Talking Trash

I’ve been tracking trash for the past week.

I wanted to see how much I throw away and I wanted to challenge myself to eliminate as much waste as possible by recycling more and choosing reusable over single-use.

I learned a few things:

I’m not as conscious as I should be.

Before this week – and sometimes even during this week – I have thrown out stuff that could have been recycled. Even worse, most of the time my only excuse was laziness.

Accountability encourages effort.

By having a written record of what I threw out (I would make jot notes in my notebook), there was no excuse anymore for me to not recycle or make a sustainable choice. Not when I had a record of my choices and knew that whatever didn’t end up in a recycling bin would end up in a landfill or one of our waterways.

I was good about writing down my trash for the first four days. Then as the week wore on and I forgot to write things down, the feeling of accountability started slipping and bad habits crept back in.

Re-usable has measurable impacts, instantly.

I haven’t used ziploc bags in two weeks. Waste avoided.

I finally made that quick trip to Canadian Tire and picked up lids for my mason jars so no more plastic wrap. Waste avoided.

I ran back to the parking lot and my car to grab a re-usable bag. Waste avoided.

Funny story…the reusable bag I grabbed from the car was one I bought when I was around 11, so about 10 years before deciding to try and live a more sustainable lifestyle. See what the bag looks like below.

I didn’t bring a bag with me into Value Village because I thought I would only buy a couple of mason jars. I ended up with six mason jars and three adorable milk bottles.

Why bother reducing, reusing and recycling?

Simply put, we have one planet, and we’re smothering it. I read in an article from National Geographic that out of the 8.5 billions tons of plastic produced since the 1950s, we’ve only recycled nine per cent of it.

In a 2009 study, Canadians produced 777 kilograms of garbage per person, almost 200 kilograms more than the global average of 578 kilograms per person.

There are simple ways to reduce waste. Out of my list of trash, here are some of the things I’ve identified that have reusable alternatives.

  • Paper towel
  • Tea bag packaging
  • Plastic wrap
  • A plastic bathroom loofah sponge
  • Plastic packaging for a bag of finished pine nuts
  • Travel sized toothpaste bottle

Now it’s just a matter of replacing waste with reusable. Things like:

  • Cloth napkins
  • Loose leaf tea
  • Reusable beeswax food wraps/coverings
  • Natural loofah
  • Buy in bulk
  • Make your own toothpaste

Making conscious choices to reduce waste takes effort and in our busy lives it often doesn’t take priority. Especially when some trash is “invisible” – I completely forgot to count Q-tips and yet I use so many of them. They’re such a regular part of my routine that I didn’t even clue in.

Trash seems unavoidable. I’m not the best person to tell you that it is avoidable, you’d be better off reading an actual zero-waste blog for that, but as I’ve found it this week, reducing trash is completely manageable.

It’s not about all or nothing when it comes to reducing waste – if there’s something you can do, why not do it?


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