how I reduce household trash

My least favorite household chore is definitely taking out the trash. It can smell, it forces you to go outside in the dead of winter, and you have to wash your hands when you come back inside. (Not that I don’t wash my hands frequently… it’s just part of the hassle.)

Trash is more than just an annoyance, of course. We all know about the oceanic landfills that are larger than some countries, and just today I read that they are finding human trash in deep underwater canyons. As much as I can, I refuse to be a part of this.

At this point in my life, I’m taking out one 8 gallon bag of trash a week for my two person house. I think that’s pretty good, but my goal is to do even better! Happily, I am now a member of a group community garden that lets us bring our compost once a week. That really helps with the trash not smelling! But what to do about all of that other waste? Our society really seems to love putting everything in plastic.

Here are some ways that I reduce the amount of things I throw away:

Never buy tupperwear, just reuse containers! Sometimes I mark them up or paint them to cover up excessive logos. These containers are great for leftovers or for keeping compost in the freezer, just don’t microwave or dishwash them. Please.

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Plastic ziploc bags are also reusable. Just turn them inside out to wash and dry them by hand. Never buy baggies again!

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Collect food scraps for composting as you cook. I like to keep a bowl near me when cooking so that I can easily toss everything into the freezer when I’m done. The less work involved = the more likely I am to compost.

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Hold on to recyclables when you’re out and recycle them at home. In the right environment, things like this can decompose and turn into soil – but in an anaerobic landfill environment, they DON’T. If you have recyclable items when you’re out and about that need to be tossed (an paper coffee cup, for example) but there’s no recycling, try to hold onto it and recycle it later. Just look at how many recyclables are in this trash can I saw in Bucktown the other day.

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Finally, the most important advice I have is…

Try not to buy heavily packaged materials and foods. This is why I hate buying produce at Trader Joe’s – it’s my favorite store, but everything is shrink wrapped and in a plastic bag! It drives me nuts. If you shop at a store with a bulk section, you can bring you own containers (make sure to tare them first) instead of using 50 bags. Also take the amount of packing into account when choosing between brands of basic items.

These are standards that I set for myself, and I don’t always reach them. I’d love to be a waste free household and show others that it’s not that hard. It just requires a bit more thought than we are taught to give purchasing decisions.

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