Monday, January 3, 2011

No Impact Week Experiment (Day 2) - Trash

Today's focus of the No Impact Week Experiment is trash and discovering how wasting less improves your life.  One of the activities of the No Impact Week Experiment is to examine if the trash produced yesterday was used for ten minutes or longer, or ten minutes or less.  The only place I put trash yesterday was in the kitchen - the trash can or recycling bag. 

Recycling Bag

Looking at the items collected on Sunday, they included the newspaper, two cracker boxes, and three cans (mushrooms and two kidney beans).  Out of these items, everything was used for more than ten minutes. 

The newspaper took me longer than ten minutes to read.  In fact, there was an interesting article about Alzheimer's Disease in the main section which was very timely to read since my father has A.D.  There's a place in Phoenix that is doing some rather alternative care of patients with A.D. that is resulting in less anxiety, stress, angry outbursts, and negative behavior that can be associated with the disease.  Some of the things they are doing are quite applicable to caregiving in the home.

The food items (boxes and cans) were used for meals.  The crackers were consumed during several meals, the can of mushrooms was used over two lunches (homemade pizza on bagels), and the kidney beans were used with chili (also to be used for multiple meals).  I canned the tomatoes that I used in the chili, so the jars and metal rings can be re-used next year when I do some more canning.


As much as I'm interested in separating the trash into the piles, I don't like to go through the garbage once it goes into the bag.  However, as I was putting the items into the trash yesterday I realized that the majority of the items were plastic bags that stored food (e.g., bags used to package a loaf or bread or rolls). 

There was some food waste (e.g., a partial loaf of bread, grease, orange rinds).  In retrospect, I probably could have cut the bread up and used it for bread crumbs like I do with the end pieces of loaves of bread. 

3 Beeswax Ornaments
Beeswax Impressions

My daughter and I were making beeswax impressions (a new product that is in my shop today), and we threw away a couple of toothpicks and some scraps of beeswax that had some spots in it.  The toothpicks I could have burned in the woodstove if I had a fire in it.  The beeswax I could have put outside since it was a natural product. 

Some ideas offered in the No Impact Week Experiment book, are ones I'm going to do or have already done that are worth noting:

Put Together a No-Trash Travel Kit for the Week

I am planning to put together a kit in a reusable canvas bag that has: a reusable drinking cup (for either hot or cold beverages); "Kleenexes" made from t-shirts or knit shirts (I have found that cotton "Kleenexes" fray too much and aren't as soft); and silverware and a plate that I can bring home to wash/reuse. Since I don't commute to a job, this would be used when I'm out doing errands or visiting my parents on Thursday. 

Reduce, Reuse, or Recycle Trash

I need to improve in the areas of reducing trash - particularly when it comes to packaging.  Purchasing in bulk or in larger quantities is something I need to work on during 2011.  Reusing and recycling is something that I do quite a bit of now. 

In fact, in terms of recycling, I'd like to see if Waste Management has a larger recycling container since the recycling container is completely full when it is picked up every two weeks.  Often times, I have bags of recycling waiting to be put in the container once it is empty.

Bring Cloth Bags to the Grocery Store 

When I shop at the grocery store, I tend to use the bags there because the paper ones I reuse my recycling (they don't allow plastic bags in the recycling container).  The plastic bags I use for cat litter.  However, when I go to the co-op, I always use my own cloth bags. 

Perhaps a good action would be to use the bags I have on hand first for recycling and cat litter.  Once those are depleted, then replenish my supply. In the meantime, I could use cloth bags when I go to the grocery store. 

Use the Bulk Bins

This is something I need to use more at the grocery store.  When I go to the co-op, it is the area I spend the most time (and money) in.  There are more items stocked in the bulk section at the co-op that I need than at the grocery store. 

The former has a variety of flours, dairy-free items (e.g., dairy-free milk powder, dairy-free chocolate chips), and other items I need for baking bread and desserts.  The latter has more snack and candy in bulk - items I don't tend to purchase often.

Rid Your Life of Paper Towels, Napkins, and Kleenex

When I was growing up, my parents had paper towels but they were rarely used.  Instead, for cleaning we went to the "rag bin" that was in the laundry room.  My mom tore up clothing that no longer was good and made them into rags.  These were used exclusively for cleaning. 

When I clean now, often I use a rag or dishcloth.  I still use paper towels at times - there are just some jobs that I prefer to use paper towels for versus rags.  Maybe the goal is to use rags a greater percentage of the time...rather than completely eliminate them. 

I have a wide selection of handmade and purchased napkins that are in the dining room.  I don't remember the last time that I purchased a container of napkins.  Many years ago, my mom and I made quite a few sets of napkins from fabric "discards" at a textile mill.  I still have those napkins today.  She showed me how to make the napkins and a matching tablecloth - something simple to add beauty to everyday life.

Last fall, I began making homemade "Kleenex" from t-shirts and knit fabric for my daughter who has severe allergies.  It was suggested that since she has a dust allergy that she avoid paper "Kleenex" since it generates dust everytime it is used. 

So, I went through the closets and took out all the t-shirts that we didn't wear and cut them into circles, squares, and rectangles of various sizes.  She has a basket with unused fabric "Kleenex" and another container to put the used ones.

Every time I do laundry, I wash them and they get softer.  The fabric "Kleenexes" are much more economical and environmentally-friendly than the paper version. 

Use Eco-Friendly Cooking, Personal, and Household Products

It's amazing at what chemicals are put into products and the damage they can do to one's body.  The Sierra Club wrote an interesting article about the importance of using eco-friendly products. 

Watkins Rejuvenating Foot Cream - Peppermint

So, last fall I began eliminating cooking, personal, and household products from the home that were not natural.  After doing this, I replaced them with natural and/or organic products - the majority of which were from J.R. Watkins Natural Products - a company that's been around since 1868, and one that my parents used products from when I was growing up.   

Since I planned on using these products on a regular basis, I became an Associate.  Associates receive a 25% discount off of all the products which is very helpful.  I have tried a wide variety of products and I have been so happy with them.  It's been wonderful having the scent of lavender, citrus, peppermint, and vanilla throughout the home.  (To see the products, please go here: . If you want to buy anything, use Associate #390175.  Or maybe become an Associate yourself and make a radical - and healthy - change for 2011.)
Watkins Vanilla, Black Pepper, and Cinnamon

Consider Gifts that Don't Come Wrapped in Packages

Rather than purchasing items that are wrapped in lots of packaging that will end up in the trash, consider giving experiences.  For example, this Thursday is my Dad's 79th birthday.  My mom and I are taking him out to eat for lunch and then to a movie afterwards.  I'll be making him homemade bird suet and hanging it in this feeders (he loves watching birds). 

Black Capped Chickadee on Feeder
Black-capped Chickadee on Feeder with Homemade Suet

Later this month, my daughter (Olivia) is celebrating her 8th birthday.  She has asked to go to Mall of America.  We will go to Underwater World where she can see the fish and other aquatic life - something fun and educational.  If it's warm enough, there's a wildlife park nearby that we enjoy exploring.  We still talk about the albino squirrel and the hawk that we saw there on past visits. 

Explore Trash-Free Alternatives to Gift Wrap

This is the second year that I've used fabric bags for birthdays and Christmas. 

Fabric Bags for Birthdays

It was nice to be able to wrap this year's gifts in the bags that I made last year.

Christmas Gifts in Fabric Bags with Reusable Tags

So, is it difficult to not generate trash?  In some ways, it is simply a matter of being more conscious of the actions taken during the day (e.g., rather than throwing something in the trash - thinking about whether it could be reused or recycled). 

Some things do require a bit more effort initially, but in the long-term become easier and require less time (e.g., making and using fabric bags). 

Ultimately, at least in my home, it seems like there will always be some trash.  It's the amount of trash that I choose to send to the landfill that I am responsible for...and hope to greatly reduce in 2011.

1 comment:

SerendipiT said...

I love the beeswax impressions, those are so pretty. I'm really into the reuseable gift bags myself and even did a campaign and tried to sell those in my shop this year, but no dice. My family didn't seem to notice or mind though. I suspect they have grown to expect this sort of thing from me. Thanks for keeping us posted on your no impact week; best of luck.