In 2006, the U.S. produced more than 251 million tons of trash – 4.6 pounds per person per day. (EPA)
Day two of the No Impact Project experiment: Consider all trash bins off limits. How does one eliminate all trash–recyclable or not? “Think Ice Cream Cone. It contains the ice cream. It biodegrades. It provides calories. In other words, it has value all by itself. It is not wasted resources. If we must have packaging, why can’t all of it be designed in such a way? In other words, let’s make sure the resources we use deliver value instead of just being something we throw away.” ~No Impact Man Blog
We are a family of three and, on average, put out one can of what I call “garbage-garbage” every other week (I’ve been known to post this achievement on my facebook page… won’t be doing that again). We don’t use paper towels or napkins and all veggie and fruit scraps are tossed in our compost pile. I only print things when absolutely necessary and double-sided when possible. Leftovers are tossed hither and yon into our backyard for the lame mother raccoon that lives under our deck (this may also explain a neighbor’s dog frequenting our backyard). If I misprint something or receive paper of any kind and the other side is blank, I stick the page in my reclaimed circuit board clipboard for notes.
Our recycle bins, though, have way of filling up even though bottled water is off limits in our household and we rarely drink soda. I work hard at purchasing large and/or concentrated containers of cleaning and laundry products. But there’s still plastic food containers, food cans, the Sunday newspaper, junk mail, milk cartons that pile up. The day’s challenge stopped me from tossing the empty hard plastic almond container, deciding it could be used for food storage. Another contains my son’s sidewalk chalk. I’ve already been saving bread bags and other perfectly reusable food bags to store foods like opened cheese.
As hard as I tried, I had to toss a plastic frozen strawberry bag (frozen strawberries are part of my daily smoothie). I was haunted by guilt. Not only because of the bag, but the fact that frozen foods have a higher carbon footprint. Luckily it was a 5 pound bag. I also have an addiction to Trader Joe’s dried green beans which come in a 4 oz bag and, I just noticed, they’re made in Vietnam. These things make a fast and tasty mid afternoon snack, but with all of the processing and packaging, probably have a higher carbon footprint than a Hummer.
Part of the challenge was to build upon the previous day’s challenge and not purchase anything unless we really needed it. We didn’t drive anywhere or buy anything. It helped that I wasn’t feeling very well that day. Could I eliminate all trash from our lives? Honestly, no. But the exercise made me hyper-cognizant of what was going into the garbage. Humbled.