Tips To Help You Go Garbage-Free
You will get the most out of this experience if you treat the challenge week as though it were the first few days of forever. Don't live as though you're postponing your trash output, think about it as if you will keep making the same choices every day after the week as well, and you just might! The point isn't to cut out all the fun things in life, it's to try to do the things you enjoy in a way that doesn't result in waste. The following are some ideas on how to avoid making various kinds of garbage.
Plastic and Styrofoam
- Bring several reusable bags to any store you visit, including very lightweight bags for produce and bulk items sold by weight
- Carry a backpack or purse in case you randomly decide you need to stop in at a store
- Bring storage containers like tupperware (or even better, reused jars or plastic tubs) when you eat out in case you have leftovers
- Cover food plates in the microwave and refrigerator with other plates or bowls instead of plastic wrap
- Buy meat and cheeses fresh from the deli and provide wrapping (compostable paper or a container which they can tare their scale to before they put the food in it) or ask for the most biodegradable paper, instead of choosing prepackaged foods in plastic wrap
- Think about durability when you buy anything and everything - look for products that will last a long time and won't require a lot of replacement parts
- If what you need can only be purchased in packaging, consider all the packaging options available and think about their potential reuse as permanent storage containers or materials for future projects
- Try making snacks at home instead of buying their packaged equivalents
- Buy from bulk bins instead of portion-packaged meals and small containers, avoid individually wrapped foods (including candies). Some stores allow you to bring in your own hard containers and jars for purchasing bulk foods - be sure to ask someone to weigh the container before filling it with what you want to buy.
- Bulk foods available at Whole Foods, PCC, Fred Meyer, and other grocery stores can include pasta, cereal, nuts, dried fruit, flour, sugar, rice, grains, beans, lentils, popcorn, candy, chocolate, peanut butter (grind-your-own machines), coffee beans, purified water, herbs, spices, trail mix, granola, oats, hummus mix, broth mix, dried soup mix, soy protein, salt, sugar, nutritional yeast, cornmeal, shredded coconut, cocoa powder, seeds, shampoo, lotion, shredded cheese, olive oil
- Plan ahead and bring along a snack when you leave home for more than a short time so you are less tempted by snack foods you encounter while you are out
- When cooking at home, make extra to put in the freezer so you already have a delicious meal handy the next time you really don't feel like cooking dinner and would be tempted to get take-out or order for delivery
- If you need to order something online and can't control what kind of packaging it comes with, think hard before you place the order to see if you can combine the order with getting other things you would have ordered soon, or try combining orders from the same place with friends
- Get produce from a local market or grocery store which does not sticker their foods or shrink-wrap their vegetables. Let your local produce seller know that you prefer package-free, un-stickered foods.
- Send emails instead of printing information for yourself or others
- If you really must print something, use the back side of previously used paper or if none can be found print double sided. Also make the margins as small as you can - for instructions on how to do this and more about the movement to save paper, see ChangeTheMargins.com
- When you need to remember something, take notes on the backs of things you have with you, or jot down a word or two on the back of your hand
- Request no receipt at the gas pump or at retail and grocery stores
- Pay with cash or credit cards instead of checks, pay bills online
- Bike to work if you normally use bus tickets and transfers during your commute
Paper and Plastic Cups
- Bring a cup for your coffee break
- Bring a light-weight plastic or metal bottle for refilling with water when you're on the go, and keep a cup or jar on your desk at work
- Use sponges, rags, non-glossy junk mail or old newspapers to clean up spills instead of paper towels (newspaper can be composted)
- After washing your hands, dry them on clean cotton clothing or shake them dry
- Abandon your kleenex for a good old-fashioned hankerchief or bandana
- Save old, holey t-shirts which are in no condition to give away, and cut them up into tissue-sized rectangles for use for blowing noses or as rags. You can even dispense them in an old tissue box.
- Buy milk that comes in glass bottles that get returned to the store for reuse - the price of glass-bottled milk tends to be higher than carton milk, but includes a deposit fee which you can get back when you return the bottle. Some stores even carry chocolate milk in small and large glass bottles
- Find creative ways to fasten things with string, folding, bungee chords, etc instead of using tape or staples
Water - It's not technically garbage, but it doesn't need to be wasted
- Save your cooking water from pasta or steaming veggies - when cooled it can be used to water your outdoor plants
- Turn off the water when shampooing/soaping in the shower, brushing your teeth, and shaving.
- Stand in a sturdy rubber tub while you shower (a tall 22 gallon works well) and use the shower water to flush your toilet (lift the toilet seat and pour water into the bowl from the tub)
- When boiling food, just use enough water to barely cover the food, using the smallest pot possible, and remember to keep the lid on to prevent from the water from escaping into the air.
- While washing the dishes, turn off the water when soaping and scrubbing, and try to rinse as much silverware and dishes at once to minimize the time the water is left running.
- Compost old, burnt or inedible foods
- Compostable items include vegetables, fruits (try to avoid composting large concentrations of citrus), egg shells, yard clippings, newspaper, coffee grounds, tea bags, egg cartons
- Use a large plate when eating so the crumbs you drop are still yummy
- Google recipes for leftover ingredients that don't seem to go with anything
- Use compostable / mulchable kitty litter such as Swheat Scoop, Feline Pine or Lone Star natural cat litter
- Reuse plastic and metal lids as drink coasters (you can paint or decoupage them to make them interesting)
- Place them under the feet of your sofa to protect the carpet or hardwood floor
- Keep them with your gardening supplies and during growing season, keep off the slugs by filling them with beer and setting them out among your most vulnerable plants.
- When your toothbrush gets to old to use for your teeth, turn it into a housecleaning brush to scrub around sink drains and other hard to clean corners
- Get Preserve brand toothbrushes which are made from recycled materials and can be returned to the manufacturer to be recycled again. The same company also makes razors.
Computers, Cell Phones, CDs, and other broken or obsolete technology
- Make the effort to call the product manufacturer to find out what your options are for repare
- Send to GreenDisk — an environmentally responsible technotrash reuse and recycling company
According to their website, Green Disk takes the following items in either their Technotrash Can, Pack-IT service, or Computer and Component Recycling Programs:
- All forms of electronic media and their cases: diskettes, zip disks, CDs, CD-Rs, CD-RWs, DVDs et al, video tape, audio tape, game cartridges, DAT, DLT, Beta or Digibeta, and virtually all other type of computer tapes
- Hard drives, Zip and Jazz drives, jump drives, etc.
- All forms of printer cartridges including both inkjet and toner
- All types of cell phones, pagers, PDAs and their chargers, cables, and headset accessories
- All types of rechargeable batteries (not regular alkaline ones) and their chargers
- All of the small computer accessories such as MP3 players, iPods, digital cameras, hand-held scanners, handheld games and other connected devices
- All of the cords, cables, boards, chips, etc. attached to or removed from a computer
- Laptop computers
- Keyboards, mice, etc.
- Peripheral devices such as printers, fax machines, and scanners
Stuff You Don't Want Anymore
- You'd be surprised what other people can find uses for if they don't have to pay for it - you can give away almost anything, working or not, via free online listing sites such as criagslist, freecycle, FreeUse, and FreeSharing. If you live in a large enough city, you may also have a lot of success simply by labeling a pile of stuff on your curb with a free sign - just make sure you only do this during good weather and not on garbage day.
- Go to businesses in slow times if possible so you have time to explain exactly what you want (don't forget to smile) and why. Ex."I am doing a project where I can't make any garbage for a week. I would really like french fries and a drink, but I need you to put the fries in this (hand container) and the drink in this (hand cup) without using anything disposable. Is that possible?" - tip courtesy of Sarah from Say No to Trash
- Try to set aside an extra 5 minutes in the morning before you head out to make sure you have everything you need to complete the day trash-free (such as bags for shopping, a hankerchief, a water-tight container for restaurant food leftovers, a coffee cup, etc.)
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For questions and suggestions, email info -at- notrashweek -dot- com.