Every year as a family we create New Year's resolutions. We make a big long list for us as a family and a shorter list for each individual. As the year ticks by, it's not hard to remember the lists because we have them hung up in our living room for all to see. One of the items on the list this year was "One Week No Trash". I had watched a YouTube video last fall of a woman who did this for herself and it sounded like just the thing for us. So last week was our week.
Reluctantly, everyone in my family agreed and so Sunday it began. I took all of the current garbage out of the house, removed all of the trash cans from the various locations in the house and centralized everything in the kitchen. Basically, you had to walk to the kitchen if you wanted to throw anything away. The goal was to reduce the actual amount of trash that we generate each week. If it could be composted or recycled, great! If not, try not to buy it or use it this week. Oh, and as a reminder, I put a big masking tape X over the trash can to remind us to consider it before you throw it.
Our results were a bit shocking, I'll admit. We went from our typical two full kitchen sized garbage bags per week down to half of one. And we didn't change a whole lot about what we bought nor did we deny ourselves much. We just became conscious. I think we all realized how lazy we'd gotten. It's easier to just toss it in the trash then find the right place to put it. Especially if you're near the closest trash bin and there are no other options. We started composting things we don't usually - like paper towels, paper napkins and tissues. We also became more rigorous about putting plastic bags aside instead of throwing them away.
In the end, almost all of our garbage could be recycled or composted. The culprit, however, was shrink wrap. That stuff is nasty. You can't do anything with it but throw it away. And it's on SO MANY THINGS! Sometimes even single vegetables are wrapped in the stuff (I'm never buying those again!). Meat is usually wrapped in it. It's kinda gross. I'm not sure how to avoid this other than being conscious about looking for other options. Perhaps I can get my meat from the counter, wrapped in paper, if possible? At least I can compost that.
Finally, the true test of our dedication was our trip to the State Fair on Sunday. Over five ours at the State Fair with five people. This was going to be a challenge. I brought a backpack equipped with a plastic bag and a compostable bag. Any time we bought something or used something, the trash went into one of my bags. We did not throw any items into any of the trash bins at the State Fair. When we returned home, there were more items than I'd hoped that were destined for the trash. And let me ask, why does the State Fair have to use STYROFOAM cups? For EVERYTHING? And there's no place to put them when you're done? No recycling plan for them at the Fair. And I can't recycle those at home. Seriously? Someone needs to rethink this. We did have a three plastic spoons which can't be recycled so those were also trash. We all brought our camping sporks, however, so as long as we remembered to ask for no plastic utensil, we could just use those.
The best result of this week, however, was that we all agreed that it's something we want to just continue. I'm going to create one central location for our trash on the second floor with bins for recycling, compost and trash. The trash bins in each bedroom will stay in storage. Becoming conscious about or waste was eye opening. And relatively EASY.
*Note - We live in Minneapolis where we have the benefit of curb side trash, recycling and compost. We also have chickens who will gladly eat food scraps. This summer I called and asked for pricing on a second recycling bin (because our bimonthly pick-up leaves us with an overflowing bin on a regular basis). The second bin was free and was delivered within a few days.
If you're excited to get conscious about your waste, I encourage you to give it a try!