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July 25, 2016 / thegirlwiththedinotattoo

the set-up

So you’ve found yourself caring about trash and your guilty conscious thinks you can do better but you’re not sure how or where to start? Good! Acknowledging that you have a problem is the first step.

I’ve recommended a few books in another post that will do a far better job than I will here of explaining how to systematically improve your lifestyle. But for those of you who can’t be bothered to read an actual book, I’ve decided to go through the various ways that I’ve changed my habit for the better. Hopefully by sharing these simple steps that my household (my husband and I, the cat couldn’t care less) have taken to drastically reduce our trash output.

I figured the first place to start is where it all ends: trash and recycling. I am not in the league of people who have found ways to not even produce recycling (admirable, but I have other things to do like read and write crappy blogs). I have, however, been able to find many different recycling programs in my area, though this means that I will need to hold onto everything until an event occurs or I have the time to drop off a bag of items. While this may seem like a lot of work, once I found the varying events or programs it really was just a matter of storing the “trash” and putting the event in my calendar.

Thus, I give you, the kitchen closet:

storage closet (1).jpg

Check out those sweet Paint skills.

See, it doesn’t take up too much space, and it’s really not that organized (and probably just looks like a bunch of trash waiting to get to the landfill to anyone else). I’ll go through each item to give you an idea of the varying recycling options are available that I’ve adapted to:

Plastic film for recycling: any bag that has a recycle symbol and number on it can be put in those bins at the front of many grocery stores, Target, and a few others. For us this is typically bags that carrots, grapes, or bread come in, cereal bags, any torn/unusable plastic shopping bags, and packaging either the wrapping or the air bags from shipping. This website lists what is typically accepted and gives a list of locations for drop-off.

Paper bags: Used for overflow curbside recycling. If I forget my cloth bags at the store I get paper instead.

Textiles recycling: My town has a collection once a year for textiles which includes any clean scrap piece of fabric along with regular clothing. I either consign or donate any used clothing that’s still wearable, but this collection is good for torn or stained clothing as well as beat-up shoes, old pillow cases, torn lawn chair seating, etc. I have a larger bag down in the basement but like to keep the smaller one here for easier access.

Mop, duster, and ironing board: Note the lack of Swiffers – nothing disposable. The pictures doesn’t show the mop head, but it’s a flat pad that can be removed and thrown in the wash, and the duster is lambswool which helps with static and be shaken out and reused indefinitely. Ironing boards should never be disposable.

Aerosol cans, scrap metal, hard plastics, etc: My town has a facility that most people use for scrap metal, and I do save my broken paperclips and bobby pins for them, but this facility also takes batteries, empty aerosol cans, durable plastics (like Rubbermaid bins and shovel heads).

Tissues: We’ve switched to handkerchiefs for every day use, but my husband insists on having tissues on-hand for bad winter colds, and for those guests with allergies and an aversion to my used handkerchief. I still make them compost the used tissues though.

Cat food: The cat refuses to partake in our green efforts and will pee on everything we own if we change her food to anything besides the expensive prescription food we must buy her and her preferred, un-compostable, un-recycable, cat litter. She also sheds like crazy and wakes me up before my alarm clock so it’s a good thing I love her.

Toilet paper: Just hanging out here in storage, waiting for that packaging to join the plastic film bundle.

Organizing bins: They organize things, no big deal. But they are recycled themselves: one is a shoe box and the other two I picked up from a Facebook group that’s for swapping items that would just be recycled curbside or tossed. One held feta cheese, the other olives, from a grocery store.

Terracycle items: Terracycle  is a great company that partners with brands to take back their wrappers and packaging. I now keep a list of these brands next to my grocery list in the app I use so I can remember which brand of chips, razors, toothpaste, etc. I should buy. Terracycle has “brigades” for larger collections, such as a school or office, which ship for free, but I don’t mind saving my items for several months and just pay the few dollars to ship them my variety of brands.

Bags for cat litter: Like I said, my cat is indifferent to her ecological impact on the world. Rather than use something that could potentially be recycled to just collect and toss her litter, we use bags that would already be thrown out, such as pretzel bags.

Rags and old towels: I tried to dye my bath towels a while ago, and it turned out terrible. When I replaced the set though I held onto the hand towels (the rest went to the textiles recycling) and they’ve been super useful for large spills, to have on hand for hiking and camping, and other times when I don’t want to stain or ruin tea or bath towels. The rags are made from two old t-shirts torn into small pieces about the size of a hand. These are perfect for dirty chores like cleaning the mold out of the fridge liner, wiping bike grease from hands, cleaning the grill utensils, etc. Basically these items keep us from needing paper towels.

The only other items not shown are the regular curb-side recycling bin and trash which are both small and next to the fridge, and the compost bin which is under the sink.

If you’re not sure what type of recycling collections or programs you should look for, you can start by looking through your trash. Take note of what you’re typically throwing away and I’m sure there’s a lot in there that you can already start diverting to be recycled. Good luck and happy sorting!

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