Take Out The TrashI look through our cupboards and pretty much everything in stock is reusable, recyclable or compostable. So why do we throw out a couple of bags of garbage every other week? I’m not really certain, but I think it can stop.

Our Challenge
This week’s challenge is to minimize our trash. I’d like to see if we can throw nothing out. And, if not, why?

Updated November 25, 2012 by Andrea

This may be the first challenge since Tales of Goodness started that has simply not succeeded.  (Ok, we failed.  There I’ve said it.)  We certainly tried, but perhaps time – or rather timing – was not on our side.  We’re two weeks late reporting back on this one because we still don’t have this solved.  We’ve improved, but we haven’t found our “garbage groove” just yet.

Our Tale
There’s not much to describe here in terms of approach. Basically, we focused our efforts in 2 areas. First, we tried not to purchase anything that would later end up in the garbage.  Second, we tried to mentally stop ourselves on the way to the garbage can to see if we were perhaps discarding something that could be recycled.

Stop Procuring Non-Recyclables

This was actually easier than we thought.  We were already quite aware of how much packaging we used.  We buy in bulk when we can.  We bring our own bags for produce and purchase plastic only minimally.  And, thanks to this challenge, we now check the recycling numbers on our grocery items to make sure they can be recycled prior to purchase.

Most of the items on our grocery list were packaged in recyclable content.  The only real problem was with the more “packaged goods” we buy for our kids lunchtime snacks.  Still, we were able to find suitable alternatives all around.

I should mention that our area doesn’t recycle glass, but I still prefer glass to plastic as I can always re-use the jars for something or give them away to picklers and jam-makers.  Although plastic is technically recyclable, it’s not as efficiently recycled as glass. It’s also much more harmful to the environment should it end up in the landfill or in our waterways.  (Check out What To Do When You Can’t Recycle Glass for more information.)

Stop Discarding Compostables and Recyclables

Here’s where we went awry.  Of course, we completely forgot to anticipate Halloween in our little experiment. So, our first real failure was the vast array of candy wrappers that found their way into our garbage over the past few weeks.  The wrappers on the candies we gave were recyclable, but we were not about to keep our kids from enjoying our neighborhood Halloween rituals, so we amassed the garbage without so much as a second thought.  We hope that this packaging will gradually shift to more environmentally-friendly options as people become more aware of environmental issues.  Until then, we’ll just deal.

The other item we simply couldn’t save from the trash was our son’s disposable diapers. We cloth diaper our son in the daytime; however, he leaks through his cloth diapers at night (and most of the crunchier paper alternatives), so we put him in disposable diapers at night.  This is something we’re really not willing to give up. (And I try to tell myself that the extra laundry from washing his sheets every morning offsets the disposable diaper landfill impact, although I’ve admittedly not crunched the numbers.)

One area of challenge for us is the bathroom. Empty shampoo bottles and toilet paper rolls, oh my!  Quite honestly (and not without an ounce of shame), we’ve often simply been too lazy to walk our bathroom recyclables to the kitchen.  For the past few weeks, we’ve been storing them in the bathrooms and then moving them to the kitchen recycling in batch.  Unfortunately, on two occasions, I forgot to do this before our cleaners came – or to even tell them about it.  On both occasions, they tossed out all of the bathroom garbage along with the kitchen stuff.

In the short term, we can do a better job at sorting these recyclables earlier and communicating better with our cleaning folks.  From a long-term standpoint, I’d love to find some sort of obvious recycling storage in the bathroom.  I’ve yet to find anything aesthetically pleasing to do the job, so please post a comment if you know of any.

Our Findings
So, we did get ourselves down to 1 small bag of garbage each week, but we’re still not where we’d ultimately like to be.  We’ve got a bit more work to do.  Still, we were able to make some good improvements that we’re confident will have a positive, long-term impact on the planet.  Not that feels good.

About the Author

Just a small town mom trying to make the world a better place for my kids. One small change at a time.

2 Responses to Out With The Trash

  1. Johanna Gillis says:

    Andrea, Love the above post. Thank you for all of the good ideas on how to reduce the garbage. The other day at Winners (my second home) I found these great reusable lunch bags to replace ziplocks. For $13.99, each set contains one sandwich bag and snack bag. The bags range in colours and patterns and are dishwasher/washer safe. Just thought I would share in this good find.

    • Andrea says:

      Ooh – great idea Johanna. We have actually asked the kids ‘teachers’ to send our ziplocks back so we can wash and re-use them, but sometimes they forget. Do you remember what the bags are called?

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