In a previous post I had guest written for Angela’s blog on how I wanted to start moving towards a more zero-waste lifestyle. That basically just means trying to cut back on what I buy, cut down on single use items, especially plastic, and re-use as much as possible.
Then I followed that up with one week of tracking every single piece of trash I ended up generating. It is quite an eye-opening experience, I would highly recommend you try it. It makes you much more aware of tiny things you would just trash without a second thought.
Well, some time has gone by, and Angela and I discussed tracking for a week again, to see how we were doing. We are equally terrible at remembering, so we decided to just start on a Tuesday.
For the purposes of tracking, I kept a running list in my phone of anything I threw away while at work or outside the house. Luckily I have already implemented a few tips and tricks at work to cut down on waste.
- I have a reusable k-cup and a small container of coffee, in case a second cup is required
- I have my own reusable coffee mug, water bottle, silverware, oil and vinegar, and salt in my desk
- I bring lunch & snacks in reusable containers and take anything compostable home with me
- I bring a new dish towel each week that I use at lunch and for drying my hands after using the bathroom
- I try to use as little TP as possible now
Trash outside the house:
- Panera boxed lunch:
- big paper box
- plastic salad clamshell
- tiny plastic dressing cup
- plastic silverware wrapped in plastic
- thin napkin
- plastic paper wrapper on sandwich
- plastic bag for cookie
- 2 times forgetting my towel, used paper towels for hand drying
- 2 tea bags at work
So overall, not a bad week. That one day of Panera just killed me though, and at least 2 dozen people were there with similar amounts of waste each.
Catered lunches are a pit of plastic.
Moral of the story: Bring your lunch!
At home, I tried to keep anything I would normally throw away in a separate bag in the other room. Food containers I rinsed out so I didn’t have troubles. But some things had to just go straight into the trash, like moldy cheese.
Also, the boy lives here too. And he creates some trash, which I did not include because I don’t want to force him onto the blog without permission. 🙂 Only things which I used or emptied or cooked with are included here, because it is a pretty accurate representation of what I would do were I living alone as well.
We have 2 dogs, 11 quail, and no kids, for context.
I have a home-delivery for produce weekly, which re-uses the delivery box and any packaging needed. So if I get a pint container of strawberries, I just send it back empty so they can refill it for next time. Thus, no waste.
But, I do also supplement with things from ALDI, other grocery stores, ethnic markets, Amazon, and my co-op as well.
Trash at home:
- 2 sliced cheese wrappers, and 4 slices moldy cheese
- 2 plastic bags from frozen mixed fruits
- Small black styrofoam box from food tour leftovers
- Big white styrofoam from leftovers after Friday dinner
- Top rip off from several cheese, frozen fruit, and tortilla packages
- Half brick of cream cheese that went moldy, foil wrapper and box
- 3 q-tips (don’t @ me, I mostly just hate water in my ear)
- Sticker from 2 bananas and a grapefruit
- Plastic inner ring from an Almond milk container
- Empty Almond milk container
- Giant plastic boxes from mixed salad greens (2)
- Plastic bag from spinach (2)
- Plastic lid from a tea box set I got for Christmas
- Plastic wrapper from 2 boxes of green tea
- Plastic wrap from a Butcher Box pork roast
- Plastic wrap from a Butcher Box chicken breast
- Edamame bag
- Lemon bag
- Avocado bag
- Brussles sprouts bag
- Plastic window from some mail
- Plastic wrap from Charmin
- Plastic covering from Greek yogurt container
- Plastic inner bag from “Cracklin Oat Bran”
- Plastic wrapper from a frozen pizza
- Plastic ring around new can of raisins
- 1 stevia packet
- Tempeh inner and outer wrapping
- Bag from loaf of seed bread
- Plastic grocery bag
- Plastic wrapper from cauliflower
- Foil top of new coffee can
- Vitamin water mix packet
- Mio knockoff bottle
- Vegan cheese wrapping
- 2 grocery receipts
- 1 gas receipt
- 2 dining out receipts
The thing that stands out to me is that is a really long list!
I thought I did better than this.
And I felt pretty ashamed of how much plastic I’m bringing home from the grocery store.
But then I thought of how much better I’m doing since a few years ago. How the co-op has become part of my life, so I do my best to shop in bulk for things like oats and barley and beans. How I now have a 100% local and package free source of daily eggs.
And all I can do is keep trying to do better.
Luckily, I now live in a place where recycling is an option.
This is the first time, as all my previous apartments and rental houses have not offered this. I could have saved things to take to my grad school campus to recycle but we all know how motivated grad students are when there are a million other things on your mind…
Anywho, the things that got tossed into the recycle bin did not have to go in the trash, and for that I’m thankful. But for those who don’t have the option to recycle, the below list would have been trash too.
- 1 plastic soy sauce bottle
- 1 plastic lemon juice bottle
- 1 coffee tin
- 1 can pineapples
- 6 cans beans
- 1 can beets
- 1 can tomatoes
- 3 beer bottles
- 1 can coconut milk
- 1 can coconut water
Another fun thing about having a house now is that we also have a fire pit in the back yard. We recently took down 6 big trees, so we have tons of wood and sticks. But, we usually need some fast burning items to start it up, or keep it going.
So, we keep a “burn box”.
This is where we put any big or small cardboard boxes, paper towel or TP rolls, envelopes, etc. Anything that will burn, can go into a bonfire rather than a trash can.
But again, not everyone has this option. So these things could have been trash instead.
- 3 paper covers and rolls from “Who Gives a Crap” tp
- Box from “Cracklin Oat Bran”
- 1 paper towel tube
- 1 empty box tissues
- Cardboard bottom from a tea box gift set
- Empty frozen pizza box
- Dentastix box
- Blue Moon beer box
- 2 boxes from pasta
- Box from cake mix
- Box from granola bars
- Bagged green tea box
- Amazon delivery box
- Tissue paper from a swap (quail eggs in exchange for 2 cute crystal serving trays and a neat ceramic soup tureen)
And finally, my favorite way of keeping things out of the trash, is composting.
When we lived in a rental and I didn’t know if we would stay long enough for a pile to make sense, I had a big Rubbermaid container full of worms in the yard and did vermicomposting.
Now, I have enough space for a permanent pile.
We toss our kitchen goodies in there, and combined with the fall leaves and mulch, and sawdust shavings and quail manure, we make our own supercharged garden fertilizer. And keep literal tons of organic matter out of land fills.
- Banana peels
- 2 pear pits
- 5 clementine peels
- Coffee grounds
- Old hard bread
- Persimmon peel
- Centers of broccoli and cauliflower
- Zucchini and carrot ends
- 2 paper tissues
- 4 tea bags
- 2 lemons
- Loose leaf green and hibiscus tea
- Ends of sweet potatoes
- Onion ends and peel
There you have it, in startling technicolor, all the trash created by an actually-quite-eco-conscious person trying not to make trash.
What a world we live in.