Before I get started, I know lots of people who take their garbage to the dump because it is cheaper, or they (gulp) burn it. We're not those people. We don't have time to make an extra weekend errand run, and I would never set fire to garbage because of the environmental impact.
That being said, we have managed to reduce our garbage and recycling pick up to every other week which saves us money and helps us be mindful of what we are tossing. So, how do we do it?
1) We're now accountable for our trash and recycling. We've always lived in apartments with community trash, so we were never fully aware of what we were tossing out. Now that we're in a single-family home, no one is filling up the cans but us. It's easier to see our impact.
2) We're able to compost a lot more. In our Los Angeles apartment, Troy built me a worm compost for my birthday. Ladies, he is all mine! It was my request for a gift, but he truly went all out. It was so fancy and lovely that he etched "The Red Wiggler Lion" on to the top. This thing was high class. But it also couldn't handle all our scraps, so lots went in to the garbage. Some lucky "freecycle" subscriber got it when we moved out of California.
In our last apartment, we purchased a basic compost tumbler (check Costco this time of year for a better deal), and while it was helpful it isn't meeting all our current needs with yard waste, the garden, etc.
Last weekend I found an old garbage can left by the old tenants and have converted it in to our second compost. Now I can let the contents of the tumbler "finish" converting to compost, and add the extra stuff to our garbage can composter.
2013 will hopefully bring us a few chickens which will then convert all our extra scraps that we don't currently compost in to wonderful chicken poop fertilizer. Fingers crossed this happens, because I had been planning for 2012 and it just didn't work out.
3) Now that we have more space for storage, we can buy even more things in bulk. Now that we order from Azure Standard so much, most of our food staples (rice, beans, wheat berries, salt, etc.) come in bags that are able to be recycled.
4) My garden and bulk ordering from our local fruit stand produced enough canned items that we're not buying things like canned tomatoes, applesauce, or chicken broth. Having those things in reusable canning jars has increased my dishes workload, but has greatly decreased our garbage and recycling output.
Also, if making a side dish simply means walking outside to pick lettuce, or green beans, or strawberries, I'm not bringing home packaging from the grocery store. That also reduces the amount of waste that is filling up our cans. (that's what she said).
5) Thrift stores. Oh Goodwill, how I have missed you during the "No Spend March Challenge". Purchasing items from a thrift stores means that usually the items you're bringing home aren't wrapped in packaging like boxes, bubble wrap, and plastic. Someone else had to dispose of that waste, and you're helping the overall waste stream by not contributing more packaging from new items.
6) We used cloth diapers. So this doesn't save us any garbage costs currently (Jack has been potty trained since 22 months), but we weren't tossing out crap wrappers multiple times a day when he was wearing diapers. Additionally, the diapers we have now will be used for whenever (if ever!) we have a second child. The initial diaper investment will diaper two children for the cost of using paper diapers for one child for half a year. Got that? The cost of cloth diapers for TWO kids is the same as disposable diapers for six months for ONE kid.
7) Lunches get packed in reusuable bags and containers. Jack has a laptop lunch box, and one of these thingies, so lunch almost never involves Ziploc baggies or other one-use packaging. Troy's meals are usually in a man lunchable, and I take my food in either canning jars or the Snapware glass items from Costco.
8) Cut out soda and other bottled beverages. I occasionally will buy pop as a treat, but it's very rare. For one thing, it's not good for you, and for another, my husband has a horrible soda habit. He turns in to a giant child when it is in the house and drinks as much as he can while he can. It's not worth having it in the house. Not buying it saves us a ton of money and keeps the cans out of the recycling bin. We now almost exclusively drink water kefir soda.
Financially, the switch from going to every week to every other week isn't a huge difference. But it is still a savings, and the act of doing so has helped make us more mindful about our waste and consumption lifestyle.
What are your favorite tips to reduce garbage and waste?
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