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, August 30, 2010

Zero waste challenge: Coming clean with trash on Day 2 of No Impact Week

No impact project sign up logo
Image courtesy Sierra Club

Can our household reduce our personal carbon footprint to zero in just one week? Doubtful, but we're going to find out. We're participating in the . This is Day 2, and it's all about trash. I'll tell you more about that in a moment, but first, what is No Impact Week?

Author Colin Beavan, aka No Impact Man, calls No Impact Week a one-week carbon cleanse and says, "It is a chance for you to see what a difference no-impact living can have on your quality of life." Beavan thinks the change will be a good one:

It's not about giving up creature comforts but an opportunity for you to test whether the modern "conveniences" you take for granted are actually making you happier or just eating away at your time and money.
No Impact Man on Join thousands doing the Sierra Club No Impact Week

He should know. For one year, he and his family gradually reduced their carbon impact to zero. In the process, they did a lot of the things we talk about here.  They bought nothing new, except food, for an entire year. They stopped eating meat, bought all their food at their local farmers market, gave up all forms of carbon-emitting transportation, which meant they walked, biked or rode an unmotorized scooter--one of those cute little silver things you see around town. They also gave up television, toilet paper, and electricity.


Beavan, his wife, Michelle Conlin, a reporter for Business Week, and their little girl live in Manhattan. I figure if they can survive a year drastically reducing their carbon footprint, I can manage a week. The bad news is, I only learned about this week-long mass experiment early Sunday morning. We started yesterday with Day 1: Consumption, but I didn't have an opportunity to complete a post about it.

Today, Day 2, is Trash Day

Yesterday, we each—my sweetie and I--saved all the trash we accumulated during the day, including recyclables and food scraps. I have the biggest bunch because I was cooking quite a bit, and I cleared a few past-due items from the refrigerator. I generated two pounds, nine ounces in food scraps alone. Thankfully, they went into the city’s compost program. We were supposed to set the trash we accumulated yesterday aside until the end of the experiment, but I couldn’t hang onto food scraps for eight days. Eeeww! I saved the rest though. Here it is.
Trash_Sunday_08-29-10 The first step today was to separate our trash into two piles:

  • Stuff we used for more than ten minutes.
    Stuff we used for less than ten minutes.

The only items used less than ten minutes are inside the brown paper bag: a bunch of used tissues and a couple of what my mother delicately refers to as “unmentionables.” I didn’t have the heart to lay them in plain sight.

With the exception of the toilet paper roll, the other items are packaging. We are gradually phasing out most of them, but it will take a while.

Options we’re exploring—and not

We have a few ideas in the works for eliminating the packaging you see in the picture.

  • Ice cream carton. We’re considering several options to replace ice cream in cartons, because we’re not giving up ice cream. Uh uh. Nada. Not gonna happen. I’ll tell you more about that in a post down the road.
  • Cracker box and liner bag.  I have to get better at planning to have some on hand for snacks and when the grandbabies come to visit.
  • Compostable compost bags. I’m thinking about so I don’t have to buy any more compostable bags for the food scraps.
  • Evert Food Saver Bags. The green plastic produce bags are on their way out. I love how they keep our veggies fresh, but when the last one cannot be reused one more time, no more. When they’re gone, they’re gone for good. We’ll be using organic cotton reusable produce bags, organic cotton reusable mesh bags, and trying out the storage methods Beth Terry outlines on .
  • Plastic sausage wrapper. Niman Ranch sausages are one of the few meat items we still enjoy, and we buy them once a month or so. We’re not ready to give them up, but the plastic wrapper screams a little louder each time I stand in front of the case deciding whether this is the time to say no more. That’s coming. I don’t know when.
  • Tissues, unmentionables and toilet paper rolls These will be with us awhile. Maybe a long while. We just can’t bear the thought of washing and reusing cloth rags that have been used for certain human excretions. You know what I’m talking about.

What’s up with trash for the rest of the week

The Sierra Club has posted these suggestions for reducing our trash for the rest of the week. We already do most of them. I bet you do, too.
    1. Put together a no-trash travel kit for the week with a reusable drinking receptacle for hot and cold liquids, a handkerchief/old t-shirt, Tupperware® [Or not! Try a stainless steel bot instead.], utensils, and reusable produce bags.
    2. Stop making trash. Reduce it. Reuse it. Recycle it. Just don’t throw it away. Keep a special bag at home or the office to collect trash you make by mistake or necessity throughout the week.
    3. At the end of the day, take time to reflect on your discoveries and post on our [Sierra Club’s] blog. Answer these questions: What did you put in your special trash bag? Why was it hard or easy not to make trash? Where was it impossible not to make trash? .
    4. Be proud of your efforts and a great start to the week! Write down five things for which you are grateful.

Interested? If I’d known about this experiment before midnight Sunday morning, I’d have told you about it, but you haven’t missed out completely. If you’re game and don’t mind being a couple of days behind, sign up now and find out whether you can improve your quality of life while lowering your carbon footprint. It's just one week. Alternatively, you can wait until October, when the Huffington Post is hosting its own .

Don't feel like it? I get that. Stick around and see what happens with us. I'll be honest about our successes and failures. One thing is certain: If I'm asked to give up TP, it ain't a gonna happen. I'm not there. Wonder if there's anything in the project that could change my mind.

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Disclosure:  If you follow one of the Amazon links above and purchase something, it is possible I will earn a few pennies, and what a thrill that would be, but of course I would rather you source a new product locally and avoid extra packaging and shipping. Better still, maybe someone on has an extra lying about and would love to hand it off to you.
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We make peace in a million small ways every day.
All text and images, unless otherwise noted, copyright L. Kathryn Grace. All rights reserved.

2 comments:

Wanda said...

And...I learned that you can indeed give worms meat and cheese scraps...salad that has dressing on it...cat hair...dryer lint (especially if you wear natural fibers)...and lots of coffee grounds.

Kathryn Grace said...

Oh yes, they love coffee grounds! Did I mention I once worked for a guy known a Mr. Vermiculture? He had a worm composter in his office. Everybody brought their lunchtime scraps and used coffee filters, grounds inside, and dumped them in the compost. Now that we don't have a kitty litter box on the back porch, I'm thinking of following your guide and building a worm composter.

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