Why do you have so much garbage? Downscale and get green!

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My apartment…is next to the community trash barn. It’s a shed full of trash cans which residents of my apartment complex use to deposit their garbage, and the town comes and empties them twice a week.

Being next to the bins, I see who is there, when, and the amount of garbage they deposit. As someone who only needs to bring out their trash twice a month, I’m naturally curious as to where all of this garbage is coming from. So I did some research.

Turns out, most of a person’s garbage comes from their eating habits, so one of the steps that can be made to reduce garbage is right in the kitchen. I’ve made a short list of things that can be done to reduce garbage.

1. Get a recycling bin- Most towns have a recycling program, whether it be curb pickup or personal drop off. Living in a development, I called the town to make arrangements for them to pick up my bin just like they would a private resident, at the end of the development driveway. In our last residence, we brought our recycles twice weekly to the town transfer station. You’d be surprised how much JUNK MAIL goes into your recycling bin, that otherwise would go in the trash. The same goes for food packaging.

recycling-bin

2. Buy different groceries- When you buy something, consider if the food is fresh and whether or not the package can be recycled. Examples are to buy fresh produce (skip the plastic bags in the produce section) instead of canned or frozen (or can your own in jars), how much non-recyclable plastic is involved, and how much water you need to rinse it out (ie peanut butter jars, etc.). Most bread at healthfood stores comes without a package as well. Kitchen gadgets and cooking more, reduce waste, such as making soup in a crockpot vs buying a can of it. I am FLOORED at how many returnables that people have- no one should be drinking bottled water or soda. No one.

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3. Eat out less or consider bringing your own containers- Most takeout containers can’t be recycled because they’re either sopping wet with grease or made of styrofoam. Styrofoam isn’t recyclable. Your pizza box can for sure be recycled, but your Dunkin Donut’s cups usually cannot. Talk to your local business about bringing your own cup to get coffee, or make your own. Speaking of coffee, get a reusable coffee filter for coffee at home.

eco-takeout

4. Skip paper towels- Instead, use rags. We wash our rags separately with the diapers. Most kitchen messes can be cleaned up with our dish rag, and nasty messes like art mess can be easily cleaned up with rags. Ours are color coded, but you could easily just take a permanent marker to yours if you’re worried about it.

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5. Use reusable shopping bags- Plastic bags are evil and don’t biodegrade. Sometimes they get ingested by animals and kill them. Otherwise, they’re hurting the planet because they’re made from fossil fuels.

eco-friendly-grocery-bags

6. Use reusable lunch solutions- This includes Bento boxes, tiffins, and glass jars. We also use washable snack sacks, which can now be bought at Target.

tiffin

7. Consider how you can cut back in the bathroom- Here is a post on how to green your bathroom, and here is a post on cleaning supplies you can make yourself, which limits your plastic consumption. For laundry, here is a link on how to make your own and just refill your containers.

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8. Buy products that have limited packaging- A lot of wooden/Waldorf inspired toys do not have packaging at all. Such products can be found on natural toys sites and Etsy.

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9. Especially this time of year, wrap your presents differently- Use reusable containers like decorative boxes, cloth bags, or reuse gift bags. If you use paper, recycle it.

gifts

10. Opt out- If you’re getting a lot of mail, consider where it comes from. LL Bean, for example, will stop sending you mailings if you call them. Most places have online catalogs. Call places, go online, and take advantage of online publications and email.

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11. Donate things you don’t need or upcycle them by changing them or giving them a different purpose- I had no idea, but apparently when people no longer have a need for clothes or toys, they throw them away. This is absurd to me. Please, by all means, offer them up on Freecycle, or donate them to Goodwill. You can build a potato tower using old tires, and so much more.

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12. Try composting- After all, if you have compost, you might feel inspired to do some container gardening. One wacky thing about composting is that if you have a rabbit or guinea pig (herbivores), you can compost their poop.

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13. Use cloth diapers or cloth menstrual pads– A quick Google search on how much waste diapers create will lead to some gruesome photos. Check out this photo from Everything Birth Blog about what a conservative amount of diaper garbage is from just 2yrs of use:

diapers

14. Don’t bag up your yard materials- Instead, go over them with a lawnmower and let them mulch your lawn, or better yet, re-purpose things like leaves and pine needles as mulch for the garden.

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15. Follow in No-Impact-Man’s footsteps and check out these ways to get more green.

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2 thoughts on “Why do you have so much garbage? Downscale and get green!

  1. Twice a month? That’s remarkable! I think mine is mostly food waste – though not necessarily leftover food. And those are really foul-smelling given our humid climate we can’t help but visiting the garbage house every other day. Many of what you suggested are absolutely doable- it boils down to whether we want to, or not. Whenever I am looking at my son’s unused cloth diapers I feel so ashamed of myself – I work in sustainability field and could even push myself to cloth diapering him!

    • Thank you 🙂 But remember, we’re REALLY out there as far as homesteading goes, so it might take some practice to get to that point. To be fair, cloth diapering can be sort of intimidating. Not only do you have to have the right equipment like wetbags and a diaper sprayer, but you also have to know what to do in the case of diaper rash, odor, buildup, etc. I really believe that once a few generations start doing it that we’ll begin to pass on that knowledge 🙂

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