwise.

Rechargeable batteries are a different story, however and should always be taken to a facility that specializes in hazardous waste.

After three weeks, we have learned that we can’t live waste-free, but we can dramatically reduce the amount of garbage we generate.  As we head into Thanksgiving week,  I imagine it will be the toughest week during No Waste November!  Stay tuned….

Gardening Eden: How Creation Care Will Change Your Faith, Your Life and Our World, by Michael Abbaté, published by WaterBrook Press, a division of Random House, 2009.  ISBN  978-0-30744-499-8.   For more info:


How can we prevent Garbage Guilt? November 21, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — Michael Abbate @ 9:29 am

OK, let’s be honest.  Guilt is a lousy motivator.  Get very deeply into No Waste November and you find yourself cringing every time you have to reluctantly drop something into the trash.  And what if it’s not even your fault?

Last night I went to an awesome dinner where dozens of wonderful people were being recognized and thanked for their volunteer service.  The food was great, the conversation with my fellow table guests terrific, and the thanks expressed by the leaders heartfelt and moving.  It’s a great Christian organization, dedicated to serving Jesus, loving others and making a difference in its community.  So, where’s the guilt?


Well, the entire dinner was served exclusively utilizing disposables:  plates, cups, cutlery and table linens.


Now for most folks, this wouldn’t cause a second thought, much less guilt.  But for Vicki and I, it was noticeable because we are trying to reduce our waste.  I brought home the items that we used so I can record our contributions to the waste stream this month.  That generated some weird looks, for sure!

So, here’s my question for all of you:  How have you handled these types of situations?  How have you influenced others in positive, constructive ways that create mutual respect and appreciation?  Because, after all, guilt is a lousy motivator.


Gardening Eden: How Creation Care Will Change Your Faith, Your Life and Our World, by Michael Abbaté, published by WaterBrook Press, a division of Random House, 2009.  ISBN  978-0-30744-499-8.   For more info:


No Waste November November 1, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — Michael Abbate @ 9:03 am

You and I are trash machines.  We each generate nearly one ton of garbage each year.  The nearly 250 million tons of garbage we produce in the United States would fill Giants Stadium at the Meadowlands in New Jersey 737 times each year.  That’s twice a day, every day.  That’s a bunch of rubbish!

So, for the month of November, Vicki and I are trying a little experiment.  We are going to strive to produce no garbage for a month.  Our compost pile and recycling bins will be our friends.  Admittedly, we will have to make some serious choices about the purchases that face us the next month.  Instead of just shopping for price, quality and convenience, we are going to be thinking about packaging, utility and reusability.  We are going to refuse to make refuse.

So, for the next month, I will be talkin’ trash!  Daily, I will write about our successes and failures, the things we learn, and the things we regret.  The goal: keep the trash can empty!  Keep up with our progress here, and join us in this effort.  Let’s do what we can to keep from throwing things “away”.

After all, away is not just some imaginary neverland – it is an actual place on our planet. Garbage just gets moved from my house to another place in God’s creation that we collectively decided it would be OK to trash.  It can be nearby, or it can be thousands of miles away, messing creation by spoiling the land it is placed in, fouling the air through incineration, and by polluting by transporting it.  Can we make these places smaller, more local, less frequent and less degrading to Creation’s natural systems?

So, go ahead and jump into the waste stream with me.  If you want to read more about the impacts trash has on our planet, read Gardening Eden, pages 207-217.

Empty Trash


Gardening Eden: How Creation Care Will Change Your Faith, Your Life and Our World, by Michael Abbaté, published by WaterBrook Press, a division of Random House, 2009.  ISBN  978-0-30744-499-8.   For more info:


A Gardener’s Justification September 8, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — Michael Abbate @ 9:20 pm

“Why do you garden, Mike?”

Where to start… Is it the taste of cherry tomatoes picked right off the vine like a cluster of grapes, exploding in tangy wonderfulness in my mouth?   Is it the zucchinis that go from perfect size to absurdly huge in 24 hours?  Is it having fresh thyme and rosemary at all times?  Or is it the welcoming wave of spring coming from the asparagus stalks that leap from the soil?

I suppose it’s all this and more.  For me, gardening is much more than the tasty, fresh and organic food I receive.  Gardening connects me to the rhythms of creation:  the rise of the sun, the ever-lengthening days, the warming soil.  Nurturing young sprouts to adolescence, to bloom, and finally to form the fruit that will grace my table and those of my friends and family.  Connecting me to the weather in more profound than simply governing what I wear to work.  Rain showers today?  No need to water.  Sunny and hot?  Make sure the garden’s thirst is quenched.

If called upon, I could easily create a list of the benefits of gardening:

  • Delicious food delivered in my own yard
  • Guilt-free eating; the knowledge that the garden’s bounty is chemical free
  • It saves the family budget, especially if I grow my plants from seed.
  • It turns yard work into something productive and tasty.
  • Creates community; something to share with my neighbors, friends and family
  • My pet worms turn kitchen scraps into garden “steroids”

All of this, plus something quite remarkable:  I am connected to the earth in a way that is difficult to explain. The satisfaction of weeds removed, vines tied, plants trimmed to bear more fruit.  And don’t even get me started on composting!

For some reason, digging in the soil makes me quite reflective about the world around me and my place in it. In partnership with Creation, I help make something happen that would not have occurred without me.  Yet, I am always aware that this is a true partnership – the Creation doesn’t exactly need me.  In the process, I have become transformed into a Gardener of Eden

Surprisingly, gardening can be a spiritual activity.


Hello world! May 25, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — Michael Abbate @ 3:59 am

Welcome to This is your first post. Edit or delete it and start blogging!