Last week, we forgot to roll out our blue and brown bins to the curb for trash day. No big deal, right? There are only three of us who live here.
The following week, it was like a trash explosion. Don't worry, it was also a recycling explosion. (Blue is trash. Brown is recycling). But it was an "explosion" nevertheless.
In my mind, this didn't make any sense. We recycle. Why was our garbage bin so full? What in the world were we throwing away to make that much trash in two weeks?
In the beginning of No Impact Man's adventures, the author, Colin, and his wife, Michelle, save their trash for a few days to determine exactly how much they are throwing out and what. As Colin goes through their weekly trash, he is shocked to see how much it tells them out their lives.
Now, I wasn't about ready to pour out that big blue bin and see what our trash can was saying about my life. But the day after I read that particular passage in No Impact Man, I found myself staring at garbage cans in horror the following day.
As an avid recycler, I'd like to think that my trash impact is low. True, compared to those who don't recycle, it is. Believe me, I try to recycle everything. This isn't too much of a problem since I live in a town where you can recycle all numbers of plastics. (You can't do that in too many places). So when in doubt, I put it in the recycling bin in the hopes that I am making the right call. Still, even with this over the top recycling, I am still creating a TON of trash.
Why is that?
One of the reasons this could be is that sometimes, even with my need to recycle, I overlook things that, in fact, can be added to the brown bin. My tea wrappers for instance.
I drink tea like a 90 year old woman, especially in the winter. I love it. A few months ago, it dawned on me. My tea wrapper is made out of paper. Paper can be recycled.
This whole time I was putting it in the trash. Now, they are pretty small and they don't seem like they will make up much impact.
But now get this, I drink at least 2 cups a tea a day (even more so when it's cold out). So that is 14 cups a week. In one year, that is 730 wrappers.
Oh my goodness.
What else have I been missing all these years?
Even with recycling, am I still creating the 4.6 pounds of garbage the average American creates each day? (That's 1,700 pounds a year, people). And actually, food packing waste makes up for 20% of our solid waste. Stuff that was created to be convenient. Stuff that was intended to be thrown out.
When we forget to roll the garbage out to the curb so we find that we are swimming in our own waste, will we still find it convenient?
But no more helplessness, remember? So what am I going to do about this?
That same day when I constantly examined the garbage can was also the same day I started paying attention to what exactly I was tossing. It became sort of game to see how long I could go without throwing a single thing away. (This was fortunately on a day when I didn't work at Mojo's otherwise I think the record would've been about 5 minutes. Insert another sigh here).
This is what I noticed. The things I go through the most are napkins, paper towels in the office bathroom, kleenex, ziplock bags, and other food packages. It is encouraging that some of these things can be controlled. I can improve on this list.
This may sound really gross to you, but I have been thinking of throwing it back to the 1940s and buying some handkerchiefs. Yep. That's right. Reusable kleenex. (Actually, I wish I could just make some but I have no idea how to sew nor do I own a sewing machine). I haven't yet, mostly because I feel like I have been spending money like crazy recently. But soon. Something new is coming.
And as far as my tea problem. Well, over a year ago I was given a loose leaf tea strainer. I used it pretty sparingly until I moved to Morton and discovered loose leaf tea from The Blend in Washington, Il. When I moved back to Kansas, I finally got around to going to The Spice Merchant after the Baker's gave me some super delicious tea for Christmas. (My favorite kind was this almond tea that had real pieces of almonds in it. So good. It tasted like Christmas and cool evening air and the Harry Potter series). Despite the fact that my tea strainer recently broke and my supply from The Spice Merchant ran out, I am determined to continue my tea habit in this way. I like it way better and the best part? Less packaging.
Those tea packets might be little. But I am pretty convinced that it is all the little things that make all the difference.