Most of my trash comes from the kitchen. Now I've gotten rid of kitchen things I don't need, made space for my new canning jars and Pyrex storage containers, bought a regular funnel and canning funnel, cleaned out my pantry and refrigerator, and am buying bulk.
I am making my own pasta sauce, chicken stock, and salad dressing and today I'm going to start baking my own bread. Recycling I will still have on a regular basis:
-tomato puree cans (consider canning tomatoes this fall),
-peanut butter jars (supporting very locally sourced business and my terrific CSA),
-olive oil and vinegar bottles (must find inexpensive bulk olive oil),
-coconut oil and tahini jars
-cardboard milk carton (research returnable glass bottles)
-cardboard butter box and wax paper
-paper and foil from chocolate (giving up over my dead body)
-mac and cheese boxes (lost fight with kids)
-ice cream containers (considering switching to taking the kids once a weekend for cones, a five-minute walk from my house)
-the occasional can of tuna
-the occasional condiment bottle or jar. I still have a few plastic condiment containers but will try to only buy glass from now on, and make some of my own using the reusable peanut butter, tahini and coconut oil jars.
-plastic egg cartons (made from recycled plastic, also locally sourced and supporting CSA)
-dish soap and Castile soap containers (Castile is made from recycled plastic but would love to find in bulk)
-nutritional supplement pill bottles--don't see a way around this one
Kitchen trash I will still have:
-food scraps (seriously considering composting but will still have meat scraps)
-bags for frozen vegetables and fruits (trying to cut back on this)
-bacon packaging (I don't think my Whole Foods will slice bacon for me, but I will check)
-mozzarella packaging (will check Whole Foods, don't think they sell mozzarella unwrapped)
-the trash bags themselves (Seventh Generation, only using white kitchen bags with wire tie, not putting in extraneous black plastic bag)
Yeesh, that is still a depressingly long list. And I thought I was doing so well! At least I cut out the high volume recyclables--pasta sauce, pasta boxes, paper towels, paper napkins, salad dressing bottles and chicken broth boxes. Will start my monitoring of my trash this week.
Ha! Found a dairy that uses glass returnable bottles. Not quite organic, but very local family farm and doesn't use growth hormone or regularly use antibiotics, and they grow all their own feed. Close enough, and cheaper than Organic Valley--I'm sold.
Thank you, was feeling self absorbed posting in this thread!
I'm asking myself whether shipping a bulk product is better for the environment than buying lots of little containers from my local store. Probably not, but I did it anyway--I found that Earth Friendly sells the dish soap I like in gallon and five gallon containers. It would take me years to go through a five gallon container, so I got two one gallon containers and also their Oxy-Clean knock-off product for when I run out of mine. Also will save a little money too, even after factoring in the shipping. Not really worth the trouble, though, if it wasn't for the saving on trash too.
Too bad I don't live in wine country like Bea to get refillable wine. As for the frozen fruit, that's to make smoothies and the ice cream shop makes those--I think I can negotiate with my youngest over that since she prefers fruit smoothies over ice cream. There would be the cardboard cup, but better than having unrecyclable non-biodegradable trash. There's no getting around the frozen corn packages, though--she even likes it better than fresh corn. I can live with that and dental floss being my only non-recyclable regular trash, besides food scraps. Oh, and the plastic bags from the butcher--he won't see it my way.
I'm rethinking the peanut butter. I can grind my own at Whole Foods into an old coconut oil or tahini container, and support my CSA by continuing to buy eggs and vinegar from them. Then that's ten recyclable kitchen things besides my emergency tuna and the occasional condiment or spice I can't find in bulk: tomato puree, vinegar, coconut oil, tahini, butter, mac & cheese, chocolate, wine, Castile soap and eggs. I can live with that for now.
Onto the bathroom! I'm realizing even though it's going to cost more, I'm only buying single rolls of TP wrapped in paper from now on.
Ha! I am triumphant! For some reason the Harvest Co-op north of the river here in Boston carries bulk liquids, although the one south of the river by me does not. They have bulk shampoo, conditioner, organic olive oil, and (yay!) Dr. Bronner's castile soap! And they have a parking lot, unlike the one by me. I will just need to make a quarterly road trip there and I will be all set, and that pretty much takes care of my bathroom trash too, as long as I buy paper-wrapped TP.
You go girl! I've also had a bit of an internal debate about distance vs packaging. Haven't decided my distance tolerance, but clearly as gas prices skyrocket, driving time will have to factor in. Bulk shopping online can be a really smart idea -I think- UPS, FedEx, even the Post Office are much more efficient than using a car. The issue is volume and shipping costs to you/me. I got sucked into some of Amazon's Subscribe & Save, but am realizing what, in general, a really bad idea it's been for us. There are other things I don't mind getting online, because it would be such a pain, and costly, to look around locally. The other [big] negative is the packaging of your purchase. Amazon is really tacky with the amount of plastics they use, others much more conscious of their behavior. BUT what to do with the shipping container?
There's always something....
I made a list last night, too! A really long list of all the things I don't need to buy anytime soon. Sheesh! and I was going to launch my bulk shopping. Oh well! I've been a diehard couponer and stockpiler for years, and the cure is going to be difficult. I figure, if I consult the list before shopping, it'll tone down the urge.
Congrats on your great research and discoveries. Let us know all!
Yes, please keep on posting, Marrena! It's incredibly helpful to hear how others are working towards zero waste. Thanks for the tip on the bacon. That's been one of areas of packaging waste I haven't given up yet.
I'm also struggling with the same internal debate you and Jay are having over buying bulk quantities of product online, and the shipping involved, vs. sticking with the small containers available at the store. I've special ordered Dr. Bronner's soap by the gallon through Whole Foods before, figuring it would ship with the rest of the store's orders (this is before I discovered the bar soap version of Dr. B's).
My list of recyclables looks pretty similar. Once you get your compost pile started, you'll be able to add the butter carton and wrappers to the pile, along with the chocolate's paper wrapper (my WF offers chocolate by the pound, they pre-wrap some pieces in plastic but will cut a piece off the larger hunk of chocolate on display if you request it).
Sandra, that is genius! Definitely special ordering in bulk from a grocery store would be a win/win on plastic and CO2 emissions! If they are willing to do it.
I realized that the Whole Foods unpackaged mozzarella will be too soft to grate for pizza, even if I were willing to spend nine dollars a pound. I'm hoping my local cheese shop will be able to set me up.
Now that I am home and looking at my pantry, I forgot about my unnatural vice--ramen. Everything else I buy is organic, but the organic ramen just isn't the same. I make it with my own homemade organic chicken broth and throw out the foil packet, but I'm sure the noodles are made with GMO wheat and pesticides. It's an infrequent thing, my daughters occasionally like it too, but it does generate unrecyclable trash--the foil packet and the plastic the noodles are wrapped in.
Also I throw away the foil packet from the mac and cheese because it's not real foil.
Finally, I do buy the rare box of cereal for eldest, but I think that will go by the wayside if I am regularly baking my own bread and make sure to have them make pancakes on a regular basis. That is her breakfast of last resort, and just as well--organic cereal is so very expensive!
I would feel worried about composting my junk mail and food boxes like the mac and cheese and my paper chocolate wrapper. What happens to all the chemical dyes that dye the paper? I suppose it's not like I'm growing my own vegetables, except for a few herbs, so I shouldn't worry. I guess it depends on how well the city of Boston recycles its paper, must investigate.
As for the chocolate, everything is a trade off. Very little chocolate is fair trade and organic, even the bulk chocolate at Whole Foods. I'm willing to have that recyclable trash to support Green & Black, just like I don't mind the recycled plastic egg cartons from my very local farm that treats its hens with love, or likewise the plastic bags from my butcher and his very local free-range beef.
One tip that is saving me a lot of trash--buying looseleaf organic tea. I get mine from Davidson's Organic Tea, and use an ingenious stainless steel strainer that fits inside an individual coffee mug. Regular tea is so wasteful with packaging, with the small cardboard boxes wrapped in plastic, the teabag fabric and string and tag, and often even a paper wrapper around each teabag. The nice thing about the looseleaf is that you can reuse the tea leaves sometimes up to four times, so it's economical too.
Also I would post pix of my pantry and cabinets, but I keep all my emergency stash in my pantry since a disaster here would probably involve flooding so I don't want to store that in my basement. So my shelves look like the opposite of zero waste, with forty cans of emergency food! I also have some leftover pasta boxes and sauce jars to go through, but I'm not buying any more.
Tea is a big one here, we drink a LOT of it. 5-10 tea bags daily. We compost the tea bags with the city, and recycle the cardboard boxes. Waste is the packets themselves (if they aren't paper) and plastic wrap. I'm trying to find a place that sells loose leaf teas in bulk.
Marrena, I like the idea of making a list of items in the trash/recycling, then researching a solution for each one.
I've been attacking the junk mail, and I'm discovering that even the stuff I thought was unavoidable addressed to "resident" has a website where you can opt out. In the very, very, very small print.
For those using loose tea, how do you clean it out of the strainer/teapot/cup without some going down the drain? I have very old pipes that are easily clogged, so I'm hesitant to eliminate teabags and coffee filters....
I have a strainer, so after I lift it out of the mug I just empty it directly into the trash (hopefully soon the compost container). I swipe with my finger to get most of the little pieces and then rinse it out in the sink. The tea leaves are pretty big--it's the whole leaf, usually about the size of my pinky finger. So only the leaf pieces would be a concern.
CMD, if you can't find someplace local for bulk tea, you can try the Davidson's website. That's where I get my bulk tea, because I like oolong and it's hard to find.
If other people want to list out there specific items in this thread to tackle them, feel free!
Wrennerd, I replaced my sink's drain cover with a sink strainer, which picks up the little bits of loose tea and coffee grinds that I can't scoop out of the tea filter/cup. Then, I just shake out the debris left in the strainer into the compost bin. I think Bea suggests a particular brand of sink strainer in her Amazon store.
Marrena, here's another tip that may help shrink your list of recyclables. I'd suggest saving some of the bottles/jars for future storage, especially if they are items you purchase regularly (so you can acquire a 'set' of matching containers). The vinegar bottles will be good containers for buying liquid shampoo in bulk (pretty sure Bea does this), and the coconut oil jars can be used for storing pantry items. I regularly buy a certain brand of honey and over time have acquired a nice set of glass jars for storing bulk dried fruits and grains.
Good tip! I am doing that; I washed out a tahini jar today.
I was laughing at myself. I made some zucchini fritters today, hoping to get some vegetables into my kids. At first I was at a loss--usually when I fry things I let them cool down on a paper towel on a plate, to absorb the extra oil. Then I had a brainwave to use a baking cooling rack over a cookie sheet. This did not work. But then I used my wire mesh spatter guard that I put on top of skillets when I'm cooking something spattery, and it worked perfectly.
I was feeling smug that I didn't need paper towels at all, when I went into the dining room and saw that my youngest had spilled some glue.
Ooh, I really like your splatter guard idea. The oil dripping will go right back in the pan. I'm going to do this the next time I fry bacon so I can collect more bacon drippings (awaiting Bea's post on making soap from bacon grease). Thanks for the tip!
Counterintuitively, a dozen of the individually wrapped toilet paper is cheaper than the 12-pack wrapped in plastic. I looked and it's because the individually wrapped is one-ply, the other is two-ply. I will have to see if there is much of a difference.
It's funny after buying all those Pyrex storage containers, I cleared a spot in my cabinet to store the unused ones, but I've been using them all. I used to cook from meal to meal--now I have a stash of extra meals (and chicken stock and pasta sauce) in my freezer. Along with the bulk foods in the canning jars like rice, pasta and flour I'm feeling very Little House on the Prairie. It's a good feeling.
I'm down to under one kitchen trash bag a week for all of my trash. I really had no idea about the volume of food scraps--peels, cores, rinds. I need to talk to my landlord about composting in the backyard.
Baking bread in my bread machine is working out well. It's so cheap and the bread is so much better, particularly right after it comes out when it's still warm. I get up early in the morning anyway, so Saturdays I just put all in the ingredients in the machine, turn it on, give the dough a few swipes with a wooden spoon in the corners to get a good mix, and a couple hours later my bread is done, right when my kids are ready for breakfast.
I've weighed the pros and cons of going north of the river to get those few things. I did check it out. If it was for all of my shopping I'd do the drive, but it's not worth an hour of driving to save on two or three bottles. I'm going to try to see if I can get the gallon Dr. Bronner's liquid soap from special ordering through my local Whole Foods, and will just live with the glass olive oil bottle. I can get olive oil in bulk locally, but it's gourmet with a very strong olive taste--my kids don't like it and it's ridiculously expensive. And not organic!
On the other hand, I'm going to change my pizza recipe. I will use colby cheese or something like that instead of mozzarella, something I can buy at the deli counter in a hard chunk and grate at home.
So my recyclables are mostly for fats--oils, butter, chocolate. And acids--white vinegar for cleaning, apple cider vinegar for eating and wine. I've found some bulk spices and I'm whittling away at condiments--I'm going to start making my own mayo and I've been very happy with making my own salad dressing. Until I start canning my own tomatoes I'm going to keep buying ketchup though--just in a glass bottle, not plastic. And I still have the post-recycled plastic egg cartons from my CSA
Tomatoes really are my only high volume recyclable, must get over my fear of canning this summer.
My only trash aside from food scraps is mainly plastic film or bags that food is wrapped in, and I am minimizing that.