Waste Reduction

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The packing is nearly complete and I must admit, we still own way more than I had thought. It’s still not much, but it’s more than my original perception of what we own. I already know that, as I am unpacking all of these boxes in a week, I’ll be giving everything a critical eye before putting it on a shelf.

But on a different note, I took an unusually large bag out to the trash today and I couldn’t help but notice how empty our trash bin was. I have not taken the trash to the curb in 3 weeks and there were only 2 small grocery bags in my can, one of which was dog poo. I couldn’t help but feel a little proud that we’re producing so little waste. While I’m packing, there will be a bit more than usual, but there still isn’t much. This realization got me to thinking about what we have done to transform our waste production thus far.

The most important, and drastic, change we have made was removing the trash can from our house. Yes you read that correctly, we do not have a trash can inside of our house. When I know I will be producing waste, I hang a bag on a cabinet. This usually happens when I am cooking something with meat and I dispose of it as soon as I have finished preparing the meal. We do keep a small plastic grocery bag hanging in a closet for small trash items such as plastic wrappers and the like, but this typically takes the better part of a month to fill. By removing the trash can from our house, we have been forced to consider better ways to reuse or remove the ‘trash’ items. And usually, there is a ‘greener’ way. In addition to removing the trash can, I’ve brought in a large recycling bin. Replacing the trash can from the house went further than we could have ever imagined; it led to the rest of these waste reducing measures:

I bring my own bags to the store. I keep an extra one stored in each car just in case we forget. (But even then I forget sometimes.) The plastic bags that build up come from the times I forget my reusable shopping bags or purchase something such as meat, which I like to have wrapped in plastic before joining the other edibles.

I keep a compost bowl on top of the refrigerator and I compost everything I can. My bowl fills up with tea bags, egg shells, vegetables, fruit, and floor sweepings. I empty the bowl each night when I bring the dog out and I use my compost in spring when I am preparing the garden.

I reuse my bags from bulk items (flour, rice, quinoa). I use them to clean up dog waste, or I return to the store with that bag when it is time to purchase more of an item.

I don’t buy plastic bags. Not for the dog and not for lunches. Dog waste in the yard is managed with a shovel and dog waste on runs is managed with the plastic bags that still manage to get in. And for lunches, there is nothing a little reusable Tupperware can’t handle.

With the exception of toilet paper, I don’t buy paper products. For our everyday eating needs, we use reusable napkins (which I bought 20 of on clearance for about 60 cents each). The napkins aren’t special but they’re neutral enough and get the job done. For cleaning, I have 5 rags I use for specific purposes (floors, windows, dusting, doggie messes, and general cleaning).

I shop carefully. Most items I purchase that come in packaging are recyclable, even down to the packaging on our toilet paper!

My largest waste challenge is dog poo. I have read that people use recycled paper or other recycled goods to remove waste from their yard. But let’s be honest, I have a 98 pound lab and I’m not touching her piles with paper. To make matters worse, she is one of those dogs that love to make a pit stop about a mile into our run. I need something portable and large! Right now, the waste ends up in community trash cans wrapped in a plastic bag. I understand this isn’t a waste reduction success, but I’m hoping someone will have a brilliant solution to my dog poo dilemma.

I know these waste reduction measures sound like a lot of extra effort; however, it really becomes rather routine. We implemented these steps at a rate we could adjust to and improved are waste reducing measures over time. Now, it is quite normal for me to pull my compost bowl down when I begin to cook or get out a washable rag when I am cleaning. And while we have come a long way, there is still more progress to be made to be considered a zero waste home!



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5 Responses to Waste Reduction

  1. kjgray says:

    Awesome post, and super exciting news on how little trash you produce! Would biodegradable dog poo bags be considered a solution?

    • brookeO says:

      I’ve considered those. I haven’t been able to bring myself to buy them though because their production produces a lot of waste and they’re made in China. I’m hoping the new location will lead way to a solution.

  2. Kassie. McManus says:

    We had a dog poop composter once upon a time. It was a container that put in the ground and used was some sort of “bioactive” substance to break the poop down. Our soil was too full of clay and did not drain properly so the old dog poop composter did not work very well. Maybe you could follow that some concept and have a dog poop pile and use lime(?) to degrade it. Since you are moving to the country, you could try to perfect the concept without distressing neighbors.

    • brookeO says:

      I like this idea. Peter has described the set-up to me several times and I really like it. So we’ll be looking into it. My biggest issue is how to dispose of waste while we’re out for a run.

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