The Rubbish Diet – Week 6

This week’s rubbish diet challenge is the trash even trash talkers don’t like to talk about… bathroom waste.

I do a lot of waste audits for work, and in an office building we count bathroom trash as a separate category since the bags are light weight and contain mainly paper towels.  When we do residential waste audits I tell my team not to delve too deep into the bathroom trash.  Aside from the stray shampoo bottle and gobs of hair from a brush clean out, there are usually unmentionable lady products.

Unmentionable lady products are one thing I’m not going to tackle this time around, but there are plenty of other opportunities where I can reduce my bathroom trash.  Part of my week 5 trash was a small grocery sized bag of bathroom waste (probably about three weeks worth).

Karen Cannard has some good tips for reduction in this area including taking inventory of your toiletries, reducing packaging, buying refillable and looking at recycled content of paper products such as tissues and toilet paper.

In taking a look at my own hygiene habits, I’m doing ok.  We buy gigantic shampoos and recycle any empties.  I recently swapped out cotton balls for reusable cotton face rounds.  I buy make-up and skin care from companies that will take back the packaging, and always recycle the cardboard toilet paper rolls.  I buy bar soap that comes with next to wrapper. I have aspirations of buying Preserve toothbrushes, but am hooked on Radius (which is a pretty green company).

What more can I do?  I need to stop using facial tissues and switch to hankies (something my hubby did long before I even met him).   We also don’t buy the most eco-friendly toilet paper (I buy whatever is on sale in bulk).  I should be buying Marcal, which is local (in New Jersey) AND uses 100% recycled content.   I’m curious to know how others are faring with this week’s challenge.  I could use some extra tips!

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DSNY Garbage Truck

Took a pic of the garbage truck through the window.  They come through my neighborhood every Monday and Thursday.  Everyone puts their trash out on the curb the night before and it is magically whisked away by DSNY. 

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Thursday – trash pick-up day

We didn’t put out any trash for pick-up last week or on Monday.  We did, however, put out some trash this morning.  It’s hard to tell from the pic but that is a full bag of kitchen trash (two weeks worth), a small bag of bathroom trash, and a smaller bag of yard litter.

The good news is that we’ve gone from a big bag every week to a big bag every other week.  Next week we’ll get to start taking food waste out of the trash bin and put in our brand new backyard composter (which I get to pick-up on Tuesday!)

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Week 5 – The Rubbish Diet

We are already starting week 5 of The Rubbish Diet and I have some success to report:  we did not put any trash out for pick-up during week 4!

That doesn’t mean we didn’t generate any waste, but it was significantly reduced.  Instead of putting out a bag or two weekly, at this rate we could go every other week.

How did we do it?  Cutting out paper towels and paper napkins reduced a lot of the volume.  Finding out that more than just plastic grocery bags are recyclable helped us divert plastic film and plastic baggies from the trash. Planning meals a little better for the week better has reduced the amount of food waste going into the trash bin (and has saved us some money).

I’m still struggling with the coffee situation.  I continue to justify the daily use of individual pre-packed coffee servings by convincing myself they don’t take up THAT much room in my rubbish bin, and the current reusable alternative is way too messy and time consuming to deal with right now.  And I can’t seem to locate my french press, but I’m still looking for it through our de-cluttering efforts.

I have come to terms with my irrational fear of compost and gardening.  Assuming I can connect with my local botanical garden to acquire a discounted backyard compost container, I’ll have a place for my food waste in time for week 6.  In the mean time, I’m going to see about getting some seedlings started so I’ll have somewhere to put all that compost when it’s ready.

So we’ve seen progress in the past 4 weeks.  While I’m still a little nervous of the prospect of getting to zero waste by week 8, I think it is more within reach now that when we started in week 1.

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Cleaning Up and Cleaning Out Stuff

The Rubbish Diet Challenge this past week is cleaning up around the house.  I got to thinking about what we already do and what more we can do in our quest to maintain cleanliness.  Then I started thinking about all the chores I’m behind on and how I will likely spend some time this weekend on said chores (yay).

I also want to spend some time on cleaning OUT.   Steve’s grandparents bought the house we live in almost 50 years ago. We were fortunate enough to take it over a few years back and have made some improvements since (energy efficient windows, new siding, etc.)

Part of the updating process has included wading through many years worth of accumulated stuff stored in the attic, closets and the basement.  We make four piles: keep, donate, recycle, trash. The ‘keep’ pile is further sorted into categories: ‘family stuff’, ‘possibly worth something’, and ‘this is cool and usable but if we don’t use it in the next year we’ll donate it’.  The ‘donate’ pile (usable stuff that we don’t need) has been the biggest and we have lugged many a car load of bagged and boxed materials to a local charity shop.  The ‘recycle’ pile is a no brainer and gets sorted and put out for collection.  Unfortunately, the ‘trash’ pile has been almost has big as the ‘donate’ pile and we’ve sent lots of bags of trash and unusable stuff to the landfill.

Since we have been doing a lot of work to get stuff out, we also do a lot to prevent stuff from coming in.  I turn down freebies and give-aways.  For any kind of impulse purchase I ask, will this get used a lot or will it sit on a shelf or in a drawer collecting dust?

In my household growing up we were ingrained with the Girl Scout mantra of ‘be prepared’.  It is a good motto to live by as it gets you thinking and you plan to be ready for any scenario.  As I got older and did a bit of traveling that mantra shifted to ‘what can I do without’.  I would pack only the necessities leaving out that extraneous just-in-case stuff.  I quickly realized you can easily get by with a minimal amount of ‘stuff’ and don’t miss the items left behind.

Of course I should be grateful to have the luxury of too much stuff, and it brings up greater societal issues of over-consumption and the haves and the have-nots and the list can go on.  But we’ll keep the focus on reducing my individual household impact and my  goal of zero-waste by week 8 of The Rubbish Diet.

Now, back to finishing up those clean-up chores and seeing if I can keep the waste from that process to a minimum.

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My backyard compost options

NYC has a great resource in the Lower Eastside Ecology Center.  They have lots and lots of information, they coordinate with community gardens for resident food waste drop-off and they even sell worms for vermiculture.   We also have botanical gardens in each of the five boroughs, all of which offer some level of compost education including the Queens Botanical Garden nearest me.

The only thing is it is February.  Not a hoppin’ time for compost workshops or info sessions. But that’s ok because thanks to Google I learned the following from a number of sources today that all pretty much all said the same thing:

  • Create a 50%/50% mix of carbon rich materials and nitrogen rich materials
  • Turn the pile regularly and make sure it is not too moist and not too dry
  • Don’t ever add any meat, dairy, grease.  Don’t add weeds or diseased plants or animal feces.
  • Pests shouldn’t be a problem if you do all of the above.

I think I can handle that.  Now I have to figure out how to contain my pile in the backyard.  I found a multitude of compost bin options.  I don’t have an abundance of space, but I do have some room to maneuver.  The two compost bins that are on the top of my list right now are:

  1. The make-your-own with 2×4’s and hardware cloth that is referred to as a portable wood and wire composting bin.
  2. Ready to purchase plastic compost bins such as the “Garden Gourmet”

Mid-winter may not be the best time to get started, but hey, I’m the last person who needs yet another excuse to put off backyard composting.

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The Rubbish Diet – Week 4

Whew! Busy week last week which not only meant I neglected my blogging duties, but also meant I wasn’t home at all to generate any trash! I’m proud to say that last week we generated only two bags of trash, and one of those bags was ‘just’ a big block o’ styrofoam packaging.

So far for week 4 our kitchen trash bag is not filling up very fast. Still have those pesky yogurt cups, blister packs for pills, a chip bag (or crisp bag for my UK readers), and yes, still a few of those blasted K-cups.

I didn’t have much of a chance to research compost last week due to aforementioned busy-ness, hoping to do a bit of that this week AND tackle this week’s Rubbish Diet Challenge: cleaning products.  By the way, thanks to all who gave me compost and gardening tips. Very helpful and encouraging!

Now that we’ve eliminated paper towels, I have less waste when cleaning up.  Switching to cloth rags is a great way to reduce waste.  I use several Method brand cleaning products (mainly because I like the refill option for the soap).  I’m sure there are more ways we can reduce our waste when cleaning up.  Like getting rid of those cleaning-wipe things, and dryer sheets.  Wonder what else we can reduce…

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