After I sent in last week’s post, Web Editor Jess Friedlander and I exchanged a few emails about garbage. She asked me to outline a few easy ways one could reduce their garbage production. Don’t think you need to? According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the average American produces 4.4 pounds of garbage a day. That’s upwards of 1,600 pounds a year. And most of it is packaging. You may think that once that bag goes in the garbage truck it miraculously disappears from the planet — out of sight, out of mind, right? But it doesn’t. It goes to a landfill, outside (or in the middle of) someone else’s community, and sits there. It will be there after you’re gone. After your kids are gone. After their kids are gone. And their kids. And theirs. Baby diapers can take as long as 500 years to decompose. And while all that stinky, nasty trash is decomposing it’s producing toxic gases that are entering our atmosphere, polluting our water, and stinking up the place, literally.
Maybe you’re thinking: I recycle, I do my part. But remember it’s REDUCE, REUSE, RECYCLE. First you have to reduce your consumption, by buying less and reusing whatever you can. The last step is to recycle what can’t be reused. So be a smart — and eco-conscious — consumer: Buy what you need and remember that reusable items are boss.
As per Jess’ request, here are some simple ways to cut down your household garbage production (and you’ll find many of these will also save you a few bucks in the long run):
- Switch to cloth diapers and cloth wipes.
- Use rags instead of paper towels; handkerchiefs instead of tissues; cloth napkins instead of paper; and family cloth instead of toilet paper.
- Don’t eat take-out; or if you must, bring Tupperware or Pyrex to the restaurant and ask them to pack your food in those.
- Bring your empty maple syrup or tamari bottles to a health food store like Mother Earth’s Storehouse in Kingston to refill. You can bring your empty peanut butter jars, too. And at Sunflower Natural Foods Market in Woodstock, you can refill empty body wash, shampoo, or conditioner bottles.
- Avoid anything “individually packaged”: Buy things like cereal, snacks, grains, and beans from the bulk bins at your local health food store so you can reuse bags and containers.
- Instead of buying the pre-packaged snack-sized portions of things (which are usually bags inside a box inside a bag), just use a measuring cup to measure out the same portion and pack it in mini-Tupperwares or reusable snack bags for your kids’ lunches. Or buy Japanese style bento boxes, which have different size compartments and make lunches in those — your kids may appreciate the fun variety, and think of all the sandwich bags you’ll save!
- Make your own baby food instead of buying jars.
- Call up the catalog companies and request they stop sending you their catalogs. You can also go to www.catalogchoice.org
- Compost! Get a compost pail for your backyard and some worms, and toss all of your food waste in to yield rich soil for your garden! Check out www.howtocompost.org for some helpful how-to tips.
- Shop at your local farmer’s market and bring cheesecloth along with your reusable shopping bags to wrap purchases like cheese, bread, baked goods, or anything else that would otherwise be wrapped in paper or plastic.
- Buy your milk in glass bottles from a local dairy farm like Ronnybrook. And their Creamline milk can do double duty — since it’s non-homogenized, the cream separates to the top so you could scoop it off for your coffee and not have to buy a whole other carton of half n’ half.
- Go veg*n! Because it takes so long to break down (and attracts undesirable pests), meat scraps — including bones and soiled butcher paper — can’t be composted.
- …but if you can’t give up your steak, try buying from your local butcher (check out Fleisher’s in Kingston), where they make use of every part of their locally raised, grass-fed animals. And they’ll wrap your meat in paper, which is better than the Styrofoam and cellophane waste from a grocery store cooler.
- Buy a stainless steel water bottle and a Brita or Pur filter, a more cost effective and waste-less way to have clean drinking water.
- Reuse your Ziplocs — turn them inside out, wash them and hang them on your dish rack to dry.
- If you can’t do without bagging your produce at the grocery store, make use of those plastic bags once you’re home: Pack lunches in them, pick up after your dog, or wash and reuse next time you go to the store.
- Sign up for paperless billing and pay your monthly bills online.
- Bring your own reusable travel mug into your favorite coffee shop for your morning latte — some places will even give you a small discount for doing so.
- When you clean out your closets, your garage, your basement, or your attic don’t be so quick to take your old stuff to the dump: Donate it to a friend, Goodwill, or freecycle it.
What do you think? What steps do you take to stay “green?” Jot your thoughts in the comments below!