I've been thinking trashy thoughts again. I have re-read Garbage Land and I've been putting my trash can under scrutiny...and I recycle everything I can. However, instead of focusing on reducing TRASH, I want to start focusing on reducing intake of potential trash into my house and life. Where is it all coming from?
Disposables: For the most part, I have gotten rid of all of the disposable products in our house. The occasional bottled water creeps in, especially after we've been traveling. I hate bottled water, but it tastes so much better than nasty gas station water in the middle of Wyoming! I carry my trusty Klean Kanteen bottle everywhere (and one for Bella too) and we fill it up whenever we can. I am going to focus more on this and try not to get caught "waterless". And for those of you who are buying bottled water for use at home...STOP! It creates so much waste (even if you are recycling). Instead, invest in a water filter. If you're like me and just like to have something cold to grab from the fridge, fill up empty glass bottles with filtered water and keep them in there. Bozeman just announced that it's not recycling glass anymore, so all of my old root beer bottles are now water bottles. Wine bottles work great too and make an elegant water pitcher when company is over!
I am also guilty of one too many disposable coffee cups in the trash. I have a harder time remembering my stainless steel coffee mug when I go to my local cafe, but I'm getting better. Most shops have no problem putting your drink into your own cup...and some will even offer a discount. That's great, but the discount is just pathetic. It's usually around 10 cents. 10 cents! It's just not very motivating. Now, give me 50 cents off my coffee and I'll never forget my re-usable cup. Chains like Starbucks and Caribou usually don't offer a non-disposable option...but many local cafes do. You may have to ASK for a ceramic glass, however, as most will give you a disposable cup by default. It's mind boggling to me to think of how much coffee cup trash I have been personally responsible for in my lifetime (case in point...the above photo is my cup from Sunday!). Here are a few stats on disposable cups. And a great article about how Starbucks could have saved the world.
Packaging: Have you ever REALLY paid attention to the hideous amount of packaging you bring home when you go to the store? I did an inventory of my kitchen...in search of items that I can buy without a package. Check out your own kitchen and see where you can reduce. An easy first step is to not bring anything into your home that is "single serving" or "single use".
- Cereal...will only be purchased in bulk. This will avoid the box that so quickly crowds my little recycling bin.
- Granola bars...will be made from scratch. Matt takes a Clif bar with him to work everyday, so I will TRY to start making them from scratch to avoid the box and endless wrappers.
- Condiments and misc...such as ketchup, butter, mayo, etc. I can make ketchup, mayo, and mustard from scratch (they are much tastier too!). I will examine all options when shopping for these types of items.
- Milk...most of the time I buy soy or almond milk in cardboard containers. I can make my own nut milks at home and put them in reusable glass containers.
- Much of what I purchase is already in bulk...spices, grains, flour, tea, etc. and I already have containers at home for them.
- Other types of packaging...such as that for craft supplies, etc. can be avoided by striving to buy used. The thrift stores don't have any packaging!
Paper: There is so much paper! It's everywhere! Whenever I can, I use an electronic copy of a document and try to avoid printing at all costs. The invention of email/internet was a wonderful thing to save paper waste. Of course, if you print out your emails or articles online, that kind of defeats the purpose. Receipts drive me crazy. I rarely keep them (unless it's a large purchase or I know I might return it). If all retail establishments, fast food chains, etc. would implement a rule to ask if you want your receipt before they print it...just think of all the paper saved! Around the house, be sure to use both sides of the paper, re-use envelopes, etc. for craft projects, re-use padded envelopes for mailing, and shred paper to use for packing boxes. And of course, RECYCLE. However, just becuase you CAN recycle something doesn't mean you should use it. It's best to not use it in the first place. Especially with paper because it can only be recycled a limited number of times, unlike glass which can be recycled endlessly.
I found an interesting little clip detailing our country's trash addiction. It's 19 minutes long, but worth watching. See it here. It is based on the book "Gone Tomorrow: The Hidden Life of Garbage". Their website offers lots of statistics:
- Packaging comprises the single largest category of household waste, taking up 30% of all landfill space in the U.S.
- About 80% of U.S. products are used once and then thrown away.
- More than 60% of waste in U.S. landfills could be composted.
- Methane gas, which is always produced by trash rotting in landfills, is 21 times more heat trapping than carbon dioxide; garbage presents a major global warming threat.
- Garbage production in the U.S. has DOUBLED in the last 30 years.
I have always been interested in the concept of "Zero Waste". I am inspired by communities who have taken the initiative to make hard changes. EcoCycle describes this in more detail and has lots of links.
The trash problem in the U.S. seems so overwhelming, but people are taking notice and changes are slowly being made. If everyone makes small changes, it will add up to a big change! What will you do to REDUCE your trash today?