Thursday, September 2, 2010

Smaller Feet

We have weekly garbage and recycling pick-up in our community.

Deus Ex Machina and I have recycled since we bought our house, even before there was curbside recycling. Back then, we collected all of our recyclables and took them to the next town over where they had bins. Now, with it being so easy, we can't imagine *not* doing it and are often a little disappointed and frustrated that our neighbors won't. Deus Ex Machina has chatted with our recycling guy on a couple of occasions who has confided that if he sees something that is "recyclable" that's not in a recycle bin, but seems destined for the trash, he'll grab it. I love that attitude!

It wasn't enough, though, to just recycle. We also wanted to reduce the overall amount of garbage we threw out each week. Over time, we've really tried to limit what gets tossed. The first step was composting or feeding kitchen wastes to the chickens. At this point, nothing that has compost potential ends up in the garbage, and our chickens are very happy with their very diverse diet :). Next we started buying things fresh and/or in bulk to limit the packaging. Single serve yogurt is convenient, but the 24 oz container creates less waste ... or better, yet, making my own and reusing containers produces no waste at all ;). After that, we concentrated our efforts on choosing packing materials that are either reusable or recyclable.

Recycling isn't a perfect solution, because disposal is disposal, and at some point, if we have to find a way to dispose of our "waste", if even recycling is no longer an option, our only option will be to not produce waste.

The other night we were collecting the items to put out for curbside pick-up. I was very proud of us.

Over the last few years, with some little bit of conscious effort, we have managed to reduce the amount of garbage that goes to the curb each week. When we got to one 15 gal kitchen bag per week for our family of five, we thought we'd hit the big time. I think we didn't even begin to realize our potential.

This week, we didn't put any garbage out at the curb. The kitchen trash is not, yet, full, and none of the other cans needed to be emptied, either. We had recycling (about the same amount as usual), but no garbage. I think that's pretty impressive.

The question is, how many weeks could we go without putting the garbage can to the curb?

But, being the inquisitive that I am, I wonder ...

And if we decided to make a real, hardcore attempt at reduce, reuse, and repurpose, how long would it take us to fill up a recycilng bin?

I wonder how many weeks we could go without filling either ...?


  1. This is definitely an inspiring post! We have WAY too much garbage each week. I don't understand how we throw as much away as we do. I guess the not recycling probably has something to do with it, but I swear we have an extreme amount of food waste for our little family of 4. If I could just figure out how to get a compost pile started...and how to add to it when it is a big frozen pile in the middle of our lovely maine winters :-) Maybe chickens are the answers to that as well...hmmmm...a lot to ponder!

  2. Sounds like a great challenge. I wish we had recycling around here. We use to until people just started throwing their garbage in the bins. Then the recycling "Dumpsters" were removed all together.

  3. I think we do the 15-gal trash bag once a week as well, although there are times when it's bigger. During the winter, I'll toss paper trash into the firebox and that helps some. Out here, recycling is a matter of taking everything somewhere else — we recycle our aluminum, no problem, but we could certainly do better with plastic.

  4. This is inspiring! My household currently puts out about 3 bags (kitchen sized), plus completly full recyling bins every other week. 5 people live here (technically 4), and I don't consider that too bad.

    But we can do better.

  5. Ook, looks like Earl's gonna pay you guys a visit! Are your chicken coops anchored good?

  6. Heather - This past winter, we actually solved our composting-in-winter dilemma. What we did was to leave the potato towers in one of the garden beds. Through the winter, we just dumped our compost right into those, even on top of the snow. The towers are four feet tall, and the snow never did get above that level, and so the "compost" stayed inside the wire. It didn't "cook down", certainly, but that wasn't an issue for us. We didn't want to "make" compost through the winter, but we did want to be able to have a place for our compostable kitchen wastes other than the garbage.

    In the spring, we discovered that some of the stuff at the bottom of the wire had, in fact, composted through our, admittedly, warmer-than-normal winter. We took all of the unfinished compost and moved it out of the garden bed and to the side of the yard. We, then, turned the bed so that the compost mixed with the soil that was there. We're growing potatoes there ... for the second year in a row, and they are doing amazingly well!

    I guess the bottom line is that if you're just looking for a solution to contain the compostable stuff for the winter, this particular method worked really well for us.

  7. FARf - I had heard the same thing about Earl ... and while I shouldn't be so complacent, I have to mention that once the hurricanes get up into our much cooler water, they tend to slow down and be a little less aggressive. We have hurricane-like winter storms up here every year (Nor'Easters), and so far the coop has been okay. They often do an incredible amount of damage - nothing like what I've seen from hurricanes in the tropics, but still enough to make us know something significant has happened - you know? My bigger concern than loosing my chicken coop, though, is downed trees.

    I guess we should make sure our batteries are all charged and our oil lamps are all full :).

    Of course, after the horribly dry summer we've had, the rain will be nice :). As a precaution, I may pick all of the green tomatoes out there, though ... just to be sure that I actually get some of the tomatoes I grew, because I am anticipating that the plants will take quite a beating from the wind and rain.

  8. Hi
    I've lurked here for a while (found you via Living the Frugal Life) and thought I should say hi!
    It looks as if Earl missed most of the US from what I've read, so hope you, plants and chicken coop are all ok.
    I live in a district where most stuff gets picked up from the kerb for recycling,alternating each week between landfill and recycling/compost. People still don't do it though- it does drive me mad when my neighbours just put whatever it is in the bin for that week because they can't be bothered to sort it out. I actually fished stuff out of their skip once and put it in my recycling bin...
    I thought we were doing quite well with a half-to not quite full wheelie bin a fortnight (5 people, lots of animals) but inspired me and we now throw away about a supermarket carrier bag of non-recyclable and non-compostable stuff a fortnight. It's mostly polystyrene and plastic film, so it's my project to work on that.
    The children and DH do like sausages (we're British...)and they often come in a polystyrene tray, so I'm going to get my butcher better trained :0) Or make my own again...