So today is Day 2 of No Impact Project’s carbon cleanse week and today’s challenge revolves around trash. Trash is something few of us think about. It goes in the bin, leaves your curb and then goes away. You never see it again. Well it has to go SOMEWHERE and often that means in a landfill, or worse our rivers and streams and then the ocean. We can’t fill the land forever – we’ll run out of room. Creating trash also uses finite resources, reducing it is a good idea.
If you put yourself on a trash diet so to speak (haha I crack myself up) you’ll find what a throw-away society we have become. We throw away napkins and silverware, coffee cups and papertowels, candy wrappers and soap containers. It’s crazy really. And many of the items we throw away we use for ten minutes or less.
The Story of Stuff illustrates just how wasteful we are – 99% of all products created becomes trash within 6 months. How disgusting is that?
This is a picture of one day’s worth of trash from Sunday. It’s filled with paper plates because we went to a birthday party. Where are the utensils? We used my handy reusable ones – but more on that later. So out of this trash, many of it is recycleable. We’ve got two soda cans, a cardboard box, a bag that protected our newspaper, and the newspaper itself. In addition, one item – the tea bag – is compostable. Five more items could have been replaced by a reusable item.
No Impact Project suggests putting together a anti-trash kit. Here’s mine. It includes a reusable cup, a reusable water bottle, a reusable hot beverage sleeve, a cloth napkin, a reusable container, my awesome bamboo utensils, a hankie, and a reusable bag. Having these simple items cuts down on my “used for ten minutes trash” extensively. My coffee cup and bag also help me earn money at various places as many retail locations offer discounts for reusable containers. What’s more, is breaking out these items on a regular basis usually draws attention. I get many a compliment on my bamboo utensils.
Using the bag is sometimes difficult as I often have to “argue” with the cashier. They’re on autopilot and when you request “no bag thanks” they don’t always compute. Usually they respond with an “Are you sure?” This drives me especially crazy when I have hand-carried my item to the check-out. I carried it up to you, I think I can handle carrying it out of your store. Occasionally someone will say thanks, or smile in my no bag desire, but these folks are too few and far between.
To make a major dent in your trash though you need to do three things.
1. Compost food waste.
3. Purchase items with less packaging, or at least more recyclable packaging.
The first one is surprisingly easy. We keep a compost pail in our household. We throw food waste in there and carry it outside to our compost pile once every couple of days. There is no smell in our house. This has cut our trash easily by half.
Second, as we all know, recycle. And don’t be lazy about it either! If you are out and about and can’t find a recycling receptacle take it with you.
The third one is much more difficult. Many of us gravitate towards easy meals and single-serve options. These are the biggest trash producers – from frozen dinners to granola bars – nothing will fill your can up quicker. These items, however, also usually drain your wallet faster. I know we are all short on time these days, but do yourself and your waisteline a favor and try to avoid some of these products. Set some time aside and make some meals. Put them in one-use reusable containers and freeze them. There you have it – your own frozen dinner. Snack items are easier – just buy the big bag, not the small one. Sun Chips even created a compostable bag – made famous for its loud noise, its since been improved to be quieter.
By making even just a small effort, you will be surprised at how much your trash output is reduced. We were frankly shocked at how much it was reduced when we tackled this issue a year or so ago. We don’t even fill up a kitchen bag a week at this point and that’s for two adults and two cats. You can do this! I promise.
UPDATE: Check out this great PBS kids video I found.