Inching Along Towards Green

One week trash challenge
January 12, 2009, 7:43 pm
Filed under: Recycling, Zero Waste

One of the things that got me to really look at my trash and recycling was Sustainable Dave’s 365 days of Trash.  He kept all of his trash/recycling for 2007 in his basement and charted it on his blog.  All premised on the idea that “away” as in throwing something away isn’t gone, just moved to another location.  Anyhow, his blog became a source of fascination and inspiration for me.  He concluded his year by making a challenge to others to keep their trash for a week in January. 

Well, my husband is supportive of my recycling and even bought me a worm composter for Christmas, but saving all of our trash (or even just mine) would be pushing his boundaries a little too far.  So I settled for logging it, spreadsheet style.  What I found was that I generate less than one pound of landfill trash and about 1.5 pounds of recycling per day.  The whole family creates about 20 ounces of food waste per day, about half of which goes to the worms.  Here in the Pacific Northwest, our wet weather makes winter time composting a challenge, so the extra goes down my garbage disposal. 

What I discovered in the process: 

I create more trash Monday through Friday than on the weekends.

I have increased my recycling and general awareness (good), but still have a lot of non-recyclables in use in my home (bad).

I need to look at the recycling number before I buy packaged goods.

I need to eliminate packaging whenever possible – buy bulk.  We are lucky enough to have a food co-op in one direction and  a Winco in the other, both about 20 minutes from my house.  One trip per month would save both money and packaging.  On granola alone (which my son eats for breakfast) – QFC $7.00 per pound, Food Co-op $3.68 per pound, and Winco $1.58 per pound.  Since cost savings is a huge driver for me, I vote Winco!

I should make it myself when I can – this eliminates packaging and is usually much less expensive.  I make my own maple syrup and it is much cheaper than buying it at the store.  I keep it in the fridge in a juice bottle.

When I screw up, I shouldn’t be too hard on myself, just try to do better the next time.


Confusion slows me down
January 8, 2009, 8:43 pm
Filed under: Recycling

I have been recycling for quite a while.  In our area this is made more convenient by a company supplied “wheelie” which is used for single-stream recycling and collected curbside every other week.  However, the rules are extensive and confusing to the new recycler, which discourages participation or as I have been guilty of, the “what the heck, toss it in and let them sort it out” attitude. Which mindset is better?

Just this week, I received my yearly updated recycling calendar and list of acceptable items.  A quick review of the list shows that items that I thought were ok, are not.  How much of this is due to the recent downturn in the market for recyclables, I don’t know, but as someone who wants to participate, it is irritating.

For instance, nowhere on this little sheet does it tell me which recycling numbers are acceptable.  I was previously under the impression that 1-5 and 7 were ok.  The sheet informs me that my cottage cheese pot is ok (a number 5) but the lid is not (number 2).  Well, I had been tossing in my lid thinking it was ok, but now feel guilty that I was “doing it wrong”.

Furthermore, why are aluminum cans ok, but not aluminum foil pans or scrunched up foil if I wash it before disposal?  No plastic cups, but my Starbucks’ iced drink cup is a number 5, the same as my cottage cheese pot and roughly the same shape, so why not?

And what about lids in general?  Are all lids destined for the land fill?  Or must I fill up my garage with bits and pieces of plastic until I get enough to make a trip to the local transfer station reasonable?  That’s a lot of lids to collect. 

Here’s one for you.  Last night, my daughter and I went to the community college to buy her books for school.  I neglected to take one of my reusable shopping bags with me because we were in a hurry to get in out of the pouring rain.  Very bad of me, I know. We got a plastic bag to carry our 20 pound book purchase home in.  The bag nicely stated that it was made with all recycled materials and printed with vegetable based inks.  Good so far.  However, what I have learned about plastic bags is that if they are “stretchy”, they can be recycled.  If they are “crinkly” or  “stiff”, they cannot.  I imagine you can see where I’m headed.  I now possess the dreaded non-recyclable bag.  Argh! And I wondered, how many cycles did this plastic go through before it became my bag? 

So, on my “to do” list, I have added “research exactly how many lives plastic can have”.  I’ll let you know what I find out.

Let me go on record as saying that I do not necessarily recycle because I am a Green Earth Warrior Princess.  I am more concerned about doing things in a cost effective way that do not muck up my personal environment.  The more trash I produce, the more trips to the garbage can or transfer station, the more it costs me in dollars and time at work to earn those dollars.  I would rather be putting that money away for early retirement than paying for trash.  Also, a thriving compost heap or worm bin means I have less smelly wet trash and soil improvement materials that cost me nothing.   Baking my own muffins gives a better tasting product for cheaper and does not leave me with a plastic clam shell with no recycling number on it (that I can discern), which is tossed into the trash.  Each of these things has multiple benefits, which is what needs to be shared with others to encourage them in their recycling efforts.

Starting the new year
January 7, 2009, 4:39 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

For about 3 months now, I have been following the blogs of some very inspiring zero-wasters.  I won’t name them now, without their permission, but it got me thinking not only about trash, but about where my money is going and how much of it is spent on items and/or packaging that just get thrown away.

So, my journey began in September and I made small changes, never thinking that I would be a blogger.  Now, I figure, why not! 

Anyway, a certain other blogger (to be named later) has been doing a tremendous job of collecting and tracking his trash for the last year.  He challenged others to do the same for a one week period during the month of January.  I had been doing a good job of cutting back, or so I thought until I started writing down everything!  Holy Cow! I won’t share with you the disturbing list, but I can tell you, when you put it down in black and white, it makes quite a bit of impact.  And I’m just on Day 3!  Still, awareness is a beginning!  2009 is going to be a big eye opener for me!

Just to let you know my starting point, here are the changes that I have made so far:

Awareness – I am much more aware than I was three months ago.  My family is already tired of me saying  “recycle that” and “I wonder if this is recyclable”.

Bought a razor saver from Lehman’s – waiting to see how effective it really is.  My daughter informed me that she goes through a package of disposable razors every two weeks.  Ack!  If I get another 2 uses out of each razor, that 1) pays for the razor saver in 3 weeks and 2) keeps 10 razors out of the landfill longer. 

Only wash my hair every other day.  Saves on hair products and water.  Means I put fewer plastic bottles into the landfill.  Not quite ready to go No ‘Poo!

Use reusable cloth shopping bags.  This is one of the very best things I do because I don’t end up with a bunch of bags in my pantry that seldom get used again. 

Buying bulk when I can.  This does require special trips to my local co-op or Winco, but I can manage that at least once a month, which will eliminate a lot of plastic packaging. 

Use a stainless steel water bottle.  Bought myself a really nice looking one that makes it pleasurable to drink water! 

Got a worm factory for Christmas!  Just waiting for the worms to arrive.  Yeah!  That will eliminate alot of gross food waste.

I know there are probably more things, but this is a good start.

Welcome to Inching Along Towards Green!
January 7, 2009, 3:43 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Welcome to my new blog.  Blogging is new to me, so be patient.  The site will probably be a little plain until I get some coaching from friends and family.  Stay tuned to see how I progress from mildly frugal accountant to frugal and green!  I’ll be dragging the family kicking and screaming every inch of the way!

Happy New Year!