Living with less waste – Phase 1

7825968422_bcde1abbe9_zAs I dig myself deeper into the minimalism rabbit hole, I’ve turned my focus to reducing the amount of trash I produce. In particular, plastic seems to be a big issue in the world today. I think water bottles are the most obvious culprit, but there are so many other single-use items that most of us rely on and don’t think twice about. How many of us use Keuring coffee pods every morning? Or if we opt for a Starbucks run, do we ever bring our own mug for them to fill? And most of us have eaten take-out food at least once in the past week or two. Do we notice all the packaging it gets wrapped in before we toss it away?

Electronics are much more disposable than they used to be. It’s common for people to replace their smart phones every 1-2 years. I hold out to every 3-4 years. Sure, we can sell our old phones on Ebay or give them to our kids to use as toys, but eventually they will end up as waste. Are you old enough to remember taking your TV into a repair shop for service? I am! But now, if our TV doesn’t work, we won’t think twice to toss it and get a new (bigger) one for just a few hundred bucks.

Watching the documentary Plastic Paradise really got me thinking about all this.

I’m skeptical of our ability to truly recycle all of these things that we use and dump. Therefore, I’m going to significantly reduce the amount of trash that leaves my house each week.

Here’s what I’ve already done over the past year, which I consider to be the easy stuff.

Cloth grocery bags:
  • This is a no-brainer. I keep cloth bags in the trunk of my car so I always have them when pulling into the grocery store. There’s also a stash in my condo for when I walk to the store or farmers market.
  • I’m also getting better at bringing them with me on my non-grocery shopping outings.

Plastic water bottles:
  • I no longer buy them in bulk at the grocery store.
  • At home, I use a water filter in my refrigerator door and am also OK drinking tap water.
  • If I’m out and about, I have a Klean Canteen insulated bottle to fill and carry with me. It’s ridiculous how cold it stays inside!
  • When I occasionally do use one, I’ll keep it for several refills before adding to my recycle bin.
Cloth napkins:
  • I switched to cloth napkins and it hasn’t been a big deal. I’ve got my own washer and dryer, which makes it super convenient to toss them in with my dish towels as needed.
  • Composting  your food and yard waste prevents it from rotting in landfills. It takes a bit of set-up, but it’s simple once you’ve got everything in place.
  • If you have a backyard, you can toss your lawn clipping and food scraps into a pile or bin, turn it every so often, and it will break down into awesome compost.
  • Since I enjoy condo living, I opt to vermicompost. Yes, that’s worms! I’ll write up a more detailed post on how to do this. Basically, I’ve got a plastic bin filled with bedding material and worms. Every week or two, I toss in my raw food scraps for them to eat. They poop it out as castings, which is a great fertilizer!
Recycled cat litter:
  • Rather than clumping clay litter, I’ve switched to Yesterday’s News, which is made from recycled newspaper.
  • I’m still using my stash of old plastic grocery bags to dispose of the used litter. I need to make the switch to compostable bags.
  • I also think it’s healthier for my cats, having less chemicals and dust.

In my next post, I’ll dig into ways of reducing my waste that take more effort and might be less convenient, but could have an even bigger impact.

(Image: Bo Eide)

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