Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Making Less Trash

I realized yesterday that when we moved into our new house (and began paying for our own garbage pick-up) we majorly downgraded our trash can. Our new can will hold only three (white, tall) bags of trash, and trash is collected every two weeks. We're taking steps to continue to reduce the waste we produce, but there's always room for improvement in that area! I'm grateful to Chris and Rebekah of Liberated Family for offering today's helpful guest post: all about ways to reduce the amount of trash we make in order to treat the environment with more respect. Please read to the bottom to learn more about today's guest writers.

A garbage truck drove past us at an intersection today. Plastered on its side was the message, "Our landfills provide 17,000 acres of wildlife habitat." What does this hype mean? Surely they're not talking about lush, green fields and young forests growing atop a mountain of trash? It seems most likely that they had 17,000 acres of wildlife habitat in the first place, dumped untold tons of trash on it, covered it up, and turned the hype machine on. Of course, we all generate trash, and it has to go somewhere. I just don't buy into the ridiculousness of the claim that burying it in the dirt is actually environmentally friendly. No matter what the claim is, it's simply buried, where a large part of it will still be at least somewhat intact in 1000 years.

But the purpose of this post is not to trash the trash service. I want to discuss ways your family can reduce the amount of trash you're sending to the landfill. Our family of four produces about ½ of a paper grocery sack of trash each week. Here's how we do that:

  • First of all, we use a paper sack for nearly all our trash. It just doesn't make sense to put trash that you want to (eventually) rot into a non-biodegradable plastic trash bag.
  • Lots of trash is just packaging and wrappers. We are careful about the purchases we make. Buying things used or secondhand reduces the need for packaging. Buying locally also reduces the need for extra packaging. Ask yourself where the things you buy will be in 1000 years - it will help you make more conscientious decisions.
  • Nearly 100% of the food we buy is raw ingredients. That eliminates so much cardboard and plastic packaging to throw away.
  • We buy a lot of our food in bulk (such as beans, rice flour, and spices), and we strive to package this food in recyclable paper sacks when we purchase it rather than using plastic bags.
  • We recycle everything possible. While we only make ½ a bag of trash each week, we probably fill 2 bags with recycling.
  • We don't put food scraps in the trash! It's easy to start a compost pile or a worm bin for your fruit and vegetable waste and scraps. Give meat scraps and oils to your local raccoons and opossums by placing them at least 30 feet from your house and away from foot traffic. If those aren't viable options for you, then send it down the garbage disposal, where it will have the chance to break down and return to the earth, while keeping the bulk out of the landfill. (But remember - no oils down the drain! Sealed in a jar and placed in the trash is best.)
  • If something is still usable but we no longer want or need it, it does not get thrown away! Everything from used appliances, old bookshelves, clothing, toys, and more can be donated to your local thrift store to help a charity, given away on Freecycle, or even sold via Craigslist or Ebay.
It takes a little effort, but you might find, as we did, that you can cut the amount of trash you generate by up to 75%! And remember, everything left out of the landfill is less for our descendants to have to deal with later.

Chris and Rebekah of Liberated Family have two boys. They enjoy preparing traditional foods, gardening, parenting their kids, natural remedies, and a simple lifestyle.

They believe a liberated family is one that frees itself from the unwritten rules and restrictions placed on it, mostly by society. Their blog, LiberatedFamily.com, tells how they do this. It focuses on natural childbirth, natural parenting, traditional foods, unschooling, unjobbing, living simply, and eliminating excess waste. Rebekah and Chris also create heirloom-quality toys at BornAtHomeToys.com.

This post has been edited from a previous version, originally published at Liberated Family.

1 comment:

  1. excellent post! TY for all the awesome tips, and great example! i have trouble with the 'buy local' part; its so darn expensive!! any tips in that department? keeping things affordable yet green? =)


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