Our garbage reduction project has had a steep learning curve. Education has been the name of the game for the past three months, learning what goes where. For years we’ve put butter wrappers in the recycling – because foil – which is wrong, they are garbage. Throwing out plastic bags is wrong too, they recycle. Though we usually reuse bags for pet waste, which definitely goes in the garbage. And thermal paper is not recyclable.
Related: Pet waste is the bulk of our garbage right now, and the main reason we have to put our garbage can out for pick up. But we can’t see anyway around that right now.
I’ve had a hard time figuring out how to maintain a zero tolerance for garbage. Even when I use my reusable shopping bins and produce bags I bring home garbage. Our produce has plastic stickers, or elastics or a tie up. And those blasted cucumbers all wrapped in plastic! Not to mention the things the kids bring home. We were away for March break, and in five days we generated as much garbage as we had at home since January. It put a bit of a dark cloud over our vacation.
Meat has been the biggest problem to find without generating garbage. Even when I bring a reusable container to our butcher they use a plastic bag to pick it up. We’re working on placing bulk orders wrapped in butcher paper, which goes in our organic waste. On the bright side our cheese shop is totally on board with our garbage reduction and happily packs our cheese into our containers. They also give samples. It’s possible that I am eating more cheese than I should be right now. They also have ice cream in glass jars which they take back for reuse!
A lot of my time is spent sourcing things. After a great email chain to Costco, I believe I’ve found a plastic free toilet paper made with 100% post consumer recycled paper. It remains to be seen if the package will truly arrive without plastic.
After reading Plastic Free: How I Kicked The Plastic Habit and How You Can Too by Beth Terry (Her blog is My Plastic-free Life) I stepped up my game on reducing plastic use too. As a former Tupperware consultant we have cupboards full of plastic containers, all manufactured before BPA was a common concern. While it’s very tempting to donate all my TWare and replace them with trendy glass and stainless, that doesn’t exactly fit into the budget. I did get rid of the line that Tupperware said contained BPA. Almost all our our water is consumed out of plastic, even when we are at home. We’re kitting out our 600 000 mason jar to make them computer and kitten safe. By which I mean a lid because no one wants to share their glass of water with a cat.
Next step: We’re embarking on an April plastic reduction challenge. Each family member will be given a $10 allowance. We will be fined $1 for each new piece of plastic we bring home. We can redeem our dollars by collecting 10 pieces of garbage from the neighborhood. We will not be penalized for gifts.
Now, how can I encourage you to eliminate single use water bottles from your life?