Last week Enviro Girl listened to a radio program where the guest speaker addressed the topic of garbage. He cited statistics claiming Americans throw away 7 pounds of trash a day. SEVEN POUNDS! Enviro Girl did a little research on her own and discovered this, this and this. Genuinely depressing stuff when considering the money, land space, energy and other resources wasted in our disposal habits. But Americans have a cavalier attitude about throwing stuff away–how can we convince people to throw away less stuff? And how can we convince people that generating less trash takes very little effort? Recycling is one obvious answer–and it’s evident that Americans can become more vigilant on that front. Another answer is to consume less–the majority of our waste is packaging. We can reduce our consumption by insisting on less packaging and purchasing items that use a minimal amount.
Enviro Girl lives in a household with one husband, three sons and a large dog. She knows their collective daily trash disposal weighs in far less than the national average of 7 pounds per person. Even if they account for garbage thrown away at office/school/other places, it’s evident that they manage their waste efficiently since they fill their garbage dumpster with the equivalent of 1 1/2 tall kitchen garbage bags each week.
Enviro Girl’s family doesn’t have some magic secret–what they do is reasonably easy. They:
Recycle all plastic (including bags), paper/cardboard, metal and glass.
Reuse containers for food and fabric for cleaning.
Reduce their consumption by carefully choosing household products, food and entertainment to minimize packaging. A specific examples include buying powdered dishwasher soap in a fully recyclable cardboard box (plus the powder washes more loads per package than liquid soap), avoiding individually-packaged snacks and opting to dole out servings into reusable containers, renting DVDs and video games.
Donate used goods to a local thrift store or directly to people who can use them.
Compost food scraps, paper and yard waste.
This morning, before she wrote this post, Enviro Girl took stock of what her family had thrown into the garbage can. She threw away one straw, a lid from a jar of peanut butter (recycled the jar), and the top strip of a juice pouch (the rest of the pouch got washed and will get recycled via a program at her children’s school). She composted some food waste, including an apple core, a paper napkin from her son’s lunch box and grape stems.
For the rest of the week Enviro Girl will examine what gets thrown away on her watch, and she encourages readers to do the same. She imagines that by writing down her trash, it will further raise her awareness, much like writing down one’s spending habits or diet habits.
Tell the Eco Women: what did you throw away this morning?