Imagine the world without anger, without greed. We have the power, the tools, the skills and the resources right now to build a peaceful world, where people live in harmony with the Earth and each other. This blog explores ways we are doing just that, one post, one change, one day at a time. Join me. Tell your stories. Ask for help. Spread your ideas for making the vision real and, well, ordinary.

Monday, May 31, 2010

War on Garbage: It's the little things

Stored plastic tubs
Stored takeout containers
© L. Kathryn Grace
It never ceases to amaze me how much throw-away junk we bring into the house. True, we're cutting back. Because of our war on garbage, we're thinking more than ever before we purchase. Still.

Last night, neither of us felt like cooking. We don't order in much any more, but we made that choice. Two more plastic hot food containers to add to our collection. We find all sorts of uses for them. You can just make out one example on the bottom shelf in the image above, but we always have three stacks in the cupboard. Eventually, one way and another, one by one, they'll chip, crack, become irremediably filled with paint or homemade Play-Dough residue and end up in the recycling bin. Fail!

Friday night, we had the grandbaby over. She's two now, and we took her to the neighborhood restaurant for pizza. We like this place because they use organic ingredients whenever they can get them, and they're kid-friendly. We bought two small pizzas. I know, I know, but we don't like the same toppings or sauces. We like leftovers. We never know which pizza the little one will choose. Then, because I forgot to bring foil and a bag to wrap and carry the leftovers home, we ended up with two take-home boxes. I would have crammed it all into one box, but again I neglected to tell the wait staff, and they brought back two. Fail!

But wait! There's good news!

Do compost poster
Do compost poster
Courtesy Recology SF
First: I've been doing some research and learned that San Francisco's compost program includes a whole lot of stuff I was tossing in the trash. We can send those pizza boxes and the wax paper liners in their bottoms to the compost, along with waxy milk cartons, butter boxes, and much of our bathroom tissue waste (the dry stuff, that goes in the waste basket anyway). Why they even take cat hair!* Better.

Second: It's been three weeks plus since we last tied off and emptied the bag in the small kitchen trash can. Thanks mostly to living in this city, with its zero waste goal, today the bin has plenty of head room for more trash. That's 2.3 gallons of landfill waste--once a week just one month ago--pared down to once in three weeks and counting. Big win!

Third: Our commitment to buying only in bulk when available is paying off, but not perfectly--yet. No new cereal boxes or sugar containers have come into the house. One of us bought a couple of boxes of Annie's organic macaroni and cheese--a favorite of the grandkids when they visit. It doesn't take that much longer to make homemade, which we like so much better, so we need to make an adjustment. Better, but plenty of room to improve.

Fourth, and this is the most fun: With fruit season in full swing, I bought a half flat of strawberries from our local farmer's market and made jam for the first time in decades. The berries that tasted best that day, Chandler, were expensive, $5/quart, and by the time I boiled the fruit down to make jam with no added pectin, the eight-ounce jars cost about $5.79 each. My labor was not factored in, so true cost is even higher. Coincidentally, the 12-ounce jar of imported organic jam in our refrigerator has a $5.79 sticker. (Why is it so difficult to get organic jam made locally?)

Jar of strawberry jam
$5.79 jar of strawberry jam
© L. Kathryn Grace
Now I know why the organic jam and jelly purveyor (Blue Chair--snap some if you live here and get the chance) at the same farmer's market is charging $11 for a 6-ounce jar! Homemade is not exactly a bargain. Perhaps I can improve the net cost of raw ingredients by more judicious shopping. Meanwhile, we avoided overseas shipping. One upside.

Then there's the really big downside. To cut costs, and ostensibly keep prices down, Ball (who absorbed Kerr, so there's no longer competition) now shrink-wraps its partially-boxed jars. We gave away our canning jars years ago, and had to buy new. Sure, I could have tried to find them on Craigslist or Freecycle, but I would not know how they had been handled. Our food safety and health depend on jars that have been handled carefully, so we bought new. We'll take good care of them and use them many times over. Meanwhile, I've written the Ball people and asked them to return to boxing without plastic. If you have the time, I encourage you to lend your voice to mine. I'm sure we're not alone in this request.

Not to despair. There is another upside to making our own jam: Every time we open a jar, we will be omitting a made-for-single-use, shipped and re-shipped jar and lid from our recycling bin. Sure, we use the jars again, but they pile up quickly, and we don't have the storage space for a lot of jars that are not of canning quality. Too many go to recycling. I'm calling this one a partial win.

That's the story on the war on garbage this week. A few steps forward, a few back, but making progress on the road to conscious living.

*UPDATE 6/1/10: Sadly, I was mistaken about the cat hair.

What are you up to on the eco-front?

What's your story this week? How are you handling your waste challenges? If you have a garden, I'd love to hear what's up, what's ripe, what tastes fabulous, and just maybe, what you're preserving and how.

We make peace in a million small ways every day.
All text and images, unless otherwise noted, copyright L. Kathryn Grace. All rights reserved.


Gavin said...

Hi Kathryn, I came across your post because I have been reading a lot online about domestic recycling. Interesting to read that you have 'zero-waste' targets to meet in your area too, like we do in the UK.

I work in recycling too - so it is interesting to see different experiences around the world!

Anonymous said...

I really like your blog, I wanted to know where to find these jars?
Thanks a lot

graceonline said...

You can find them at most any hardware store or any store that carries canning supplies in the US.

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