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Posts Tagged ‘recycling’

As many of you know, I’ve already reduced the garbage I make by quite a bit.  However, I want to take it even further.  So I am taking a tally of the garbage I still have left to see what I can do next.  I include recycling and compost in this tally, as although they are great alternatives, both expend energy and are therefore still contributing carbon to our atmosphere.

So after a week, here is the garbage left over and my analysis of it.  I’m only counting the larger items at this point.  Keep in mind that there are only two of us (one and a half, really) and that I’ve already done quite a bit so I’m down to the bare essentials.

Garbage.  I was pretty impressed with the garbage.  It only amounted to half a grocery bag full this week.  Most of the garbage was plastic, and aside from a broken plastic food saver that couldn’t be recycled, it was all food packaging.  This included a 10kg bag for rice, 2 cereal bags, wrappers and bags for crackers, a tray for crackers, 2 large chip bags, a bag that had chocolate in it, and plastic wrap from meat purchases.  There was a bit of paper, including some wax paper that was used for wrapping prepared meats, and a few napkins and tissues.  The other notable items were some tin foil and a broken drinking glass that I am assuming is non-recyclable.

Recycling.  Amounted to one banker’s box this week.  Most of it was paper.  This included a cereal box, a chocolate box, 2 soy milk cartons (flattened), a flour bag, a potato bag, a cardboard sleeve for something I bought, a chocolate wrapper, a flyer, and 10 or more receipts.  There were two  metal cans.  Plastic consisted of five clear bags with holes in them that I couldn’t think of a way to reuse and a plastic meat tray.  There were also two styrofoam meat trays.

Compost.  Amounted to three produce bags full, which is the most waste of all three categories by weight.  I’m ashamed to say, of those three bags, I threw out quite a bit of food that could have been eaten.  Of produce, I chucked 1/2 a lemon, a couple limes, and 1 head of broccoli.  Of prepared foods, I threw away 1/2 a peanut butter sandwich, 2 servings of oatmeal, 1 serving of sausage and pasta, 2 whole sausages, 5 slices of bread, bread crusts from my daughter’s sandwiches, and 1 serving of stale pretzels.  That’s at least a couple of meals’ worth.

In my post, Christmas Leftovers, I resolved to reduce the food I waste.  This is going to be a challenge for me.  As I watched myself throw away what used to be perfectly good food, I wasn’t sure what I was going to do about it and still am not sure.  But I think something will come to me.

It is interesting to note that vast majority of the waste/recycling I have left is food-related.  I am not sure how I am going to buy cereal, meat, and my favourite snacks – chocolate, chips, and crackers – without generating waste.  At least with produce I have been reusing plastic bags, but I’d like a better option.  I’ve seen reusable produce bags made of cotton, but that just doesn’t seem to be entirely practical for me.

This is just the first week.  I think I’ll track the whole month before making any changes, just to see if there are other trends.  Mind you, I won’t post every week specifically about my garbage unless I discover something notable….

I’ll end this post by asking you, “”What is in your garbage can?”

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In Colin Beavan’s book, No Impact Man, I read a statistic that really stunned me.  He states that according to Heather Rogers’ Gone Tomorrow: The Hidden Life of Garbage, 80 percent of US products are used once, then thrown away! At first, I thought that this was an exaggeration.  But on close examination, I realized that it was true.

So, I thought it would be great to start this project by first really becoming aware of all the waste we do produce.  I am going to try and list everything that I can think of that was designed to be used only once, including a sub-category of products that can potentially be used for ten minutes or less.  I invite you to really open your eyes and be aware of the waste generated around you, and add to this list as you go throughout your day.

Ten minutes or less:

  • fast food/take-out containers (plastic, styrofoam, paper)
  • disposable utensils (plastic, wood)
  • plastic or paper wrapping for utensils
  • plastic sushi grass
  • napkins
  • paper tray liners
  • fast food bags (paper or plastic) to bring your food ‘all the way’ to your seat
  • take-out cups (plastic, styrofoam, paper)
  • plastic lids for the cups
  • plastic drink bottles
  • glass drink bottles
  • juice boxes
  • drink pouches
  • straws
  • paper wrapping for straws
  • coffee stir sticks (plastic, wood)
  • paper condiment cups
  • toilet paper
  • facial tissue
  • paper towel
  • wet napkins
  • make-up removal pads
  • disposable plates (paper, styrofoam)
  • flyers
  • brochures
  • poop and scoop bags
  • syringes and other sterilized medical supplies
  • cigarette butts

Usually tossed out the same day:

  • newspapers
  • pizza boxes
  • frozen food trays and packaging
  • sandwich bags
  • party streamers
  • party hats
  • glow in the dark novelties
  • diapers
  • styrofoam and plastic wrap that comes with meat purchases
  • feminine napkins
  • tampons
  • condoms

Other one-use items:

  • product packaging outside (plastic, paper)
  • product packaging inside (plastic, paper, styrofoam, metal)
  • styrofoam peanuts
  • bubble wrap
  • envelopes
  • price tags
  • magazines
  • plastic shopping bags
  • paper shopping bags
  • plastic produce bags
  • plastic wrap
  • plastic clamshell containers
  • plastic netting for produce
  • milk and juice cartons
  • tin cans
  • egg cartons (paper, styrofoam, and now plastic)
  • washed lettuce and prepared salad containers
  • prepared meat containers
  • baked good containers
  • plastic cake containers
  • cardboard under the prepared cake
  • syringes
  • packaging for syringes and other sterillized medical supplies
  • balloons
  • ribbons
  • gift wrap
  • coupons
  • tickets
  • receipts
  • toothbrushes
  • disposable razors
  • razor blades
  • batteries
  • hotel soaps and toiletries
  • paper or plastic bags wrapped around hotel glasses
  • candy wrappers
  • disposable sweeping and mopping pads
  • disposable wash cloths
  • lipstick containers
  • make-up containers
  • lip balm containers
  • make-up sponges
  • ‘socks’ you use to try on shoes
  • any bottle/container that was not meant to be refilled (eg. everything from shampoo to dish detergent, to condiments, etc.)

The lists can go on and on and I plan to add to it.  At this moment, I can only think of the things that I come into contact with myself, so feel free to add your two cents to the list!

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My 39th birthday has passed, and I’m finally feeling moved to make my mark in the world.  To do something bigger than my own efforts at living sustainably.  I know that in order to leave my daughter with a better world than the one she was born in, I have to start reaching out and affecting more people.  So here I am, starting a blog to record my efforts and hopefully attract others to join with me and make an impact together.  For ourselves, our children and everyone’s children.

For the record, I’ve reduced our household garbage, which consists mainly of plastic in one form or another, to just one grocery bag’s worth a week.  Recyclables amount to the size of a banker’s box every two weeks.  And compost, probably two or three produce bags full a week.  We barely use anything disposable.  I’m only on the second of the two-pack 100% recycled paper towel rolls I bought over a year ago.  A 12-roll pack of 100% recycled toilet paper lasts two months at least.  We have fun homemade fabric napkins, and never use paper napkins.  I bring my own shopping bags, reuse ‘disposable’ utensils and I try to remember to bring my own glass food savers whenever I want to order take-out.

My daughter, she gets it, and is always aware of the waste that is being produced.  She has even decided that she won’t ask for her favourite toys anymore if they come in wasteful packaging.  But when she sees it around her and she asks me, “Mom, why do people waste?”  it’s really hard to give her a satisfactory answer….

So, I’ve decided that I don’t want to be a Mom that just points out what other people are doing wrong.  I want to show her that we can make things change.  That yes, we can do things at home and on a personal level, but that we can even influence other people.  So, here I am embarking on something very new and scary to me, but something I know will be life-changing and fulfilling.

Thank you for joining us!

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