Mama Gone Green is a blog dedicated to raising happy children and reducing our impact on the Earth. My name is Taryn and I am the mother of 2 young kids and an environmental studies instructor at a community college in Portland, Oregon. Please join me as I journey through life as a mama, teacher, knitter, photographer, gardener, and environmentalist!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Reducing My Impact: A Year-Long Adventure. Month 2- Reducing Our Garbage

Happy June! Last month I started a personal challenge to reduce my impact on the Earth. The month of May focused on my diet and now June will be focused on our trash, and trying to reduce the amount we produce. After the birth of our second baby in March, we have definitely seen our trash increase. Partly because of more diapers, and partly because we have been exhausted and eat more processed foods and take out.
For the past few weeks I have been mentally taking a tally of what goes into our trash. About a third to one-half of our trash that goes to the curb is actually animal poop (both from the dogs and the cats). Gross. The remainder of our trash is mostly composed of: disposable diapers, wasted food that didn't get composted, tissue paper that was used to blow our noses, and packaging (to-go containers and any other plastic packaging that can't be recycled). Oh yeah, and lots and lots of dog hair (see gross photo of our kitchen trash can above). So, I have been thinking about how we can reduce this waste we are producing and here is what I have come up with:

1. Animal poop: OK, we are not getting rid of our pets, but would love to reduce their contribution to the landfill. So..... as far as the cats go, I am going to research the use of flushable, natural litter. This would get the cat poop out of the landfill and put it into the wastewater treatment plant, which is set up to deal with poop. However, I know that cat poop is not the same as human poop and I have no idea if treatment plants can get the nasty stuff out of it. So, I will do some research. If it seems like a good idea, I may try to start flushing the cat poop. I will also have to take into account the amount of water needed to flush the cat poop versus the landfill savings. I will get back to you on that. For the dogs... OK, this is sort of gross, BUT... we are going to do a trial version of dog poop composting (please don't tell my neighbor!). We already have a 2-bin composting system set up on the side of our house to compost food scraps, yard waste and used straw from our duck house. And the ducks produce copious amouts of dirty straw, more than we need for our regular compost system. So, I was thinking of building on a third bin that would be just for dog poop and some of the duck straw. This bin would be kept separate and never used on our food (but the finished compost could be used on ornamental trees, etc.). However, I don't want a big stinky compost bin. We live in a city and have a neighbor about 5 feet away from our compost bins. So, I have gotten the go-ahead from my hubby (which I never thought I would get) to try this out for a month or so to see if it will stink. We are hoping that if we put enough straw in there, it will decompose without a stench, but we really have no idea. Anyone ever done this before that has tips for me? Anyone? Nope. Didn't think so. By the way, I have already asked the city of Portland about the possibility of the collection of animal waste to compost on a city level. Surprising, they had already thought of this, but San Francisco did a pilot project and found that it wasn't economically feasible. Which means that a) maybe I am not as weird and crazy as I thought and b) If I want to compost my dog poop, I will have to do it myself. I actually know several people who compost their own poop (humanure) so dog poop actually seems less gross than that. If all works well, hopefully we could eventually start composting the cat waste too. OK, enough about poop.

2. Disposable Diapers: Finn is still wearing a pull-up to bed each night, and Phoebe wears a disposable at night so that we can all sleep better and longer. She usually only wears one diaper at night, but sometimes two if she poops during the night (darn, I guess I am not done with poop yet!) and sometimes even more if we get lazy or don't time the diaper laundry right. So, to reduce this, I am going to try really hard to make sure Phoebe wears a disposable only at night. One diaper a day isn't too bad if it means I am not up for an hour in the middle of the night. As for Finn's pullup, I don't think he will be night-time potty trained anytime soon. However, I have considered pulling his cloth diapers back out for nighttime. I put them away because before Phoebe, it wasn't worth it in terms of laundry to wash 5 or 6 diapers at a time (if I let it go longer than a week, they would start to seriously smell). But since I am already washing diapers for Phoebe, a few more won't make a difference. Plus, maybe the "feeling wet" aspect will help him get nighttime potty trained. I wonder if his cloth diapers still fit?

3. Wasted food: Wasting food is just silly but we do it all of the time. We forget about stuff or get sick of leftovers, or dinner plans change last minute. We compost fruits and veggies that are going bad, but old dinners that have been forgotten, or food with dairy or meat, all goes into the trash. So, I am going to try really hard to not waste food. We used to only put organic food scraps into our compost (we were trying to be purists) but have now started to put conventional as well. I think with some better planning and monitoring, we can significantly cut down this waste portion.

4. Tissues: I try to do most of my nose-blowing on my hankies, as not to waste tissue, but often find myself in the bathroom blowing my nose on toilet paper because it is right there. And my hubby (who is not a big fan of hankies) and Finn also end up adding a lot of tissue to the trash each week from blowing their noses. So... I am in the midst of making some mini one-time use hankies out of some soft flannel that will be put into the bathroom. I am envisioning felting 2 bowls, one for clean hankies, and one for dirty used ones, and I will just throw them into the wash each time I do laundry. This keeps the convenience of location and the cleanliness of the one-time use, all while keeping all of that tissue out of the trash. I will post some pictures once this project is finished!

5. Packaging: Packaging stinks. I try to be mindful of the packaging I bring home, but it is pretty tough. That is why packaging has it's own month (November) and another month just for to-go containers (April). So, although I will try and be mindful of the packaging that enters my trashcan,  I think my other reductions for this month will keep me busy and I will focus more on packaging at a later point.

Right now we usually fill our kitchen garbage can (8 gallons) about twice a week (YIKES!). Plus we have a bag of cat poop and a large bag of dog poop every week as well. I am hoping that over the course of this month we can at least cut our trash by half. Wish me luck, and hope my neighbor doesn't notice we are trying to compost dog crap. Pin It Now!


  1. Good luck! That is awesome!

    Some of my goals are to buy re-usable napkins.

    Let me know if you find a good natural cat litter. I would be interested in that as well!

  2. I'm glad you're thinking of the water vs landfill issue with kitty litter. Where I live the water use is more damaging than the landfill.

    I did see somewhere (sorry, no link for you) an in-ground pet waste composter. Supposedly no smell and you never have to clean it out. No idea if it works.

    BTW -- feeling wet at night is unlikely to help your son get dry. If he's dry during the day it's likely a brain maturity thing. Night wetness in boys is normal up to age 12 and common to age 6. Alas.

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