The good, the bad, and the ugly.
Microbeads are tiny pieces of plastic that are commonly found in beauty products like facial scrubs and toothpastes. Essentially they are useless and end up going straight down the drain, where they are so small they sneak through treatment plants and end up in our water systems and oceans. Fish and other aquatic life eat them, which I’m sure we can all agree is a bad idea. Think about it. Fish eat the plastic and those chemicals leak into their body, and then we turn around and eat that same fish and the plastic chemicals that come along with it. No thanks.
Another month, another trash audit. April wasn’t so bad, but it could have been better.
March was a bit of
failure struggle, and this months trash definitely did not fit in the jar. Some of that is because of my new job, some is from my birthday, and some of it is from a couple of important and/or secondhand purchases.
- 1 chicken wrapper
- 1 flower wrapper (gifted for my birthday)
- 1 cheese wrapper
- 1 onion mesh bag (the boy bought that one…)
- 1 plastic mail package (I did request no plastic)
- Parts from 2 singing birthday cards
- 4 sticker name tags
- 2 windows from spaghetti boxes
- 1 trash bag (secondhand eBay purchase)
- 1 tortilla chip bag
- 1 wax paper
- 1 rubber band
- 1 straw
- 1 batteries case
- 3 plastic clothing tags (secondhand shirts)
- 1 plastic sandwich wrapper
- Some polyester thread
- 1 plastic wrap from new compost bin!
- and a bunch of food related stickers
*the rubber band will reused, and the mail bag, garbage bag, and
compost wrap bag will all be used for neighborhood trash pickups
And that’s not all of it. In addition, there were two pre-packed take out lunch boxes from a work conference (that included disposable cutlery and plastic dressing containers), and probably a handful of compacted waste from eating out at other times. I’m not one to complain about a restaurant using disposables, so I accept it and move on. However, I always have my own cutlery and napkin in my purse, which helps to avoid at least half of the waste. I also bring my own take out container, and sometimes I grab things to bring home to compost (pizza crust or a napkin).
As for recycling, we ended up with two milk crates of material this month, which is double the amount from February. Why? Because I got a new job at a co-op, and cooperatives tend to help reduce food waste by allowing employees to take home spoiled produce and grocery items. That means that I sometimes come home with a milk carton, a plastic tofu package, a plastic wrapped chicken, or a clam shell of berries. Any accumulated non-recyclable plastic does not get included in my trash count, as I didn’t buy it and am not creating any demand for it’s continued production.
We now have a compost bin, so the only food that goes in the trash bin is the occasional meat bones! It’s full of fruit flies, but it doesn’t smell and that was the most important part. We also connected with the owners of 15 backyard chickens down the block, and they are okay with us bringing over some “treats” for them to eat. In return, they gave me some daffodils that have been growing there for fifteen years.
Spring is in the air. Just look at this gorgeous back yard I walked by yesterday! It was full of these tiny purple flowers and there were so many that the scent was over powering.
Sunshine. Green Grass. Happiness.
Since the snow is gone, I thought it was probably time to do some spring cleaning, and I did it all with just five common household ingredients:
Baking Soda, Water, Vinegar, Oranges, Castile Soap
Today was wonderful. It started with a community sustainability breakfast and ended with a coffee shop meeting.
Did I mention I got a new job? I’m now the assistant manager at our farmers market, which is run by the local food co-op! It’s my first “big girl” job, and I’m loving every minute of. My days are spent networking with community partners, visiting with farmers, and working on greening the market with bike programs and a compost system.
I’m so lucky that I get to live my values at home as well as my job! There are so many people working to bring their business or organization towards zero waste, and although there is no compost facility located in Kalamazoo, there are plenty of individuals working to start systems on their own. I see a compost coalition coming to the community soon.
Life is good.
Part of the day involved a tour at a permaculture research program, known as the Gibbs House. Here are a few pictures from the visit:
February’s trash all fit in the jar!
- Chip bag
- Cheese wrapper
- Two meat wrappers
- Milk lids (returnable glass bottle)
- Wine bottle wrapper
- Produce stickers
- Venue wristband
- Silicone packet
- Donut bag and wax paper
- Random plastic strip
- Toothbrush bristles
- Condiment packet
- Sticker backing
- Polyester thread
- Harddrive cable
*Anyone know if this can be recycled somehow?
What did I leave out:
Anything that was bought in 2015 and used up in 2016.
I broke a drinking glass (usually not recyclable).
I don’t include receipts that are printed on non-recyclable thermal paper.
I leave out items that the boy buys.
Our food waste goes to landfill.
Update on composting:
I didn’t keep track, but I’m guessing we tossed maybe 3 gallons or so of material. I did do a little bit of advocacy on the topic though, and met with city officials to describe the systems in place in Minneapolis and St Paul. I’m hoping to continue advocating for a facility, and in a month Spring will be here and I will buy a composter!
I also tried to keep track of our recycling for the month, and was pleasantly surprised that everything fit within one milk crate! It may have been overflowing, but it only took one trip to bring it down to the bin, and that’s what really matters, right? Living waste free means refusing, reducing, and reusing before recycling. It takes a lot of energy to recycle, and usually there are ways around buying those products as well.
February’s recycling includes things bought outside of the month- I don’t buy canned beans, soup, or marshmallow fluff, but the boy bought these all before I moved in.
I decided to keep track of my trash this year so I that I can get a clear picture of what I am creating. I’ve been working on this for over a year and I wanted to quantify it in some way to show what is possible. Remember it’s not about the number. It’s not about who can fit the most in one jar. It’s about making a conscious effort to make a lifestyle of priorities over convenience, and deciding that quality is better than quantity.
I’ve been seeing a lot of posts lately about college students interested in incorporating some zero waste ideas into their life. Hurray! I was one of you only a few years ago.
It’s not easy being green while your at school. Your days are spent studying while your nights are spent partying, you can barely afford ramen noodles, and compost bins probably aren’t easily accessible. Most students tell themselves, “I’ll figure it out later when I graduate”. The problem is, after graduation comes your first job, student loan payments, marriage, a white picket fence, and kids.
Something always gets in the way of “later”, so why not start now?