Less Trashy – a blog by Greener Faster Participant Tammy Markee-Mayas

September 13, 2010 at 8:18 am 3 comments

During our last meeting, my fellow Greener Faster Challenge participants asked me HOW our family was able to reduce our trash so significantly. Because I have been doing it for so long, I could not really say. Well, after a weekend of our family visiting from Houston and San Diego, I think I have pinpointed it. It was really refreshing and inspiring to be able to help them actually see what could be recycled, what could be composted, and what should be reused (as well as what was just plain wasteful). One big thing that we did over the weekend was to make sure that everyone had their own color refillable stainless steel water bottle (usually, when we go visit them we buy cases of water and write our names on the plastic bottles which do not typically get recycled).

In a nutshell, we have made such significant reductions in our trash generation because my perspective changed. I used to allow myself to be irritated that the paper towels, toilet paper, and napkins came wrapped in plastic that could not be recycled … but I did not know what to do about it … one day I decided to act and eliminate that frustration and I looked at my daily choices with fresh eyes.

I started by purchasing (and actually using) kitchen towels, putting the cloth napkins that my mom made for my first apartment out in an antique cigar box, and keeping both easily accessible. Then I started looking for recycled toilet paper that came in a recyclable package (which I take on my monthly trip to Whole Foods where the “bag” can be recycled). We started by simply becoming aware of our consumption choices and proactively seeking alternative reusable items to replace the disposable items.

Now we do a lot more that is just part of our daily routine, so it took me a while to actually think about what we do because it is automatic:

– We reduce our impact (cooking from whole foods versus processed food products, like making hand cut, home-baked french fries versus buying precut/frozen ones in bags that don’t recycle – less trash and less expense)

– reuse (buying reusable items versus disposable/one-time use or buying items in reusable packaging – Rishi tea tins make for excellent raw sugar storage to leave at work)

– recycle (if it cannot be reused, choose the recyclable option … I might pay 10¢-20¢ more for one bag of frozen fruit that comes in a recyclable bag versus that doesn’t recycle, but I gladly pay for the freedom from generating waste, I think it’s a great investment)

– refuse (ask to be removed from mailing lists, join the do not mail list, ask for e-mail alerts versus paper mail notifications)

– respect (understanding that this isn’t my planet to trash … I want my great grandchildren to know that I tried diligently to leave less of mess for them to clean up)

– restore (leaving something in the same condition or better than I found it in … that includes the state of the planet, teaching children the importance of a simple container garden – to see the delight in their eyes when they see that the seeds they planted are now producing fruit … that is truly priceless)

When we started the challenge, I was proud to declare that we have transitioned from three tall kitchen garbage bags per week down to one grocery size bag every other week. Now that I have been weighing our trash and learned that we still generate between 1 and 4 pounds per week – while I’m still proud of how far we have come – my perspective has changed again. I now see that 52-156 pounds per year (or 520-1560 pounds in ten years) to be too much trash and I am just that much more motivated and committed to find more ways to be even less trashy!


Entry filed under: consumption, sustainability, tips, waste.

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3 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Alan Tilove  |  September 13, 2010 at 12:26 pm

    Here is a suggestion that no one seems to talk about. We are so engrained in having the “perfect” lawn in surburbia, but at what cost. Most cut the lawn too short, and also use the most polluting device to cut the grass. Isn’t it about time to cut our lawn with a non motorized lawn mower. Of course if you have a very large piece of property, a motorized lawn mower is a necessity. How about those with smaller properties, you could mow a little bit each day, thereby getting some great exercise at the same time. Not to mention reducing ear pollution also. I live in a mobil home park and am the only one who uses a push mower, which I paid $35. One day I was at my favorite store, St. Vincents in Prairie du Sac and found a brand new push mower for only $10. I save a lot on gas, oil and noise pollution. Let us spread the word and get rid of the gas mowers.

  • 2. Michelle V. Bright  |  September 15, 2010 at 2:36 pm

    Push and shove?!
    Push MOWER and SHOVEL, I say!

  • 3. Nandini Lorenzsonn  |  September 27, 2010 at 8:44 am

    Thank you for addressing this issue. Not just suburbia but most of America fusses over this perfect lawn thing, a very dated idea from Victorian times! Back then only the wealthy could afford them( hired labor did all the work) and so today that green piece of mono culture (very boring) is still used to show off one’s social standing. Isn’t that silly ?
    We have been using a push mower for years and have also reduced our lawn area by growing more native flowers and starting a vegetable and herb bed. We use only our yard waste compost as fertilizer and water with collected rain if needed. We also have a lot of shade trees – far prettier than a lawn and have a wonderfully cool house all summer- we run no ACs. We are environmental snobs I admit , but vast lawns in this day and age are very shallow and outdated a concept, with all the new awareness about our fossil fuel gluttony and the impacts of global climate change. Please everyone say NO to energy guzzling lawns!


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