What One Weeks Worth of Trash Looks Like For Us: Week 2

Seeing what we send to the landfill is eye-opening if you have to collect it in a glass jar.  This week, we collected 1 quart and 1 pint mason jar of trash, plus one random pile of plastic neither of us (my husband or I) know where it came from.  It could have come from our carpet install that happened this last week.  In any case, I can’t find a reuse for it so it will end up in the trash.

1 Quart Jar and 1 Pint Jar filled with trash.

Below is an analysis of what we threw away this week:

  1.  1 used end to a shaver.  Since my husband now grows a beard, this rarely ends in the trash.
  2.   6 capsules from my cats medicine.
  3.   4 contact metal foil wrappers.
  4.   A small pile of band-aid wrappers.   My husband suffers from bloody nipples and we are both training for a half marathon.  This is the only thing that prevents that.  He wears them a few days before tossing them.
  5.   2 Lens Wipes.
  6.   A pile of used floss.
  7.   Foam from our carpet install.
  8.   About 8 stickers from produce.
  9.   3 drink seals and 1 plastic cap.
  10.   1 small piece of butter wrapper.
  11.   Plastic tape from a package we received.
  12.   2 small lumps of dryer lint.
  13.   About 7 receipts that are non recyclable.
  14.   2 Q-tips.
  15.   Plastic wrap from TP.
  16.   Wrap from brats my husband had for lunch yesterday.
  17.   Wire ties from a head of lettuce
  18.   A small piece of hard plastic.  I don’t even know where it came from.
  19.   2 pieces of plastic wrap from produce.
  20.   1 metal lid from a jar of olives.
  21.   3 chip bags.
  22.   3 individual drink packets.
  23.   1 plastic ziplock bag.  It had holes so I couldn’t reuse it, 1 carrot bag and 1 bag from sliced almonds.
  24.   A small pile of random plastic (top of a tofu container, part of the packaging from hotdogs, cheese wrap, a piece of cottage cheese seal, the cut top from a pet food bag and a package of sliced cheese.
  25.  1 Tetra package from Tofu.
  26.  3 plastic windows from envelopes.

Items not pictured:

  1.  2 small pet food bags filed with cat waste.  I reuse any bags that would otherwise end up in the garbage empty to use of disposed of cat litter.
  2.  4 small pieces of old wood trim still with nails in it.

After reviewing the above list of items in our waste jars, I can conclude the following:

  1.  Our pets produce more waste than we do.  This is because I can’t flush the clay litter and they refuse to use the biodegradable (healthier) litter that’s very expensive.  Our cats are stubborn.
  2.   95% of the waste my husband and I create are from food packaging.  The rest is medical/bathroom waste.
  3.   99% of the waste my husband and I generate is non-recyclable plastic waste.  We recycle everything else that we can.

A few limitations we have from producing less waste:

  1.  We are in winter 6 months of the year so our access to local produce is non existent during this time.  We rely on the produce from the grocery store which is wrapped in plastic, binded with wire and/or has produce stickers.
  2.   Our grocery store bulk bins are limited.  Our main grocery store has bulk bins but last time I shopped there, I saw an employee opening lentil and pasta bags (that you can buy off the shelf) and emptying them in the bulk bins.  Defeats the purpose of buying in bulk, if you ask me.

A few take-aways to try to eliminate future waste based on the above trash collection:

  1.  Start hanging clothes outside.  It’s starting to warm up now so we won’t have need to use the dryer any longer.
  2.   Eat more home-cooked meals.  The more processed the food the more food packaging.
  3.   Pick produce with less stickers.
  4.   Find Toilet Paper without plastic.  I have contemplated ordering plastic free from a hotel supply company.  I will have to do some research on this.
  5.   Make my own butter.  I have done this before, but in reality, I am trying to come off dairy all together.  This idea will be continued.
  6.   Ask for no receipt.  Most of the time they print anyways so it will still end up in the trash, whether I take it or not.
  7.   Call up a local Mexican Restaurant to see if they sell chips in bulk.
  8.   Most of the mail we get comes with a plastic window in the envelope.  I have on my mind to start calling businesses to take us off the mailing list.

I would love to hear how you are progressing in producing less waste or if you have any tips for me!

Single Use Plastic and the Problem it Causes

One of the worst detriments to our environment is single use plastic.  Plastic does not decompose and the amount of products that we use that contain single use plastic is enormous.

Examples of Single Use Disposable Plastic:

  1.   Straws
  2.   Plastic Bags
  3.   Keurig Pods and Coffee Cups
  4.   Water Bottles
  5.   Plastic Silverware
  6.   TV Dinners
  7.   Plastic Cups

Many of these above things are unnecessary and are only used for convenience.  There is something to say about convenience, of course, but is it convenient for the environment?  These single use disposable plastic items are tossed out without much thought.  They go to the landfill where they sit forever.   They don’t decompose and sometimes the end up back in the environment where animals eat or get strangled from it.  You can see the damage it causes to animals here.

During a morning run, I noticed several straws littering the boulevard and decided to tally all that I could collect on a one mile circle.

10 single use plastic straws collecting on a 1 mile run

10 minutes and 10 straws were picked up.  This doesn’t include any other trash ready to get swept down the storm drains.

I challenge you to the following actions to combat single use plastic:

  1.   Say no to straws.
  2.   Bring in reusable bags to the store.
  3.   Use a reusable coffee cup, water bottle and cups.
  4.   Make more homemade meals.

It only takes the creation of a new habit.

  1.   Committing to a new habit may take 3 to 4 weeks to become a norm.
  2.   Start small.
  3.   Being vocal about your request doesn’t always work perfectly.  Sometimes you ask for no straw but you get one anyways but at least you tried.

I am going to challenge myself and you to bring along a bag on my walks around the neighborhood or the beach.   Create a habit to reduce the amount of single use plastic or any trash that ends up in the landfill and rivers that can have a devastating affect on our wildlife.

What One Weeks Worth of Trash Looks Like For Us

We have been cutting back our trash over the course of the year by making things ourselves and buying from bulk.  This not only reduces trash but also reduces our dependence on plastic.  My intent is to bring in less plastic into our home because all plastic ever created still exists on this earth today.  Plastic is very bad for the environment as it never breaks down.  It can be recycled, but in all honestly, the term down-cycled is more realistic.  Recycled plastic will never be as good as the original version.

1 Quart Jar, 1 Pile of Meat Packaging and 1 bag of bones

I left out the bathroom garbage from this shot but it’ll be broken out into piles in pictures below.  It wasn’t much anyways.  We had a bit more unusual trash this week because my husband made homemade burgers.  I mean like he bought steak and did his own meat grinding and everything.  That is the reason for the packaging to the left, and the bag of bones to the right.  He did boil down the bones and made a beef broth soup for lunch so they got use out of them before they were thrown away.

A pile of meat trash and a bag of bones

We had 1 styrofoam meat package and 4 more plastic packages, one being a beef stick package.  The bones to the right were from one package of meat.

Trash broken out into piles

Most of the above pic was included in the jar photographed.  The rest was from the bathroom garbage.

An Analysis of what is in our garbage last week:

  1.  Parchment Paper for homemade buns.  I will be looking into silicone baking equipment to prevent this type of waste.
  2.   Cap tops and the plastic around wine/alcohol bottles.
  3.   Saltine Cracker wrappers – I can’t have chili without crackers.  I am going to try to make my own crackers from homemade bread.
  4.   A bag of chocolate chips.  I was a glutton and ate the rest of a bag of chocolate.
  5.   Lens wipes.  Not sure how to prevent this waste.  I have looked into making my own but there are warnings about damaging glasses.
  6.   Jar lid.  I’m not sure if these are recyclable.
  7.   Tube of Toothpaste.  We go through these once every two months.  I use some of my homemade toothpaste to reduce the amount of tubes thrown away.
  8.   A bag with bread dough.  This can’t be recycled.
  9.   A few pieces of butter wrappers.
  10.   Vegan meat patty wrappers.
  11.   Cheese/Salad and miscellaneous food packaging.
  12.   A cap for a bottle of Kombucha.  This may be recyclable.  My husband makes his own Kombucha now so this waste will be eliminated.  This was a left over bottle in the fridge.
  13.   A pile of floss.  This will never go away.  Oral hygiene is very important to me.
  14.   Medicine packaging.
  15.   A receipt.  These are non recyclable.
  16.   Plastic ties from bulk.
  17.   Lint from dryer.  This will be eliminate when I can hang my clothes out to dry outside.
  18.   Tofu plastic wrap and a wrapper from hot cocoa.  I will make my own hot cocoa when I run out.  I like to add it to my morning coffee.
  19.   Pieces of the paint from our siding.  It’s chipping off like this.  This is something we may need to replace in the next year or two.
  20.   A tag from a blanket
  21.   Pills for my cats arthritis.  This trash may always be produced as my cat’s well-being is very important to me.
  22.   Bandaid waste, a cotton ball and two cotton swabs (with paper stick).
  23.   A couple of drink packages (tea and Emergen-C).
  24.   A pile of plastic wrapping from a rug we bought online.

This also doesn’t include  pet waste.  We have 4 cats that produce more waste than we do.  I try to get them to use the World’s Best Cat Litter, which can be disposed of in a compost pile or the toilet, but they have refused to use it.  I will keep working on this.

I will challenge myself to analyze my garbage once a week to see what I can eliminate from trash.  There is always an alternative option to creating waste but you have to consider what is worth the effort.  I don’t think we will be completely waste free but we will minimize what we create as trash.  If I can convince one person to do this challenge with me, it will all be worth it.

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.

Journey to Zero Waste

I have been following a Zero-Waster, Lauren Singer at her blog Trash is for Tossers.  I was inspired by knowing that I have an option to use products that are non toxic.  I have for a long time bought good beauty products like Dr Bonner’s soaps and Beauty Without Cruelty shampoos.  But I didn’t realize you have another option.  Homemade beauty products.  Being less toxic is not the only reason I am researching and learning more about being zero-waste.  I don’t like throwing things away either.  I get a ping of guilt when I find I don’t have any option but taking something that is individually wrapped or I have to take my produce home in a plastic bag because it’s more sanitary.  By making smart choices in your shopping you can reduce your waste too.  I plan to document things I am doing by going waste free so hopefully I can inspire you as well.

My husband and I don’t produce much waste as it is.  Honestly, my 3 cats produce more waste than both of us combined.  Having three cats makes it more difficult to go completely waste free.  I definitely don’t plan on toilet training then, but we can still try our best to reduce our what goes to the landfill.

Another blog that inspires me is Zero Waste Home.  I love how assertive she is in maintaining her goal of being a waste free home.  Something she says that I will never forget is, “shopping is voting,” and that couldn’t be more true. What we buy creates demand for more products.  I don’t want to buy individually wrapped products enclosed in shopping.   Unfortunately, I live in a place that doesn’t have lots of bulk options.  One of our local grocery store did however add more bulk bins recently, but they could definitely improve their selection even more.

A couple of things I plan to do to improve my waste production:

  1.  Sew produce and bulk bags to bring with me to the grocery store.
  2. Learn to make more homemade products.  I currently have made my own toothpaste and have used it a few months now.  I have made my own laundry soap.   I have bought ingredients to make my own dish detergent and shampoo.
  3. Become more conscience about my purchase decisions.

I would love to hear how you reduce your waste.  Please leave me a comment below.

Blog Spotlight: My Zero Waste

I wanted to spotlight a blot that I have known about for a long time.  I came across this blog when my husband and I wrote for guygoesgreen.com.  I was always impressed by a whole family working together to reduce and eliminate waste.  Plus, I have been thinking about cutting back what I throw away and I will use this website as inspiration.

zerowaste

Please go and check out this blog at http://myzerowaste.com/.  The site has a lot of tips and projects you can use in order to reduce your waste.  Why not make a resolution this year to cut back on the amount of food you throw away.  This will save you lots of money, and reduce the amount of greenhouse gasses that are released back into the air.

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!

Materials:
Waste Paper
Blender
Water
Wood Frame
Screen
Roller
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!