Until very recently, my husband and I generated a lot of garbage. We didn’t monitor how much waste we generated. We threw away food waste. We used to-go containers / doggy bags whenever we wanted. We ordered whatever we wanted online regardless of how much waste it would generate. The only thing we were pretty good at was recycling, and that’s not saying a lot.
[Sidenote: There are plenty of brilliant environments who have answered the question “Why Isn’t Recycling Enough?” Read more here, here and here. The short answer is: recycling requires a ton of energy and often times the things that we buy which are recyclable, such as laundry detergent containers, can last many uses until you need a new one. After all, the expression we learned in school was “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle,” right? It wasn’t “Consume, recycle, repeat.”]
When I saw the documentary No Impact Man, I was totally inspired to see what my husband Phil and I could do in terms of waste reduction. These are some ways we have been reduce our trash at home in our first six months: shopping from bulk bins, composting organic waste and trying our best not buy/ support any products that cannot be re-used or recycled.
Shopping from Bulk Bins
I knew that reducing waste at home was going to be a pretty radical shift from what we had been doing for years. My goal was to try to get as much as possibly could out of bulk bins that required no packaging and then to only buy things we could re-use (like things that come in glass jars). Buying things that will be recycled or throw in the trash in an absolute last resort for us.
I did some Google searching and I found a small coop only 0.5 miles from our house that I had never been to before because I never needed to. It’s called Sugar Beet Coop, and it’s amazing! If you’re in the Chicagoland area, you’ve got to check it out.
We now buy everything that we to sustain ourselves without any packaging. We fill up mason bars at the bulk bin station with grains (wild rice, brown rice, steel cut oatmeal, red quinoa, etc), snacks (sesame sticks, vegan dark chocolate espresso beans, antioxidant trail mix, etc) and legumes (black beans, chick peas, green peas, etc). We bring re-useable produce bags so that we can shop for all of our fresh vegetables without packaging either. Unfortunately, there is no year-round farmers markets in our area, so we are stuck with produce stickers and twisties, but it’s a lot of progress from where we’ve come from!
We also get all our basic cleaning from the bulk aisle including: shampoo, conditioner, body wash, hand soap, lotion, all purpose cleaner, toilet cleaner, laundry detergent, etc…
Reducing Landfill Waste with Composting
While our friends in the Pacific Northwest might think this is obvious, it’s definitely not in most of the US unfortunately. In fact, composting in our neighborhood was extremely hard. Since we live in a privately owned condo building, we couldn’t get a pickup scheduled so I had to petition to local neighbors who owned houses to share their bins with us.
We’ve been composting for a month now and it has helped a TON. Not only do all of our food scraps go into the compost, but we also put our dust, pet hair that we vacuum up, any paper product (paper napkins that are given to us at restaurants), tips, etc.
A lot of the stuff that ends up in our trash these days is plastic that cannot be recycled that comes to us via things we order online. So, we have decided to only order what we absolutely need. Is it less convenient? It is, but that’s ok. This lifestyle has made me so much more grateful for what I do have and helped me discern between what I want and I need.
Hope that helps and more soon!