Monday, August 30, 2010

No Impact Week Day 2: Trash

Once I opened this wrapper, I spent less than ten minutes with it before it was trash.

**If this is the first post you are reading on No Impact Week,
you might want to read this one to orient yourself.

Day 2 of Sierra Club No Impact Week is all about the trash. Collecting it. Looking through it. Reducing it.


Yesterday we were supposed to keep a trash bag of our waste, and today we were supposed to rummage through it. Well, we did things a little differently. We collected and rummaged today's trash because I knew today would be more trashy. As in, we are better at behaving ourselves when we are not working, and I wanted us to look as guilty as we can be.
So what was in our trash today? Let's have a look.

Here's mine and Gabe's, mine from work, his from my Mom's:

There's other stupid stuff in this photo, but my trash is:
-The napkin: It was someone's birthday at work, and I ate a slice of the apple bread on the napkin (instead of a plastic plate).
-Plastic cup: I forgot my Nalgene bottle so I drank from that cup during my entire shift. I almost never purchase bottled water.)
-Luna bar wrapper: My breakfast.

Gabe's trash was:
-The brown bag (for a slice of toast)
-The apple sauce container: I confess I do have prepackaged organic apple sauce in our fridge for Gabe's lunch on the days I work-- he still gets homemade fruits at lunch & dinner. He had other food that was in reusable containers.
-Disposable Wipes (not pictured) were used while he was at my Mom's.

Here's my husband's, from his work:

My husband works in higher education, and on the first few days of classes, his office provides him lunch-- that's the plastic bottle and sandwich container seen.
You can see a Clif Bar (breakfast) wrapper peeking from behind the plastic container.

And here's our "home" trash:

coffee grinds, pear rind, egg shells, a dried up sliver of cheese

Do we see a theme here, or what? It's almost ALL food packaging!! (Thanks to cloth wipes, cloth diapers, reusable cloth kitchen towels, reusable travel coffee mugs, etc.)
Which maybe is good in the midst of being bad because we can so, so easily reduce this trash output. How?Use only resuable food containers, bringing a reusable napkin with me INSTEAD of using the paper at work, remembering my Nalgene, and my husband bringing his lunch (I have a hard time telling my husband not to eat the free lunch pre-ordered for him; it seems more wasteful not to eat the food and throw it in the trash).

Yes, we have leftover plastic shopping bags in our home collected from the past year. I do not throw them out if we come home with one unless we resuse them. Normally, we have our reusable (and cute) grocery bags with us for food shopping. I need to make an effort to remember them anywhere we shop.

On top of this, we can choose to eat foods with less packaging. Fruits and veggies are obvious choices, but so are foods which come in less. Buying in bulk is always a recommendation because you get more stuff in less packaging. Bulk is hard for smaller families, though, because with less people, there's less consumption and all that.

As for staples which come in packages, such as milk, eggs, berries (they get crushed!), etc., I am going to look into glass bottles, returning the egg container to the farm (we bought our eggs at a local organic farm), and figuring out our own way to get things home.

What was really inspiring about No Impact Man was how very little trash they put out over the course of their No Impact year simply due to composting. If I think about it, if we eliminate our food packaging trash or at least get it down to a minimum, we would primarily have food remnants (rinds, peels, shells), and those are all great in a compost bin. In other words, despite the fact we are in a condo/ unsure of where we could put a compost bin, I am now seriously inspired and investigating the start of our own compost bin.

I also really like the suggestion to keep a special trash bag with you throughout the week (no matter where you go) so that you are truly aware of you trash output. It is amazing how conscious you become of your trash and the packaging on anything once you are really critically looking to reduce your trash. I mean, wow, WHY are things so covered in plastic and cardboard? Really, WHY? I am going to make a true effort to purchase less when it comes to food. What I mean is, I will not only be looking for whole foods, less processed, local, organic, and fair trade. I will also be looking for less stuff on my food. I'll keep you updated.

For the rest of the week, there's no chancing trash.
We HAVE to reduce.

And here's a start:
Rubbermaid containers for bringing lunch,
Using regular old flatware to and from work,
Bringing a napkin wherever we go,
And keeping our beverages in resusable containers only.


  1. Since I live in the country, lots of people out here have a compost pile. They make little aluminum or ceramic crocks that you can sit on your counter-top to collect everyday waste. They also make very small "backyard" type compost tumblers.


    Love you Erin! Miss you!- Amanda

  2. What an interesting experiment! I think mine would be mostly food scraps (I have no outside space) and Brie's litter with an occasional food container (today we used up both pickles and mayo -- both things I know I could make myself if I tried). I wasn't planning to participate in No Impact Week, but you might just change my mind.