I don’t throw away much, but I decided to do a little test anyhow. General stats state we in the USA throw away near 5 lbs of trash a day. This is unbelievable. Less than a fourth is recycled. Landfills are filling up and being shut down. The trash is polluting our water, a problem that we will be seeing as more and more a concern in the next so many years, not to forget the general destruction of everything in the world. I wanted to see what I would need to change if I was to adjust my life to have no trash at all. Keep in mind this complicates things in this world. On quick thought, I suddenly would not be able to eat out at many places, especially fast places like a Subway. Unless, of course, they allowed me to use my own plate with some convincing, which did happen actually. But this is the point: do we have any idea how much we throw away daily? I don’t think we do. Let’s find out!
Trash Study: In a pile.
Food: I do not buy much pertaining to food that comes in wrappers, bags, or containers. I buy most of my food, aka vegetables, from 3 different markets in Kansas City: Kansas City Farmers Market located in the River Market area, Whole Foods for the few things the city market doesn’t have organic like carrots, and the Organic Market that is up the street from me near Minor Park (and they have one in Park Place at Town Center Plaza on Wednesday’s). I bring my own reusable cloth bags which are great with the exception of grains and such. I am thinking of ways to remedy the need of plastic bags for those kinds of things. A fast solution is to bring your own plastic bags to reuse in a place such as Whole Foods or the farmer’s market. This would stop use of new bags but still places need of them in the first place. Because places use weight to figure their cost, bringing a container might complicate things, but they might weigh them with their bags and then empty them into your container. That is a solution.
During this study in food shopping, it seemed to me that the worse the food is for you, like candy, cookies, soda, chips, etc, the more trash one might have. All of these things come in wrappers, plastics, some in paper, but mostly it’s just garbage. A changing locations device basically. So I didn’t buy any. I found it funny that such foods are so interconnected with garbage. It’s pretty ironic. The worse you eat, the more you throw away.
Eating out was interesting. While I didn’t eat out much, I did try to a couple times. Subway worked out well since I brought my own container. They looked at me weird and were reluctant but it worked and I saved the double wrapping and wasted napkins they give. I did not get a drink or chips either. When I ate at a sit down Mexican joint, I was careful to see what kind of napkins they used and such before eating there. Sure there is garbage related to getting me the food, and even getting the food to the restaurant, but I’m sticking with me for this study. Sit down restaurants are easier to avoid garbage than fast food places. The worse you eat, the more you throw away.
Not everyone wants to eat just market produce. For this I made sure I had some additionals in my repertoire to make things more normal. I had bought some hummus and pita bread, which I knew would be eaten by the end of the week. When I finished them and vegetables and other things I cooked, well, I had some basic food trash. What did I do with each? Well, the veggie left overs, skins, seeds, etc, I took and threw in my compost pile and yard for my garden next year. Nature eats these things and I will feed nature as much as I can. The hummus plastic container? It is a recyclable container so it went into my recycle box. The pita plastic bag, that’s a different story. It went into my pile of trash this week, see the picture, and then went into the trash. Plastic bags should be banned here, since they are the second commonest form of trash and a huge hazard everywhere. Other countries have limited them or completely banned them, like Mexico, and some cities in the USA are banning them as well. Should be all of them. Here is a CNN writeup regarding this matter, Mexico, and why it is a problem: http://articles.cnn.com/2009-08-19/world/mexico.plastic.bag.ban_1_plastic-bags-global-ban-mexico-city?_s=PM:WORLD
Other People Messing Up My Study!
On day 1 I went the entire day without throwing anything away or using anything that requires to be thrown away. However, I did get forced to have trash. It was quite the dilemma. I was valeting and that requires you give people hard paper or cardboard tickets. When they receive their car, the number ticket in their car is throw away. I kept them all and will this week to see if there is something I can use them for. The big problem was the old ladies, though. The first one brought me out a Styrofoam cup of ice water since it was hot and I was outside all day running. FOAM must go: http://www.earthresource.org/campaigns/capp/capp-styrofoam.html. But I thanked her, took it and kept it. I am now stuck with a piece of trash, one of the worse kinds. I had my water bottle I bring daily out there, it is BPA Free (http://www.nalgene-outdoor.com/store/detail.aspx?ID=1240). Don’t know what BPA is? Plastic and especially bottles for bottled water, disposable ones leading the way, are destroying the oceans and much more. Read about it here: http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2010/03/ocean-bpa/
Back to the story, on the same day another old lady gave me two pieces of candy, both in plastic wrappers. I could have declined or have given others these pieces but I decided that wasn’t realistic for this study on the difficulties of not having trash. Two more pieces of trash to deal with. A side note is I went to Wal-Mart to buy a couple food items and take a shirt back for work. I asked to not have a plastic bag to carry them out or the receipt. She smiled and agreed. Of course I was asked by the door gal for my receipt when I left. Oh well!
The rest of the week went about the same only without the wildcards from above. It wasn’t too hard and I realized I really don’t throw away much. Except for paper towels and MAIL…
Why We Get Spam Mail
Don’t know. It must work on some people. I know credit cards sure do. I happen to get alot of crap magazines for some reason for free. 90% of my trash is crap I didn’t ask for and it should be stopped. Solutions to stop all of the SPAM mail I receive: http://environment.about.com/od/greenlivingdesign/a/junkmail.htmHere is a start. In that link there are links to multiple sites that will help reduce this mess we do nothing about. Sure it could take a couple hours. But it’s a start until the government and post office stops this forever. At least the junk mail can be recycled. Doesn’t stop the destruction of trees for no gain of humanity and the world. Nor does it stop the garbage.
Until this study, I never realized just how many paper towels I use. Well that has stopped since. Solutions to remedy the need of paper towels: use shorts, pants, or shirt to dry your hands off after being wet if you waste them like I have. OR USE a normal towel (the best). Just buy a bunch of cheap ones and go through them. It will require a washing eventually but thems the ropes for helping the environment. You save mula also. Fact is, MAKING the paper towels creates global warming with CO2 emissions created by burning of fuels duh. Any paper. Keep that in mind for your CONVENIENCE. We don’t need them. Link for more info and many solutions: http://www.carbonrally.com/challenges/36-paper-towels-environmentSolutions for paper towel replacement: real towels. Quick fix: buy recycled. The Whole Foods brand 365 supposedly is the best for many reasons. More info: http://www.nrdc.org/land/forests/gtissue.asp
Trash Study: What can be recycled and what cannot
Not going here right now cuz it would bring up gas usage and everything. Another time perhaps.
I understand there is huge amounts of water waste in everything. It’s unreal. But I have decided to maybe do a full report on water alone in the future. For now, some quick tips on saving water:
- take faster showers: a 4 minute shower uses 20-40 gallons of water. Yeah that’s right.
- turn off water whilst brushing teeth
- when shaving, fill sink a tad and use it for razors, do not turn it on to rinse it
- full washers, full dish washer only
- create a compost pile and put all food out in it, not in garbage disposal
- fix all leaks
Oh yeah…For the sake of this study, I am not gonna use the outdoors for a toilet. Well, somewhat.
Using the toilet requires some sort of wiping device for men and women of the number 2, and women of the number 1. Even if toilet paper dissolves, it is still a cost and perhaps an un-necessity. It is still paper, but can be purchased recycled (no that does not mean it’s been wiped with before). More info read here: http://www.ehow.com/how-does_5006412_how-toilet-paper-recycled.htmlFor the sake of this study, I dodged toilet paper to see what it is like.
For the first test, and pardon for any extra graphic content here, be scientific my friends, I awoke in the morning of day 1 and number 2 was upon me. I knew this was the big concern so I went out to the yard and observed the trees. Which leaf would work best, I thought. I found a couple different trees to do the test. My prime concern was any itching created by such leaves. I am not sure what plants the leaves I chose were from but I stayed away from any 3 leaf plants (you can look up why). Now the American way is to not use water in such activities, so I am dodging that for now although I heavily suggest looking to the way of Europe and most of the world and watering that beast before drying. AKA bidet. Toilet paper is best used as a drying device. We need bidets! Anyways, the leaf I chose worked pretty well. I rubbed it on my arm before use to see if I am allergic at all and it seemed I am not. The back side of the leaf was more effective than the smooth side, a side note. Well, at least now if my roommates use all of the toilet paper I have a free alternative, hopefully having realized this before it is too late. The leafs were brought to the outdoor compost. And now I have a new promotional term for tree huggers: leaf wipers.
Some additional solutions for tissue paper replacement:
Solutions for blowing one’s nose: go outside or use the sink and learn to master the one nostril magnum. Could even use a hanky or towel but that will require washing and wasting water opposing the simple solution of the snot rocket. The bonus was the fact I got some allergy action going on this week (rag weed season and record highs) so I was running outside alot as well as hiding during valet to slime the near by bushes.Check this for more info on this TISSUE issue: http://www.conservatree.org/paper/PaperTypes/tissueconsumer.shtml
And thus concludes my week of attempted no trash study. Other activity included being at my parents house and declining paper towels and plastic bags to bring food home. It also forced me to ask everywhere I went to purchase anything for no receipts if possible. I ended up with a Clif Bar wrapper extra, a paper towel I accidentally grabbed to hold my veggies in for work out of habit, and when I saw Avatar extended version in 3D, I had an additional wrapper to add to the fray.
Such a study as well as some basic Internet research has opened my eyes. Since then I have kept my trash to a minimum while converting the house I live in and any lifestyle to less is more. Altogether, it seems the food is the problem mostly, but who knows. People throw a shit ton of stuff away somehow. I wonder if they pay attention, if they would then. Well, that is part of conscious living. It is not to save the world. It is not to be on a side of things, to be green, to be an activist. Conscious living is to simply pay attention to everything one does. To not just do things because they are expected or the usual habit. It is to really see what you are doing. When doing so, you will become synced with nature because you are nature. It is hard to harm anything when paying attention. That might be where humanity lost its path.
Total trash for a week of my study.