Sunday, May 3, 2009

May's Challenge: Be Trash Free

I'm excited about this months challenge, I really am. So far the months that have been the most rewarding are the ones that are the most difficult, and not only is not making trash difficult, it's pretty much impossible. Since I work full time and am not able to go at this 150% (i.e. making my own bread to avoid food packaging) this month seems like it's mostly about consuming less, recycling or reusing everything you have to consume, and composting the rest. I already make an effort to limit my consumption (I have dishes, silverware, and hand towels at work to avoid the disposable versions), and I'm an avid recycler, but there's still a lot of questions I have, most pertaining to what can and can't be recycled. I did a bunch of research this afternoon and here are some resources that I found that will be helpful to anyone participating in this months challenge:

-First of all, a friend sent this blog to me a few months ago. I went through a good portion of it today and I definitely encourage anyone who wants to go trash free to check it out: They have a ton of really great and informative posts.

-From that blog I came across this article that answered a lot of questions I have about recycling:,21770,1835098,00.html. A few things I learned: Bottle caps (plastic and metal) are not recyclable and neither is plastic cutlery. If you try to recycle a pizza box that still has food remnants in it, it can ruin an entire recycling batch. Packing peanuts are not recyclable, but you can take them to a number of facilities that will reuse them. It seems like most anything can be recycled, but just not tossed in your recycling bin. Lots of things need to be sent to a specific facility.

-I didn't look too far into this site yet, but it seems like it could be useful:

-This blog isn't specifically about not making trash, but living more green in general:

Some changes that I've made already:

-We are composting at home and I even have a container at work to put food scraps and tea bags in.

-I'm making an effort to purchase food with the least amount of packaging possible. To prepare for this month and get an idea of how much trash I produced on a regular basis, I kept a trash journal all last week. I'd say about 95% of all garbage was food related. If I were a package designer, I would be pushing my company to consider more sustainable options. Is it really necessary to sell pre-cut, individually packaged apples? Do we really need frozen pb&js?

-I'm saving things like bread bags and reusing them.

That's all for now, I'd love to hear if anyone has any great tips for reducing/reusing/recycling. I need to figure out what to do with cat litter too. Has anyone had good luck with alternative litter options?


  1. Thanks for this info! I've been wondering if the plastic cap thing was true or not, I've always taken them off just in case. Good stuff!

  2. Great post Danne! So informative. I think you're right about it being basically impossible. I mean everything must be but in bulk or in recyclable containers, certainly not an easy task.

    Today's issue for me has been composting at work. Food scraps must be put somewhere. I ate a mango today and now I have two halves of an empty mango suit, and the seed sitting in a bag under my desk. I run the risk of stinking the place up if I don't get a container of some sort to put the scraps in.

    Also, my beloved Lara bars are individually wrapped in a non-recyclable package (or at least I think you can't recycle it), so I found this great blog post on making your own:

    Homemade Lara BarsAlso, here's a how-to on building your own composter:
    Homemade ComposterAnd if you don't want to buy the big plastic drum here's an all wood alternative: The pallet composter.

  3. I have so many composting questions, and this site helped:

    I threw away some dryer lint last night, so I'm going to retrieve it for my compost pot now.

  4. More indoor (or non-yard) composting tips:

    Also, for those who live in Boston, farmers markets will be opening soon!

    Copley: May 19th (Tu, Fr, 11-6)
    City Hall: May 27th (M, W, 11-6)
    Central Square: June 1st (Mon, 11:30-6)

  5. Great news! You can bring all rigid plastic caps into Aveda stores to be recycled!

    "The program accepts caps that are rigid polypropylene plastic, sometimes noted with a 5 in the chasing arrows recycling symbol. This includes caps that twist on with a threaded neck such as caps on shampoo, water, soda, milk and other beverage bottles, flip top caps on tubes and food product bottles (such as ketchup and mayonnaise), laundry detergents and some jar lids such as peanut butter."

  6. Brendan and I use a flushable kitty litter that's made out of corn. It's natural, doesn't create a lot of dust at all, and keeps smells to a minimum (which is good because most natural kitty litter stinks a ton). I forget the name of it right now, but it comes in a yellow and blue bag and you can find it at Petco. I've actually never tried flushing it, but I believe it's also biodegradeable which is ok (but not ideal) if you're tossing it into the trash, too.

    FOOTNOTE: Brendan has been educating me on the corn/farm industry in the U.S. recently, and the more I learn about corn, the less I want to use this litter. SO - proceed with caution if you're as wary of corn production as we are.

  7. You guys are so inspiring! I think it is very smart of you guys to do this without anyone forcing you.

    I had to, and used to do stuff like this when I used to live in Seoul (but I was forced to do so). We had a law to sort our trash, recycle them, and report large trashes (such as broken couches) otherwise we had to pay fine if we break the law.

    We had to separate every trash by its category; cans go into can recycling bin, plastics go into plastic recycling bins, paper go into the paper collecting boxes, and all food trashes goes into its own composting bin to feed pigs and ducks later in the day. We even had a box for throwing away outfits too, so when it was filled, they will be sent to the needed people.

    Also, we were required to collect and bring old newspapers and magazines to school every month. After gathering all of waste papers from students, schools sent those to the paper recycling industry. If we don't bring, we had to bring twice on following month to meet the required amount of waste papers given to each students (and the piles were quite heavy to carry).

    Oh! in public elementary schools, we had milk everyday. After drinking them, we all washed the empty cartons, nicely flatten them and collected them all to send it to the paper recycling industry again. Or sometimes, we just kept collecting them and made useful things out of used milk cartons in art classes. It was quite fun. :)