Sunday, September 16, 2007

Green Workshop Part 3: Waste

There are so many shocking facts about waste. Honestly, I’ve spent the last 15 minutes trying to write about it more simply, but it is too much. Here are links regarding waste to the Sustainable Works blog , a great reference, or just trust that we need to create a cycle rather than a linear process for consumption or else we’ll be living in trash!

Here are the top 5 things we can do according to my Sustainable Works book…

Reuse more, Consume less
This is the mantra. Reusing is always better even if it takes some resources to clean after use. This includes plates, utensils, cups, water bottles, grocery bags. It, then, becomes a cycle, rather than a linear line to the landfill. Some one in the class asked, what was she to do about cups for a birthday party for 50 kids? Instructor said, borrow tumbler cups from friends or neighbors, or if was in your budget, rent from a party supply. Total silence from the group of course, maybe because this would be totally inconvenient, easier to buy 200 disposable cups for $8.99 at Costco, but hold up – fact: Styrofoam takes approx. 500 years to break down in a landfill (One Makes a Difference), ah, whew, okay it’s worth that extra effort. I get it. It was at this point that I realized only by knowing all these crazy messed up facts will I keep myself driven.
Consuming less plastic ziplock bags and paper towels were huge for me, but just being less of a consumer in general was even bigger. I'm just buying less and asking myself 3 or 4 times if it's really truly necessary, end of story.

Recycle Everything
Recycle plastics, paper, glass, cans, anything you can see something being remade out of. This reduced my trash greatly, to the point that in the beginning, we had way more to recycle than to throw in the regular garbage. Also, if you are not sure if it’s recyclable, put it in that recycle bin anyway. I found out that they will keep these non-recyclables stored until they find a way to recycle them.

Give away or donate things you don’t use.
I have to admit, we had so much stuff when we moved into our house, I was embarrassed to tell anyone. We accumulated so many things that ended up in storage and our parents’ homes that when they were all transferred to one place, it was overwhelming. I am proud to say, we have given away about 1/3 if not 1/2 of our stuff and in the process furnished my cousin’s apartment, clothed friends and relatives, and have made more than a dozen trips to Goodwill.

Close the Loop. Cradle to cradle.
This is the other mantra! Buy things made from the things you recycle. What a great feeling. I recycle all this paper and then purchase recycled paper goods in return. Of course! Barent, our instructor, was wearing a black t shirt from Pategonia made from recycled plastic bottles the other day! It’s amazing what they are doing now. I’ve also now been taking note of the percentage of post-consumer content on recycled products.

A few other things:
Harzadouse Waste Facility - old batteries, used light bulbs, old paint, anything with a cord should be disposed of at your nearest facility. They will leak toxic chemicals that will get into our ground water if it is not disposed of properly. Bad! I am guilty of having one too many paint sample quarts and leftover paint from the last 9 years or so. Having said that, I am happy I finally brought all of it to the Hazardous Waste Facility today. Now that I know more about more toxic waste, it’s actually a relief to have it out of the house!
Compost – so little time, but I itch to do this every time I throw veggies in the garbage! Very soon for me, I hope.
Eliminate Junk mail – I just signed up for www.greendimes.com. Will post about what happens.
Try a zero waste lunch! – very cool concept! I stopped using paper napkins in restaurants in exchange for a handkerchief.

2 comments:

by Johanna Brandvik said...

Thanks for sharing this. I've recently been thinking about the napkin thing. I have two young daughters who take their lunches to preschool in cute little baskets. I recently found some cute printed fabric to make napkins out of for them. What I totally didn't think of was making a set of napkins for myself. Duh. Now that I've read this post I'm going to stitch something up for myself and maybe even my hubby too! I'd much rather use a pretty fabric napkin anyway!

Maryam in Marrakesh said...

Okay, you are so inspirational. I am really trying to figure out how to be more green in Marrakech. I just bough all heritage organic seeds to grow an organic garden. Lugging them all back in my suitcase:-)