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No Impact Week, Day 2 – Monday: Trash

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Can wasting less improve your life?

By Aran Seaman, Eartheasy Posted Jan 5, 2011

No Impact WeekThis is the second in a series of eight blog articles chronicling my experience participating in the 2011 No Impact Week, a global challenge to lower your carbon footprint as much as possible over eight days, initiated by Colin Beavan’s No Impact Project.

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Day 2: Trash

Day two of No Impact Week was all about trash. Our personal trash, to be specific. The goal was to “find out if wasting less improves your life.”

Starting on Monday and continuing throughout the week participants, were instructed to “Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle” as much as possible (in that order!). To accomplish this we were encouraged to collect all of our garbage as we progressed through the week, and set it aside for review. We were also instructed to put together a “no-trash travel kit” of reusable items: a mug, grocery bags, utensils and food containers, cloth napkins, and produce bags.

reusable grocery bagsInitially, I thought this challenge wouldn’t be that hard. Trash didn’t seem like a big issue for me: I already recycle most of my waste, avoid take-out, and use cloth grocery bags whenever I shop. But when I sat down to think about my personal waste output, I discovered a lot of room for improvement. As I recently moved into an apartment building, I could no longer compost my kitchen scraps in my backyard. I was now sending all of that great, nutrient rich material to a landfill! I also noticed that I was throwing away countless plastic produce bags from grocery shopping, when I could be using reusable mesh bags for my produce. Lastly, I realized that I was creating a lot of garbage by buying small quantities of the same thing every few months when I could be buying it bulk.

With a little research, I discovered that a nearby community garden had compost bins that were underutilized. I got in touch with the organizers, and after some discussion about materials allowed, was granted use of their bins.

I began by tackling the biggest waste problem I faced: food scraps. I hate the fact that I am sending so much compostable material through my city’s waste system! With a little research, I discovered that a nearby community garden had compost bins that were underutilized. I got in touch with the organizers, and after some discussion about materials allowed, was granted use of their bins. I then purchased a container with a carbon filter lid that I could store my food scraps in for a week without worrying about any smells escaping. This allows me to cut my waste output by half, and also create nutrient-rich soil for the local community garden.

The other problems regarding grocery shopping were quite easy to fix once I had identified them. First, I picked up some mesh bags for my produce, so as to no longer have to use plastic bags (I found onion bags to be good for this). Second, I studied my grocery list and identified items that I could buy in bulk, such as nuts, rice, beans, sugar, oils etc. I then did a bit more research to determine the best place to get these in bulk so I could save myself time and money in the future.

With these few changes the rest of my year will be a lot less wasteful, and I think I’ll even save some cash as well!

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Aran SeamanMeet Aran
“A year after doing the No Impact Experiment the first time, I can see how it changed my life. I was reminded how important community is, and since then I have become much more active in my city and group of friends. I am happier because of it and I find myself compelled to do it again. I can’t recommend a better way to kick off the New Year.”
– Aran is a partner at Eartheasy.com.

Posted in Healthy Home Tags , , , ,
  • Trinity

    I have reduced my garbage to one black plastic bag every garbage day, which is every two weeks. This is without hardly trying, just doing the obvious easy stuff. With a little effort I could probably cut this in half again.
    I think `low impact`should be a frame of mind, rather than a set of practices. When I think low impact, different solutions pop up all the time to do things more efficiently and with less waste. My husband is also getting interested, so there`s another benefit – the influence we have on others by our actions.

  • Guest

    Once we started composting last year we noticed our garbage was reduced by at least 50%. I read that almost half of food produced in the US is wasted.

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