This week I read an article on Mind Body Green about a woman who hasn’t created any trash in two years. I find that incredibly impressive, and I do think it’s possible, but convenient? For a family of 5? Not so sure for us. (Though a family of 4 did it.)
Since we live out in the country, I have to drive 25 minutes or so to get to a grocery store. I’m sure being able to walk to a market to buy bulk foods when needed would help. This article made me take a good, hard look at our waste, and I know there are ways we could improve.
We compost and also have an indoor composter that allows us to compost things like meat scraps & dairy.
Our county has a comingled recycling program where they pick it up every two weeks “for free.” I read an article that broke down the actual expense per household for this program, and our taxes actually went up more than twice that amount to pay for it. Oh well! It’s really convenient and we actually had to request a larger bin (it’s still filled to the brim each time!)
As far as garbage goes, we have a trash can that is half garbage and half recycling (affiliate link), and we create 2-3 “half bags” (5 gallons) of garbage per week. We pay $72 every 3 months to have that picked up – that’s about $4 per 10 gallon bag – eek!)
I think we can definitely cut down on the garbage. We’re a little lazy about getting the composter emptied & ready for another batch, so at times I will throw things like meat scraps or things I don’t want to put in the outside compost, in the garbage. Since we have lots of wild animals out here, we have to be cautious about what we put outside that may attract animals, even if it can otherwise be composted. On the plus side, our chickens love things like bread crusts! With cold season, we’ve been going through a lot of tissues. We use cloth wipes to wipe runny noses but for the constant nose-blowing, we do use tissues.
We use cloth diapers, which eliminates a huge source of waste for a family with little ones. I use a menstrual cup and cloth pads and our kids’ lunches are waste-free with reusable water bottles, cloth snack & sandwich bags and cloth napkins. We also use everyday cloth napkins. (I last bought paper napkins in 2010 and I still have nearly the entire package!)
The article mentioned used clothing – I do my part by shopping for awesome secondhand clothes at Twice (referral link) when I need clothing, though I buy very little. We hand down our children’s clothing and reuse threadbare towels as rags.
So where are we wasteful? I have a handful of reusable tote bags but I don’t have a slew of reusable grocery bags, so we do get paper or plastic at the grocery store and reuse or recycle them. I also use plastic produce bags, though I’m very intrigued by reusable produce bags (affiliate link). My husband uses 2 q-tips after every shower and I doubt he will give those up, LOL! I use dental floss every day as well and if there’s a reusable version, I’m not sure I want to know about it (or do I?) :-p
One of the biggest wastes in our household are Ziploc bags I use to freeze meat. I buy in bulk and freeze pork chops or chicken breasts 2 or so to a bag and no, I do not then reuse them. While we don’t consume a lot of meat, I’m not sure what the best way to eliminate this waste would be. Does a food saver (affiliate link) use less plastic?
I think simply being aware and thinking twice before you throw something away (or buy something that will inevitably be thrown away) is helpful. I know that recycling isn’t the perfect solution, and that reusing is a better answer, but for now it will have to do.
One thing I couldn’t do without? Receipts. I track all of our expenses in Quicken and I scan receipts before recycling them. Having a receipt has been tremendously helpful on many occasions. I’d love to receive a receipt via email instead of a paper receipt, but for now I’ll take my receipt thank you!
Have you thought about the waste your family produces? Do you think you could go completely waste-free?