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Beth Spotswood

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Compost California

Posted: 07/18/11 12:19 PM ET

San Franciscans like to think of ourselves as ahead of the national curve. Whether or not this is true is debatable, but I often find it hard to keep up with whatever smug rule we've silently invented as a means of feeling superior to St. Louis. As if anyone in St. Louis could even find us on a map.

My current peeve is fellow San Franciscans who display their commitment to composting like Meryl Streep displays her Oscars. How many Bernal Heights dinner parties have you attended where, when you've asked your host how to dispose of your half-eaten plate of quinoa, he responds, "Just toss it in the compost bowl"?

And there, proudly and prominently perched on the kitchen counter is a majestic wooden bowl made from a tree that fell on it's own accord in the South American rainforest, filled with avocado skins and designer coffee grinds.

"Here? You want me to put my garbage here?" You ask.

"We compost!" Your host screams. "Come to our backyard and see the compost pile! I need to get some honey from the hives, anyway."

Composting is great. It's wonderful, disgusting and necessary work. Kudos to the City and County of San Francisco for encouraging composting, making it easy and accessible and providing a better today and tomorrow for us all. But does Dede Wilsey have a t-shirt that says, "I gave $5 million to a bunch of orphans"?

Actually, that's a bad example. She probably does.

My point is, the arguably convenient yet gross and self-congratulatory compost bowl slammed down in the middle of a memorial service buffet seems to be less about returning our waste to the soil of this majestic planet and more about making the rest of us feel simultaneously impressed and guilty.

Not that there's anything wrong with that. Impressing people while making them feel bad about themselves is the whole point of living here.