It’s a little early to make New Year’s resolutions, but an article has been haunting me since I first saw it circulating facebook a couple of days ago.
The girl who makes no trash. (Also named Lauren).
It seems like a trick – but I’ve been reading through her blog and it is not. No-trash-Lauren is a 23-year old in New York City, who makes everything she uses from bulk ingredients. She buys clothing second-hand. She recycles items, but does not throw them away.
Now, this is an extraordinary feat. I am impressed. But I haven’t been able to stop thinking about what no-trash-Lauren is doing, because I had always considered myself and my family to be quite environmentally friendly and conscious of producing minimal waste. We share one hybrid car. We use reusable stuff in our kitchen, and reusable diapers on our baby. I haven’t purchased new paper towels or paper napkins in years. We buy an impressive proportion of our ‘new’ items from craigslist, neighbors, and consignment/second-hand stores. But even with all of that, we produce a 13-gallon bag of trash every week.
So, now that we have identified the problem, I am attempting to put my science skills to good use to find a solution.
First – what are we throwing away? I’ve been keeping an eye on our trash for the past week. Our biggest culprits are 1: food packaging (we make most of our own food from scratch, but those raw ingredients come in packages), 2: packing material from parcels and mail (I am a big fan of amazon.com), and 3: cleaning products (clorox greenworks wipes, old sponges, swiffer refills).
Next – what can we do about it? I am not trying to achieve zero waste over here (we have jobs and a kid after all – this IS no-trash-Lauren’s job), but I would love to make a big reduction in our landfill waste next year. One of my favorite quotes is from Oscar Wilde- “Everything in moderation – including moderation.”
So with that in mind, this is my plan of attack to reduce our trash output. Many of the items below are those that I do sometimes, so my biggest goal is to be more consistent.
- Never get bags at the store. Always bring reusable bags. I’m even asking Santa for reusable bulk bags for flour, sugar, beans, etc for Christmas. Furthermore, I am looking for stores in Alexandria where I can buy more foods in bulk.
- I’m no longer going to buy coffee unless I have my own reusable cup with me or the cafe serves drinks in ceramic cups. I own plenty of these, but I’m guilty of periodically getting the red cardboard Starbucks cup when I forgot my stainless steel mug at home.
- To that end, we will be much more cautious about where we go out to eat and consider packaging of food.
- Our lunches will be entirely packages in reusable materials.
- No more disposable swiffer refills or disposable cleaning wipes. I bought washable, reusable microfiber cloths to attach to the swiffers and have more than enough old towels and rags for cleaning.
- I will place my mail-ordering habit in the ‘needs to be more in moderation’ category. I definitely order too many things online, including clothing for myself that I could potentially find second-hand. However, the biggest catch for me Joey. It is ironic, but because we use items like stainless steel sippy cups and cloth diapers for environmental reasons. However, it is harder to find these items at local stores or consignment shops, so I almost always have to order them online. I will note that often these are made in USA, UK, or Canada, so perhaps that helps balance purchasing items at a local store originally made in China?
That leads me to Simon’s first response when I told him about this – how many times do you have to use a canvas grocery bag to balance the plastic bags? The plastic bags are far cheaper and require less energy to make. Buying a big stash of reusable bags and using them 2-3 times doesn’t make a lot of sense environmentally or economically. I’m more focused on lifestyle shifts here, but definitely take his 2 cents to think through your choices.
A major focus of no-trash-Lauren’s blog and new start-up is eco-friendly household cleaning products, personal soap, shampoo, etc. I applaud her efforts, but this is where I reach the moderation point. We already make an effort to buy eco-friendly cleaning products and toiletries for ourselves (7th generation, Mrs. Meyers, bulk soaps, etc.) I use vinegar, baking soda, and lemon juice in place of stronger cleaners often. However, I’m not currently willing to invest more time in making all of those items from scratch. I am happy to buy them from The Simply Co. and other manufacturers, and am excited to find more of these options in Alexandria.
So there you have it. Less trash, more moderation, but don’t forget to keep the moderation in moderation.