Then I picked up up Bea Johnson's book "Zero Waste Home: The Ultimate Guide to Simplifying Your Life by Reducing Your Waste" and was appropriately humbled. This family produce a quart-sized jar full of trash each year. Each year! Wowza.
I'm pretty ruthless when it comes to recycling (like I'll tear off the plastic windows on envelopes to recycle the paper and things like that) but I realized that in terms of being "good" for the environment, recycling really isn't the goal. For a variety of reasons.
I also had the sudden realization that everything I put in my trash can will end up under the ground somewhere in a landfill. And I knew it before that, I suppose, but it never really hit me.
Anyways, I was inspired, and we made a few small changes. We won't be cancelling our trash collection service any time soon, but I feel good about doing what I can to "refuse, reduce, re-use, recycle, rot" (this is Bea's mantra by the way, and it's in priority order).
- We now have a compost bin under our sink, next to our trash can. When I was in England last month I noticed that my sister had one, and that it didn't smell bad(!). So I figured I could do that. It has surprisingly reduced our trash a ton! We have a corner in the backyard where we pile our grass clippings and yard waste. (The mound has grown significantly and we're deciding on how to better contain it. Right now leaning towards making a structure out of pallets.) It's been a good visual reminder and I feel great about it. Now we mostly take out nappies/diapers to the trash. I really should go back to cloth but Elsie is SO CLOSE to potty training that I'm just biding my time.
- I cut up stained/irreparable clothing into rags and put some under each sink in the house to use for cleaning.
- I decluttered a ton. This is from Bea's suggestion to "reduce". I LOVE having less junk. Especially in the kitchen and closets. Bea's thought is that by having less, we realize we need less and that by having less we clean less and have more time for experiences (as opposed to things). We still have a lot of junk but I'm happy with our progress.
Other things I want to do/keep doing:
- Taking a reusable water bottle with me (I really love Contigo brand).
- Not buying dollar store junk (I mean the plastic toys that break after five minutes).
- Not using (or taking home) hotel shampoos/soaps.
- Not buying paper towels or napkins once ours run out, continue using wash cloths/rags for spills and buy some nice cloth napkins for company.
- Not buying the kids' toys and clothes new (honestly we don't really buy our kids toys or clothes. Our friends and family are super generous.).
- Using the library for books and movies.
- We shop at ALDI and so already use own own bags, but I'd like to shop more in bulk and use my own containers. I checked out Whole Foods and unfortunately the price and selection in our local place won't work for us. I'd like to try going to more farmers markets and see what I can find in bulk there.
I would love to be as strict as Bea, but I don't see that happening any time soon. Partly because of budget, partly because I think it's a challenge socially. But it does help me think twice before buying anything disposable. For example, I had quite the moral crisis at the store on Saturday when I realized the only thing left to sign up to bring for a BBQ was plates/cups/napkins/cutlery. Gah! I imagined bringing our own and then carting a ton of dirty dishes back home and just bought the disposables :/
But I'm trying! And even though our efforts are relatively small, I feel really good about the direction they're taking us.
PS Here's a picture of the jar holding the Johnson's family waste from 2015:
Click HERE to see Bea's list of tips for lessening waste all over the house.