Yesterday was trash day. That means, as always, I got up a little early to drag my lowly single bag of kitchen trash out to the curb with my recycling and draped my very sexy green garbage net over the two of them. Then I went back inside to drink my second cup of piping hot nectar of the gods (aka coffee) where I promptly felt guilty.
You see, in the last year I’ve become intensely fascinated by Zero Wasters – those who strive to produce as little waste as possible. This means they refuse what they don’t need, reduce what they have/use, recycle and reuse what they can, and compost (or rot) the rest. This is so interesting and powerful to me. I am always so inspired by them. I want to be like them and yet, I am really bad at sticking with things. I am the old dog that cannot learn new tricks. But I want to change, that counts for something right?
Anyway, there I am, sitting at my counter, guilt-tripping myself about the fact that I produce a bag of garbage every week. This isn’t a big black garbage bag, filled to the seems as you’re probably imagining – it is a small, transparent bag from a 20-25L bin – but still. BUT STILL.
Last year, after discovering Bea Johnson and her zero waste lifestyle, I decided to put in a solid effort to reduce my waste. My single bag of garbage is about half of what I produced a year or so ago which is something to be proud of and yet I still feel very, very, VERY guilty about the amount of trash that I am producing and sending to the landfill.
I live in a country that produces one of the highest rates of garbage per capita and, within that country, my province is the highest producer of residential garbage (according to a study by StatsCan in 2012). This means that I live in one of the top garbage producing areas of the world. The freaking world! I consider myself to be an environmentalist and yet here I am, polluting the planet, filling up the landfill, causing so much greenhouse gas. It’s disgraceful. I feel like such a hypocrite – cue the change!
Today I added a second garbage bin to my house (no, I did not go out and buy something – I repurposed a container from my house that I already had). It sits right next to my black 25L garbage bin. Why did I add it? Because I want to know exactly what I am throwing away and, to be honest, I do not have the stomach to go through my garbage once everything is on top of each other and sticky and smelly and gross.
While I do not currently have access to a compost facility (or have the ability to compost at home), I want to see how much of my waste is food and how much is other products, specifically non-recyclable ones (more on reducing recycling later). Then, once I understand what I am throwing away, I will have a better idea of how to reduce that amount. I’ve realized that if you don’t know what your garbage is made up of, how on earth can you go about trying to cut down on it? Impossible. In order to improve, you must first understand. Just call me the zero-waste Yoda.
At the beginning of the month, I created a vision board page in my bullet journal and one of the images on that page is a circle with zero waste written in the middle. While I know that I will never be able to attain zero waste, I dream of being as close to zero as possible. I may not have access to a bulk store that lets me bring my own containers, or a compost receptacle but I still think that I can reduce what I am putting out. Every little bit counts and, eventually, I will live in a city where I can reach bulk stores and have the ability to compost. In this way, I am preparing all the other aspects of my zero waste life so that when that dream comes true, those last two things (compost and more bulk access) will be the last easy transitions that I can make.
For now, I am working on my double bins. So far I’ve managed to add the top of a bag of frozen fruit, a fruit stickers, the plastic window from an envelope and the seal from a bottle of kombucha. The black bin will continue to house my food waste for the time being but I am desperately trying to find a composting solution in my area.
Stay tuned and, if you’re lucky, I’ll share all the filthy details next garbage day.