Generating a Handful of Trash a Week

I told you recently that I don’t recycle much because neither curbside recycling nor easily accessible drop-off recycling exist in my area. Since I’m an otherwise responsible person, you might think I’d prefer to recycle more. But that isn’t true. I’d rather not generate much trash at all.

I’m calling this my… wait for it… Grocery Bag Garbage Goal.

Eventually, I would like our household of two to be so simple, responsible and efficient that we don’t generate much garbage at all. In fact, I think a very reasonable goal is less than one plastic grocery shopping bag of trash a week. I have to include the word “eventually” because four things are standing in the way of that now, but they can all be overcome.

First, I’m still getting some postal mail. I’ve eliminated most of that by opting out of pre-approved credit card offers and asking each catalog company to remove me from their mailing list. It takes time for everything to stop coming, but I did most of that several years ago. Only a few companies still send me junk mail, and that’s because I haven’t been vigilant in making them stop. I also get a few bills by mail, but I pay all of them online. Those will be easily eliminated with a bit more vigilance, too.

Second, I still use too much convenience food. I’m responsible for the cooking in our household, but I’m also responsible for a bookselling business and this blogging project. We eat more meals out than I’d like to admit (although those happen when we’re out anyway — we rarely go out specifically to eat), but we also use lots of packaged meals, like skillet dinners and microwavable entrees. These usually have a box, a tray, a film covering and often a sauce packet or topping. My kitchen trash bin can be empty one minute and half full of packaging the next. Better eating habits will help this.

Third, my business generates some trash. While I don’t print packing slips for most orders and I reuse the sheet of paper on which I print my daily pull list, every mailing label has a backing and every bubble mailer has a covering on its adhesive strip. Still, that isn’t very much. The mailers come in cardboard boxes, but I reuse about half of that cardboard as packaging material. Eliminating all of my business trash isn’t practical if I continue the same level of involvement in bookselling, but if my writing career takes over again, I can reduce my trash by shrinking the book business.

Fourth, my decluttering project generates a lot of trash, but that’s only temporary. I’m sure I’ll be finding ways to further unclutter my life for decades, but the big push to eliminate the clutter in my life should be complete at the end of 2010.

My GBGG (as I suppose I could call it) could become a reality in about a year. I’d like to cancel my weekly curbside trash pickup (a $36 per month expense since I live in a rural area), but it’s coming in very handy at the moment. My eventual and hypothetical small bag of trash could be dropped off in a public trash can while I’m putting gas in the car, placed in a trash barrel in a park where I’m taking a walk (where household trash isn’t prohibited) or put in a bin almost anywhere I am. Of course, that’s placing the burden of my trash on someone else, but it is still more responsible than generating 96 gallons of trash — the capacity of our current and often full polycart. I could even get permission to include it with a neighbor’s trash.

And what about that smelly, rotting-food garbage? I have a better idea for dealing with it, and I’ll tell you next week.

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  1. I’m glad I found your blog through the comments on Becoming Minimalists. Your goal about the household garbage is inspiring–we have tried to become more aware of what we bring IN to the house in the first place…and recycle more…and, thus, waste less.

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