How much trash do you and your family produce every week? One bag? Two bags? More?
Your weekly trash output serves as a pretty good indicator of your stewardship efforts. First, it reveals how much you consume. After all, what is trash except the byproduct of consumption? And how we North Americans love to consume.
Second, it shows how much you recycle — or fail to recycle, as the case may be.
In our recent link about his book Garbology: Our Dirty Love Affair with Trash, author Edward Humes points out that Americans consume 7 pounds of trash per person per day, every day — more than any other people on the planet. Most of it is packaging material that goes to landfills, and most of landfill trash can and should be recycled.
The good news? We have a LOT of room for improvement when it comes to being good stewards, as my own story reveals.
In my house, Thursday is trash day. Not long ago I would routinely bring two bags to the curbside, plus a few recyclables in the bright blue bin. But then my wife and I got extreme about cutting our trash footprint. We found ways to reduce our waste stream to a trickle. Here’s how:
–We cut out all unnecessary purchases, which not only reduces trash but also keeps more of our cash in the bank!
–We became obsessive about taking those canvas reusable shopping bags to the grocery store, which cuts down on the plastic bags piling up.
–Wherever possible, we began buying food from bulk bins, which cuts down on packaging waste (especially if you reuse the bags from previous shopping trips).
–We stopped using paper towels and paper napkins for cleanup and meals. Our cleaning cloths and napkins can be reused again and again.
–We turned into hard-core recycling fanatics, sorting out absolutely everything that can be recycled — which is, surprisingly, most everything!
–Although a compost heap is in our not-too-distant future, for now we just make sure we consume all our food before it goes bad (and our dogs are happy to help out in this effort). So our biodegradable garbage consists of only unedibles, such as egg shells, coffee grounds and veggie peels.
A few weeks after the campaign began, we were delighted with the result. We now regularly throw out just half a bag of trash every week. It’s about a quarter of what we used to toss. And now we usually recycle a full bin of plastic, glass and metal, and a lots and lots of paper.
How much trash do you throw out every week? How much can you reduce that if you try?
Photo © Olga Lyubkin – Fotolia.com