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!

Sunday, May 25, 2014

A Closer Look at my Trash

A few weeks ago I took my students to the local transfer station. For those of you not up to par with your garbage-lingo, the transfer station is the place your trash goes after it is picked up from your house and before it heads to the landfill. It is pretty crazy to see what folks throw away...This trip made me think a lot about my family's trash-- what we throw away and how we can make a dent in reducing that.
First off, living in Portland, our trash only gets collected once every two weeks. This is usually no problem, as curb side recycling picks up glass, paper, metal and several types of plastics, and we can compost all of our food scraps and yard waste. So, compared to the rest of the country, I think the amount of trash that we send to the landfill each week is considerably less than average.
But, compared to the rest of the world, our trash load is enormous. We still have a can that is usually 3/4 full every two weeks, and after a big purge, it may be crammed full. I wanted to know how my family could create that much trash when we are so conscious of composting and recycling and we aren't huge consumers... So, for a couple of weeks I paid really close attention to everything that was going into our trash can, and here is what I found:

- about half of our trash is dog poop, cat poop and cat litter. We use a compostable sawdust litter in one of the litter boxes, but one of the cats refuses to use it, so we still have a litter box full of the clay-based litter that we have to completely change (and toss) every couple of weeks.
- in our kitchen trash, we were putting whatever I had swept up off of the floor (usually that is mainly pet hair, and with 5 animals inside I have to sweep a lot!), along with packaging that can't be recycled curbside or taken to the local recycling center, old sponges, a few broken toys, and lint from the dryer.
- our bathroom garbage gets filled up very quickly with toilet tissue that some folks in the family like to blow their nose with. I use old bandanas for this, but can't seem to convince everyone to join my hanky brigade.
- and then, we sometimes have a big item that gets thrown in as well-- like our toilet seat that recently cracked and was unable to be recycled.

Then I thought about how I could lessen what we throw away. I know that we need to get more items in bulk and use less packaging, especially food packaging. It's especially tough when I am packing a lunch each day for a picky eater, but I know that I can do better. I also have plans to make reusable snack bags for Finn to bring to school. I wash out our ziplocs and re-use them several times, but reusable bags would cut out that waste all together. Now if I could just find the time.....
I think being more selective about we let into the house is our best bet. When I choose toys for my children, they are often things that we buy used, or that are made to last. But trips to birthday parties or the nickle arcade result in handfuls of cheap plastic items that often break on the way home. And when my kids receive presents from others or choose toys with their own money, those are often not the same items I would choose.

I would like to figure out and attempt to reduce our trash even more. How do you reduce your trash?
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  1. Some of the ways you mentioned are things we try and do. Mostly, we bring less into our home, buy food in less packaging, and use reusable containers for everything. We have the reusable bags for snacks on the go and picnics, they are awesome. I so no as much as I can to bags. For instance at the market yesterday my salad mix comes in a plastic bag, okay I get that, but when I bought the asparagus which was not in plastic, they wanted to put it in plastic for me to bring home. I kindly said no thanks and just added it to my basket of market food. Simple things, but they make an impact when added up. Good luck!

  2. Great thought-provoking post. A little while ago, I realized that we actually recycle much more than we through in the trash each week, which is a good thing. We recycle everything we can and here in suburban Phoenix have both trash and recycling pick up once a week. We do not have separate green waste pick-up like we did in California, so green waste goes into the trash and that seems like, well, such a waste. I am glad to hear of a fellow hankie-user! My mom always gave me a hankies to use when I was little and I have followed through with that, mostly out of habit. I always have a hankie, usually a large bandana that I have cut into fourths that the hankie fits in my pocket better. My husband also carries hankies but my son thinks that is so gross. I totally understand how you feel about the gifts your children receive...when mine were young I would often become irritated at the wasteful, useless (often sugar-filled) gifts some people (especially my lovely mother-in-law) would give them. I try to give my grandkids mostly books and craft items, trying to learn from the things that annoyed me way back when. I love your posts. They always make me think! I think I would really enjoy taking the class you teach! Enjoy the rest of your weekend.

  3. It's nice to see you being more aware of the waste you and your family throw away. Reducing your family's garbage load and increasing the ways you can recycle more packaging will help our world's waste management by a ton. Thanks for sharing such a great read! All the best! :)

    Clarence Rios @ Bins By Jo Ltd.