Trash Reduction – My Household’s Story

I was recently reading an article in No Impact Man about trash.  He recommended saving and then sifting through the garbage produced in one week.  Sounds disgusting.  So I did a mental inventory for a while.  My two-person household had two large, 40-gallon garbage cans.  Each week we filled one, or even both cans!  We started recycling until our town stopped taking anything but aluminum and paper (curbside), reduced the pickup to twice monthly, and charged twice as much.  Somehow we recycled but didn’t seem to produce much less trash.

Three years have passed, and I’ve done a few things. 

  1. I attempt to buy products in little or no packaging.
  2. If not available package-free, I opt for aluminum, glass, and cardboard, all of which I faithfully recycle.
  3. I do not buy fruit that is not in #1 or #2 plastic.  I also almost never buy any other products that are not in these plastics.  While other numbers are recycled, there’s a reason they don’t do it curbside: #1 and #2 are the most easily remanufactured.  Using and recycling other plastics uses more resources.
  4. I take my lunch to work in reusable containers.
  5. For health and environmental reasons, I have almost eliminated fast food from my diet.
  6. I use my own grocery bags.  But y’all knew that already.
  7. I brew my own beer and avoid all the bottles and cardboard (which reminds me I need to brew more beer).

So, for our four-person household, we are down to one medium trash bag weekly and that is counting the fact that we have a baby using disposable diapers (sorry, landfill).  We also have 1-2 bins of recyclables.  The total garbage and recyclables for four people is half of what our garbage was for two people.  That’s ¼ the garbage per person.

I’m not No Impact Woman, but this is a good start, I think.  My goals are to switch the baby to cloth diapers at age one or so; to start composting my food scraps instead of using the garbage disposal in the sink; and to grow/can more of my own food. 

If anybody still reads my blog, I’d appreciate knowing what your tips are.

4 thoughts on “Trash Reduction – My Household’s Story

  1. Sounds like you guys are doing so well! I’ve never done that ‘sift through the trash’ thing but I bet it would be eye opening…and stinky. I’m fortunate that my apartment complex has tons of recycling bins. I’ve also been trying to pay attention to my electricy consumption. I leave lights on a lot, which is so wasteful.

  2. Well, it feels like we’re doing better, but there’s still more to do. I don’t leave lights on a lot- in fact, Carlton calls me “the bat” because I walk around in the dark (see my bruised shins for proof). However, I do use lots of power on my aquaria and I wash dishes/clothes on a whim.

    I wonder if my obsessive attempts to reduce use of water/electricity are even measurable. But every drop in the bucket counts, right?

  3. I like your focus on the packaging and later ability to recycle at the point of purchase. I don’t think about that so much yet. But now that I found places that accept plastic wrap (like case wrap and bags in general) and cardboard, plus the regular curbside deal, I’m recycling a LOT of stuff. We usually have 1-2 13 gal kitchen bags of trash for the two of us, a ton of recycling….and then a bunch of bags of litterbox leavings! I KNOW everything in those is breaking down quickly in the landfill, but they are in plastic bags. Perhaps I can find bags that will biodegrade like the ones I use to pickup dog poop on walks.

    I stick to full loads of laundry and dishes and don’t sweat that so much. Apparently you use less water in a dishwasher than doing it by hand anyway!

    I wish the house were insulated upstairs. There’s not much I can do about that right now, but the digital thermostat does keep us honest and I’m not putting the house at such “comfy” temps like I did at the old place. I set it based on what is reasonable for the animals!

Leave a Reply