Jennie Little wrote:What did you do that changed how much you discarded? What was the most effective change?
Well, I feel like a phony, which will be evident by the end of this, but here goes!
When we were ready to "up our game," so to speak, my husband and I decided to weigh our garbage (destined for the landfill) for the entire year of 2018. We already had a lower than average amout of waste, which I expect is the case for most frequenting this site, so our goal at the end of the year was to have generated 12lbs or less of waste, 1 pound of each month.
Each time I took the trash out, I would weigh the bin and also keep track of the year to date running total. Just the thought of adding up this total curbed so many potentially bad purchasing decisions! I would also dump it all out on the floor and do a trash audit. You think you know what your trash looks like, but when it's all out in front of you, you are able to see things you wouldn't have before (at least that was my experience).
Our 2018 year end total was just over 13 pounds. We didn't make our lofty goal, but we did really well compared to undocumented years prior. We were really starting to get into the groove with this, so we decided we were ready to increase the challenge. The goal for 2019 was to half our 2018 total, so about 6.5lbs.
I dug around Instagram to try to find some photo evidence of our journey.
<b>June 27, 2018 - picture of over flowing garbage bins -</b>
Garbage pick up is in the morning. Four apartments and nine people share these bins. Trash and recycling are picked up every week, compost every other. It's a good thing my partner and I don't have anything to contribute this week because there is no room!
Garbage is hauled away out of sight but it is not out of mind for me. There is no "away." All the plastic ever created is still with us. It wasn't until 1934 that the Supreme Court banned municipal waste from being dumped in the ocean, which was the preferred method at the time. The amount of packaging produced and disposed of increased 67% after WWll and there has been no looking back since.
We try to live "towards zero waste" and reduce, reuse, go without, compost and recycle but felt we could be doing better, so on my partners suggestion I began weighing our garbage.
Our year to date that has gone to the landfill is 6lbs 7.5oz. I know we can do better and already the thought of adding to that number has changed our buying patterns and curbed some impulses, but we're doing pretty well compared to the average American. That is a pretty low bar to compare ones self to though... I'm just glad to be on this journey - besides, there is no room in the bin even if we did have garbage to contribute!
<b> April 5, 2019 picture of an espresso drink in an upcycled container</b>
I have this personal thing that I can't get a coffee while out unless I have the time to sit and drink it out of mug or I bring a travel mug. My idea to pack an 8oz jelly jar (on a recent trip) was foiled when no one would severe me coffee in glass "because it will explode!" Enter my local co-op. I found a 4oz supplement container in the bin and the Batista was happy to make me a cappuccino! It's good to be home.
<b>May 10, 2019 picture of my trash can</b>
Year to date: 15.5 ounces of garbage to the landfill. On our way to our goal of halving 2018s total of just over 13 pounds.
<b>July 19, 2019 Trash Audit</b>
Trash audit! I took out the trash for the third time this year, so I guess I can't complain much about that chore. Last year around this time we had 7lbs 8.4oz for a year to date. Our goal was to half our end of year total. Right now our year to date is 1lb 6.8 oz so we are right on track to meet our goal - allowing for some heavy misc like water filters and one offs like Christmas.
What did I learn? We got LAZY! Lots of failed dinners. Annie's Mac and cheese? Ice cream sandwiches?Really? I also am super bummed about a few teas that ended up having foil lining. Please print that on that outside, gah! I also dislike all the produce twist-ties 🤦🏽♀️
Then there are the decisions I tried so hard on and still failed, like the tortilla bag I thought was paper but was lined with plastic : (
[side note: a take away I noticed from looking at these picture again - after doing this trash audit I noticed those several mylar bags that had crackers in them. I learned how to make sourdough crackers soon after, and am still making them today!]
By the end of 2019 I had taken out the trash a mere five times and our year-to-date weight was just 2lb 11.7oz (our goal had been 6.5lbs)! Feeling like it would be difficult to improve much upon that, we decided to try anyway but no longer document it, instead we would weigh our recycling and get that better under control. One thing we noticed was film plastic bags of english muffins, so my husband figured out how to make them. How am I a phony? Well... the pandemic happened. Walking to the food co-op with reusable and refillable containers stopped, asking and giving the most random used items within my Buy Nothing Project community stopped, and online ordering started. We bought a house with acreage (yay permies dream!) AND combined households. I know we are still doing better than the average American (but isn't that too low of a bar to compare yourself to?), by choice we do not have garbage or recycling pick up at our new place. However, there have been trips to the dump with over 500lbs of nasty carpet and 50+ year old carpet padding and linoleum we found under some of said nasty carpet. There are new tools to be purchased and so.much. unnecessary styrofoam! Then we got a dog, and Amazon Prime, the waste just keeps increasing. Meanwhile I'm making twine from sewing scraps like it's making a difference [Wahhh! Booo! Sob..]
[ending on a positive note] At least we have a decent foundation, and something to strive to get back to. AND we have our own soil to improve with our own compost, rather than having to tote much of it away. Hooray!