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Garbage Can Challenge – November Update

Hey all! How is everyone doing?

Refresher: Last month I set a family goal of reducing our garbage production by 1/2…

Well, our family garbage count this month did not reach our goal. We did have about a foot of empty space at the top of the can though. I would say it was still a little over 3/4 of the way full. While I felt slightly defeated, I was also happy to see some improvement! It’s made me realize this is going to be a process. No surprise, as there are rarely any quick fixes in life, right? I’m reminded that creating a sustainable model is so much more important than a quick fix. I’d like to apply that lesson here and take a slight amount of pressure off of reaching an ambitious goal, and focus more on how to get there. I’m going to allow myself the time to reach my goal over the course of this year, as I find alternatives to some of my plastic consumption and create sustainable new habits.

The other day I had a wonderful conversation with my neighbor, who is an avid recycler and garbage-aware person. She said something that struck me as profound. She said, “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, there’s a reason it’s in that order! Reduce is the operative and most important word here”. Kind of obvious, right? Maybe I am showing my naïveté, but I had never realized the order of the words in that phrase! I mentioned in my last post that I noticed there were some things I had been throwing away that could be recycled, and that my recycling bins have been more full then ever now. And while recycling is important, reduction is most imperative.

The same neighbor also mentioned a segment on NPR she heard called, Why Recycling Options Lead People To Waste More; it highlights some studies showing that if we know something can be recycled we are more likely to overuse and waste it. Click here to read/listen to the 3 minute story. It’s really interesting!

So, my take-away and focus for this next month is going to be starting at the top – the number one R, REDUCE! My biggest reduction effort this past month was switching to cloth diapers for my daughter. I had always thought I would cloth diaper my child, but for a variety of reasons got hooked on disposables. After trying several kinds of cloth diapers (you wouldn’t believe how many types of cloth diapers are on the market these days), I have found some that work for us and am absolutely thrilled. This switch was, for sure, the main reason our garbage production was reduced this past month.

What’s in your garbage can? Most of our family’s garbage is plastic from food packaging. I am beginning to think about some items I might be willing to give up the store bought version of and consistently make my own instead, or buy in a package-free version. I invite you to do the same. Any bread, cheese, or tortilla chip makers out there? How about laundry detergent, deodorant or toothpaste makers? Please, share recipes in the comments section of our blog!

Some REDUCTION ideas:

  • Bring your own grocery bags and shopping bags – an obvious one.
  • Compost – if you aren’t already. I recently read that 40% of municipal waste is compostable!
  • Just say no to plastic produce bags! Use reusable bags instead.
  • Buy in bulk when you can, and bring your own container for your bulk items. I haven’t been to a small food co-op that wasn’t on board with this one. I even brought some glass jars to fill at Fairway this month (this was not so easy and they were a bit annoyed, however). There are several ‘zero-waste’ stores in NYC. Check them out! Wish I lived closer to these.
  • Make your own  ______ (fill in the blank, the options are endless).

Signing off for now,

Ayla

Garbage Can Challenge – October Update

Okay, so, the moment of truth: how much garbage did you produce this month? What’s your family’s baseline? I’ll tell you, if you tell me :).

Well, that’s not exactly how this newsletter thing works, but I would love to hear from all of you with a comment on this post!

Our family (2 adults and one baby) produced 1 large outdoor garbage can this month, and A LOT of recycling. Along with tracking our garbage this month, I did start to pay attention to recycling more. Our county sent a very helpful magnet about what can be recycled where we live, which I referred to after writing to you last month. I must admit, I realized there were things that I had been throwing away that could actually be recycled. I then found that we had heaps of plastic recyclables, which I am far from thrilled about. Ultimately, I’d like to cut down on our plastic consumption overall, even the kind that can be recycled. I will be thinking about this over the coming weeks and months.

Now that you know our baseline, you might be asking, “So? What’s your goal for the challenge!?”

Drum-roll please…
My family garbage goal for this year is: to cut our garbage in half! Is that realistic? I am not sure. We are going to try though, and I know we’re going to learn a lot doing it!

How about you? How much garbage did you produce this month? How much would you like to reduce your trash by? Any initial thoughts on how?

Let’s get the juices flowing!

Helpful tips for diverting items from the garbage can:

  • If you aren’t clear on what you can and can’t recycle, a quick google search of ‘____ county recycling’, should get you to a list. I recommend posting this list near your garbage/recycling area. Here are some lists I’ve collected to get you started: NYC RecyclingRockland County RecyclingBergen County RecyclingWestchester County Recycling. Also, if you are looking to recycle something odd or unusual, like batteries, auto fluids, electronics etc., you can go here and type in the item and your zip code to find a location to recycle them near you!
  • Check every piece of trash before throwing it away. You might be surprised at what can be recycled!

Good luck to us all!
Ayla