Gave Into Snack Craving; Ends Up With Mountain Of Trash

My company put a box of Starburst on my desk after work hours as a reward for hard work.  How did they know sugar and chewiness are my favorite combinations of candy indulgence.  I had a moment of weakness as I caved and ate all of my Starburst in one sitting.  Now, I am left with this mountain of trash that is mostly plastic.

It was packaged in a box, then in a bag, then each candy individually wrapped.  It is going to be sent to the landfill (minus the box because that’s recyclable) and just sit there amongst the rest of the trash that will just be there forever.  I would have been happy to decline; but I wasn’t given the opportunity.

Candy Waste

I am not happy that I did this.  If I didn’t eat this treat, someone else will.  However, now I know how I feel when I encounter a craving that will leave me with this much trash.  I am more inclined than ever to follow a plastic and trash free life as ever.

What One Week of Trash Looks Like For Us

It is estimated that each person generates 4.3 pounds of waste every day.  This is 1.6 pounds more than back in 1960.  Over the course of one week my husband and I would generate 60.2 pounds per week, not including our cats.  It felt like we were so far from that number that we could consider ourselves low waste.  So we decided to do an experiment to see how we rated among the average.

For one week we collected all of our trash to see what we actually throw away.  We are going to collect our trash at work, at home and if we go out.  Below is a summary of what one week of trash looks for us.  I started with a rough estimate that 25% will come from food packaging and the other 75% comes from pet waste.

Our bin contained 3.5 pounds of household trash and our 4 cats made 16 pounds of pet waste.  What kinds of stuff did we consider trash?

  1. 1 broken hanger
  2. 1 dozen egg carton
  3. 2 incandescent light bulbs from our rental properties
  4. 4 bottle tops
  5. 1 takeout bag of disposable cup and soiled wrappers
  6. 4 cartons of polyethylene cardboard.  This is not recyclable in our area.  1 of which comes from my coconut milk which I plan to make my own when I run out of what we have already.  One was an egg white container and 2 were from soup broth.
  7. About 1 cubic foot of packing tape, peanuts and other shipping materials
  8. A tape dispenser that was about 15 years old.  We do not use much tape in this household.
  9. I accidental left out a bunch of pesto from our freezer last week.  When my husband found it it was too late to save.  All of the plastic bags had to be disposed of.
  10. Food wrapping: spinach bag, cheese wrapper, butter wrapper, chip bag, a container of ice cream, tea bag wrappers, meat wrappers, saltine wrapper, plastic cling and 2 ziplock bags.
  11. Lint from our dryer from 3 loads of laundry
  12. 4 single use lens wipes with wrappers
  13. 2 Andes chocolate wrappers from dining out at Olive Garden
  14. Empty bag of bath salts
  15. Wrapper for rubber gloves for deep cleaning our toilet
  16. 2 slips of paper stickers came on
  17. 2 single pouches of hot cocoa for a movie night with a friend
  18. Bathroom waste: floss, 3 Q-tips and 6 pill enclosures for my cat who needs Cosequin for her back.
  19. Gym waste: probably about 4-6 wipes to clean off our equipment.  This one thing I didn’t even realize I was throwing away until after I did it.  I was not about to grab my wipe out of 50 already trashed for this project so I left it there.

Much of the above waste did come from it being Christmas week.  The mailing waste was from a Christmas gift my mother in law from California shipped us.  A couple of the ziplock bags were from homemade Christmas cookies.  The rest seems to be typical weekly garbage.

After seeing all of this, I don’t think we do create LOTS of trash, but we can eliminate some by doing the following things:

  1. Make food from scratch.  And we generally do so the polyethylene packages of soup was a unique piece of trash that ended up in our bin.  My husband generally makes homemade broth a few times a year from turkey or chicken bones that gives us a few meals from it.
  2. Buy meat and cheese from the deli or meat counter by bringing your own to-go container.  This will definitely be a huge change for my husband since he likes convenience and he does the grocery shopping.
  3. Buy tea from bulk.
  4. Buy loose veggies and bring your own bag.
  5. Hang dry clothes.  1) they last longer, 2) you save money not using the dryer and 3) they don’t create lint you have to throw away.
  6. Compost all food waste, except for bones, meat and dairy (which I now do all year long). The U.S. EPA says about 24 percent of our waste is organic material that can be composted.
  7. Avoid single use items.

Going waste free isn’t an over night process.  The first step is tracking what you actually throw away.  By seeing it all laid out in front of you, you can start implementing simple changes to reduce what you throw away.   You will be surprised how easy it is to throw things away without thinking about it.   But these things don’t go away forever.  They go to a landfill where they slowly, or never degrade and create toxic gas that pollutes our air.

Is Packaging Free Products In Our Future?

I hope so!  And the sooner the better!  I came across an article today about a designer named Aaron Mickelson.   He is attempting to solve the overproduction of waste created from packaging.  Just think of all of the “single-serving” products you use every day.  My coffee creamer and stevia packets are all single serving.  I go through one or two every day.  We have become so accustomed to these items that it would be hard to live without.  

Anyways, just a visual image: “Every year, Americans generate a lot of solid waste. In 2010, 250 million tons, according to the EPA. A full 30 percent of that (about 76 million tons) comes from packaging — it’s the biggest culprit.”

Mickelson intends to rid of packaging all together.  His thesis project called, The Disappearing Package, was created to improve the functionality of packaging.  By picking products that consumers purchase regularly, like Tide, Twinings and Nivea, for example, will give consumers the chance to see these products in a different way.

He researched materials and processes that would be non toxic, create the least amount of waste possible, and packaging that is safe.  Packaging does serve a purpose of getting products safely from production to homes, but mostly is “over-engineered.”

I think this article shows futuristic thinking and hopefully will become something that is readily available.  Kudos to Mr. Mickelson!


Saved From the Trash

Last week was Fargo’s designated Spring Clean Up week.  Our city gives us one week to put whatever we want to get rid of on the boulevard, besides hazardous wastes.  We had a few things that needed to go.  Stuff that was just so run down and trashed that no one would want.  Or so we thought.  You would be surprised what was picked up.  A fridge was the first thing to go.  Gone in about 30 minutes.  Granted it still worked (it was a friend’s and I did ask the husband if we could use a working fridge for our garage) but no one else knew that it still worked.  Also some blinds were taken, the really old fashioned kind.  Ones that were missing a few pieces.

I am a proud boulevard shopper.  I like to look around at what people throw out because you don’t know what will be useful/valuable for you.  I found a good quality desk chair and a laundry basket in good condition that we use frequently.  I am a bit picky with what I take since my husband just thinks it will end up as clutter.

We were putting stuff out and we contemplated putting out these 4 prints that were from the same artist.  I had been with my husband over 9 years now and 5 moves we never had these pictures hanging on the wall.  They were stored in our garage so naturally they got really dirty and dinged up.  I never really looked them over too well until this spring clean up.  I couldn’t throw them away.  I thought I could clean them up and donate them.

I thought once I started cleaning them up I would be disappointed.  On the contrary, I was surprised at what a little patience and cleaner could do to these prints.  Even though they have been in storage for a good decade, there wasn’t any smudges on the prints themselves or on the matting.  I shined them up and put them back together.  The glass was broken on one of the 4 prints so I am going to Hobby Lobby to find a replacement piece.  I am so happy I kept them.  I already know where I am going to hang them.

I love being able to save stuff from being thrown out.  I was a little sad that I didn’t collect as much stuff as I wanted during spring cleaning week.  Next year I will make a harder push to get what I want from the boulevard even if my husband thinks it’s clutter.

Anti-consumerism and Freeganism

I hate clutter and I hate waste.  These two little things can be removed from my life.  It would require a huge life change.  I am no expert on the topics of anti-consumerism and freeganism but I want to use this blog to educate myself more and my audience on how we can contribute to reducing non-necessary buying and reducing waste.

When I decided to start a blog, I wanted it more than a blog to post craft projects.  I wanted to post challenges to myself and you to help live a greener life.   I want to educate myself on how to live more green and inspire you to also.  Today’s blog I hope to do just that.

I should briefly describe these two topics.  Anti-consumerism is summarized by cutting our self off of material possessions, ie all of our wants.  Freeganism, a more extreme movement, is defined as using alternative living strategies that followers remove themselves from society completely.  Freegans use the ideal of foraging and squatting (living in abandoned or unused buildings).  Freegans take what people don’t want (trash) and use these goods to survive.

I am not on the path to ever become a full blown freegan but I understand their ideals.  The idea of using other peoples trash makes me want to plan my meals so all of our food gets used.  Or instead of buying a new shirt going to the thrift store.   I may never dumpster dive, but I may go boulevard shopping during spring cleaning.  I have found useful home things, like a desk chair and laundry basket that are good quality.

Anyways, I am more in line with anti-consumerism.  I would like to give you two resources that have made me want to change my life in this regard.  Please spend some time checking this out.  It is well worth your time.

  1. The Story of Stuff video.  Click the link to watch a 20 minute video that is actually quite entertaining and educational.  Annie Leonard narrates the video describing the product life cycle and how companies create products that are designed for the trash.  They are purchased only to be replaced quickly.
  2. A book that I read called, “Not Buying It” by Judith Levine gave me in site what living without wants for a year would be like.  The idea of not buying things just for status or convenience may seem difficult, but can save you lots of money and save us lots of time to get in tune with your family.

I fully support the idea of freeganism.  If there are people out there who will use other people’s garbage, I say “go for it!  Why not?”  I will continue my quest to reduce my desire to purchase things that I want.  It is very easy for me to keep products that still have use or value.  This is no big deal.  Of course, the feeling of buying a new shirt or shoes always feels good.  But, I do like the idea of saving money.

I have a new challenge for myself.  I am going to use the rest of April to not purchase wants.  This may be difficult since it is planting season, BUT I am going to give it my all.  I will control my urge to spend on things that I think are needs when they are actually wants.  Will you be willing to take a simple challenge?  For 2 weeks, cut back on unnecessary spending?  Not purchase things that are just to be replaced quickly?   Let me know how you will challenge yourself.  I would love to hear about it.


Earth Day 2012

Earth Day is coming up on April 22nd and it is always one of my favorite days out of the year.  I hear about companies making a switch to operating in a more green fashion and it gives me hope that some day we will change our behavior as a nation.

I have been green since I was a kiddo.  I used to help my dad crush cans, and my parents always separated recycling.  My dad would compost grass clippings and we would always have fresh veggies from our own garden.  And my mom has also passed on her canning knowledge to me.  I have only expanded my desires to seek a more green life.

Somethings that I do to reduce my impact (and now seem unnoticeable):

1.  Bike to work once in a while (when it isn’t cold, raining, snowing or windy).

2.  Hang my clothes on the line to dry.

3.  Drive more efficiently (keep the car empty, I don’t gun it on a green light and I break efficiently).  See this post from an article I posted on driving more efficiently.

4.  I eat garden fruits and veggies.  We subscribe to a CSA for organic veggies and can what we can to save our extra share for the winter months.  It helps support the local economy and we are also eating organic.

5.  Turn off the lights.  I usually end up turning off the lights for my husband too.

6.  I use organic products.  I do not slather on lotions or hair sprays.  I find them un-useful anyways and very un-green.

7.  I keep things as long as they are still useful.  I keep my cellphones until they either don’t carry a charge longer than an hour, or don’t turn on any more.  My car is 12 years old and I don’t intend on upgrading.  I barely drive it anyways.  If things still have use, why throw it away?

8.  I recycle EVERYTHING.  More than just plastic, metal and glass.  I recycle all cardboard, magazines, phone books, clothes (donate to a thrift store), paper, junk mail,  batteries, light bulbs and electronic equipment.

9.  I survive on less.  I don’t like clutter and if I think I want to buy something, I put it back and think about it over night.  Usually I forget all about it, which means I didn’t really need it.

10.  Instead of using garage bags we use our pet food bags when they are empty.  They have a lining that is water proof and instead of throwing them away without using them we repurpose them into garbage bags.  I even ask my parents to save their pet food bags for us.

11.  I spread the word.  I like to get other people to understand the importance of recycling and living a simpler life.   I was told about “The Story of Stuff Project” from a friend at my Toastmaster club.  It gives a visual story of the life cycle of products and shows how wasteful we as humans are.

12.  I bring my own bags to grocery stores.  Or else if I can just carry it out I will just ask for no bag.  I also use a reusable lunch box and plastic food storage.

13.  I make my own laundry detergent.  We use green cleaners when we can.

14.  We buy in bulk whenever it is possible.

15.  I lean to purchasing green products and products that uses less packaging.  I love shopping at thrift stores because it is re-purposing goods that would otherwise be discarded.  I also bring in my unused retail hangers and shopping bags because they can use them.

I want to keep expanding on this list because there are so many ways that I live green in my daily life that I don’t even notice any more.  These things have become such a habit for me that is just routine.  My husband needs reminding on what can be recycled and such but he supports me in my desire to live a green life.


DIY Homemade Paper

I have always wanted to make homemade paper.  There are so many things you can make with paper, and what a wonderful way to reduce garbage from going into the landfill.  In my case, the past couple of years I took about 10 bags of used Christmas
wrapping paper to use just for this purpose.  My whole intention is to make a butt load of paper.  I found some great sources to guide me along in my journey of becoming a paper-maker.  But instead of going there, follow my easy instructions with photos here!

Waste Paper
Wood Frame
Food coloring (optional)
Racks (optional)

Step 1:  Collect paper.

Step 2.  Get rid of tape. I’m not sure if taking off the tape does anything but common senses makes me think that it’s a slippery surface and if left intact the final paper product may not stay together.

Step 3:  Cut into small pieces.  Easier to stuff in a blender.

Step 4:  Fill the blender about 1/2 to 2/3 water and start adding paper.  I add a handful at a time because if you add too much it could make the pulp too dry, and cause your blender to stall.  If it get’s too dry, just add more water.

Tip:  Collect brightly colored paper that can’t be recycled (at least in our city) and add to your blender to add color.  By adding a teal envelope to my pulp I ended up getting light blue finished product.

Step 5:  Prop the screen over a surface that’s okay to get wet.  I put mine over the ledge of the tub.  I have a handy hand sprayer to help me clean up the mess.  Over a sink would do just fine.  I found an old window screen on the boulevard during spring clean up.  No purchase necessary.  I used some tulle because I though the holes on the screen would be too big.

Tip: You can buy wood frames made for making a canvas at a craft store, then buy screen and staple around the frame.  I have had trouble finding screen in my town so I used a window screen that I had on hand.

Step 6:  Dump pulp over the screen.

Step 7:  Lay a towel on top of the pulp.  In my case I used an old Tshirt that was destined for the garbage anyways.  (this blog is about being green, reducing waste :))

Step 8:  Roll out the excess water with the roller, this also flattens it.

Step 9:  Gently lift screen off sink, holding the towel/t-shirt steady to release from screen.  Once dry enough, lift paper off towel/old T-shirt.

Step 10:  Place on rack to dry quicker.  Once dry, place under heavy books to flatten.

Some things you can make with this paper.  Stationary, gift tags, cards, use in scrap-booking and ornaments.  I intend on blogging about what I make with my homemade paper once I accrue enough.  So please come back!  See you soon!