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Archive for the ‘The No-Trash Zone!’ Category

Ahhh…the three R’s, we learned about them in grade school, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle! My mom seems to be an expert at it, she has an extraordinarily complicated recycling system along with a compost pile and as a kid, I remember constantly being frustrated that I couldn’t just throw something in the trash! You would think that it would come easily now, since the concept was drilled into me at a young age but it’s a constant struggle. As you know from the last post, one of the difficulties I’m facing with my second New Years resolution is where do I put all this stuff that I swear I’ll use one day? Well it just so happens that I was rescued, at least partially by the great R: Reuse! My mom, being the wonderful woman she is, just happened to be driving by a dumpster when she saw these beautiful bushel baskets sticking out of the top! Not thinking at all about synchronicity or the way of the universe, she stopped, picked them up and filled them with some art stuff I had left at her house that she had been meaning to bring me.

Mom to the Rescue! The label is a piece of old cork I found.

Of course they make the most perfect recycling bins! Thanks mom! This little incident caused me to start looking deeper into the next R, Recycle. I began researching it and found out a couple of useful things I believe everyone should be aware of. First of all, as we know, one of the easiest items to recycle is that plastic water bottle everyone seems to buy, just finish the water and toss it in the bin, right? But wait, did you leave the lid on? What about that little ring around the top? Well guess what, now it’s going straight to the landfill! It seems that little lid cannot be recycled! It’s made of a completely different type of plastic and if it goes into the recycling machine it jams it up. They won’t even take the time to remove the lid, they just toss the whole thing in the trash. So take your lids off people, and that little ring too! The ring can be easily removed with a pair of needle nose pliers, and stick both of them in another container because later on I’ll be showing you a great little project that anyone can do with them! Did you know also that paper or cardboard with foodstuff on it will be tossed as well? That’s right, that pizza box with three day old leftovers stuck to it needs to be cleaned before heading to the recycling center. I don’t know about you but I’m not going to wash a pizza box, I won’t throw it away either! In fact, the worms in my compost would just love to get their hands on it! (or they would if they had hands;). All that leftover food is like candy to those compost dwelling creatures!
Now for the last and most important R, Reduce! Reduce the amount of trash you create! I’m almost convinced that the only way to be completely waste free is to not purchase anything….ever….again! OK, so that’s not completely true. We have to buy things sometime, though right? What about clothing, furniture, pretty Knick-knack thingies! I’m a woman, I need shopping! Well It’s all about what it’s made of!
I’ve come up with a list of four simple questions to ask yourself every time you find that awesome something you must have!

1: First and foremost, Do I really need this? Cause let’s face it, sometimes you really Don’t need another sweater, purse or crazy dolphin statue.

2: Can this item (or the package it’s in)  be composted? Really think on this one, a polyester shirt WILL NOT break down and can only rarely be recycled. A 100 percent cotton, hemp, bamboo, or wool shirt can be tossed into the compost when it’s time is done! How about wash cloths, towels, sheets, the upholstery on a new couch? All can be worm food if made of a natural material!

This Basket and table cloth are both constructed with natural materials that can go straight into the compost when their usefulness comes to an end

3: Can this item be Reused? Your at the grocery store, you need pasta sauce, do you choose the kind in the can or the jar?…Jar! A jar is much easier to clean and reuse than a can, think of the amazing organizing possibilities! Let’s take the concept even further,like I did with my cat food bags. I originally though it would be better to buy the big paper bags of cat food, surly I could just throw it into my compost, no worries. Well guess what? That seemingly innocuous paper bag actually has a layer of plastic right in the middle of two paper layers and you cannot get it off! I found this out while turning my compost and discovering a large sheet of plastic right in the middle. Now I only buy the plastic ones because I discovered a downright awesome use for them! I realized that the manner in which the plastic is woven together looked just like a tarp, so now I’ve begun taking them apart until I have one whole sheet so that I can sew them along the edge to create my own patchwork tarp, a necessity around a farm, or any household for that matter!

See the woven texture of the plastic? Looks just like a tarp!

When I collect enough of these, they will be sewn together and sealed with silicon around the seams.

4: The last question you must ask yourself, when all else fails, Can this item (and it’s packaging) be Recycled? We all know the normal things that can be recycled, but what about a plastic plate? Just look at the bottom of the item for a recycling code. If it’s plastic you really want it to say number 1 or 2, these are the easiest types to recycle. If your buying a new set of pots and pans, stay away from the non-stick coated ones. First of all, they can be hazardous to your health, if scratched, the coating can come off in cooking and be absorbed into the food…not good for your body! They also can’t be recycled! Stainless steel, cast iron, copper, even aluminum pans can be recycled when your done with them. Just remember that no acidic foods can go into the aluminum ones for health reasons.

The aluminum pot, the following will show you how to recycle it. The steps are ridiculously easy!

As you can see, the lid handle is attached with a screw...

The handle is also held with a screw, this one is so old that I had to drill the screw out, but others could just be unscrewed.

The lid handle is going to be used as a drawer pull, or cabinet handle, because it still has some life left in it.

Recycling to the Rescue!

These are just a few things to think about whenever you go shopping, your wallet and home will be happier if you answer no to question number one, and the Earth will thank you for your consideration upon asking the last three! I truly believe that if we continue to ask these tough questions, both of ourselves and the companies that make our products, we will see a huge change in the composition of everyday necessities. Vote with your dollar! Buy recycled! And remember, for those of you fighting the no-landfill uphill battle, your not alone! (great, now I’m picturing trying to fight a battle up giant mound of trash! Gee Thanks brain:)

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To begin the conquest of the trash can, I decided to do a little dirty digging…yes, I dug through my own trash! To come up with a true no-trash system, I have to understand what my trash consists of on a weekly basis.
Seeing as how I’m a pro at procrastination, I actually had about 3 or 4 weeks worth to dig around in. I must say I’m pretty proud of myself, in those weeks I’ve only managed to accumulate one trash can worth, but that’s still to much to me! I want to completely eliminate my contribution to landfills.
Anyway, these are just a few examples of what I found in my trash, I’ve managed to sort them into a few basic composition categories:

Styrofoam: take-out containers, meat trays, packing materials...etc.

Metals: cans aluminum foil,copper...etc.

Plastics: packaging is a big portion along with bags, bottles and jugs

The paper products, lots of cardboard, junk mail, paper plates, packaging

 

Now that things are categorized (I love things in categories), I can figure out what to do with everything.

The paper products are easy, most of them can go to the compost pile, except that shiny advertising paper. Have to figure out what to do with that.I also have to figure out what to do with the milk cartons we usually get, I have a few ideas for those I’ll post later.

The plastic packaging is a problem, most of it isn’t even marked for recycling! Anyone have any ideas? I don’t use many plastic bottles, but I have ideas for them if I get any, the jugs get used often. I have a number of full water jugs under my counter because we don’t have running water yet, and we also keep a few in the truck now because it likes to overheat.

As for the aluminum and any other random bits of metal, we just recycle that for money!  The cat food cans look like they would make great candle holders!

Another problem area is The styrofoam take out containers, most of the time I eat all I get at a restaurant but when I don’t I just can’t see wasting any leftovers! I dare you to try to find a place to recycle it in the South! I played around with the idea of making insulation out of it (washing it first, of course) but styrofoam is extremely flammable. Perhaps putting it inside the concrete block? Oh well, one more thing to get creative with! Once again ideas are welcome!

Since creative solutions are now my specialty, I began to think of different productive, yet stylish “recycling bins”, to better organize what use to be trash! The difficulty is that our kitchen is completely custom, and when even one thing is custom, everything has to be! I think I might be able to kill two birds with one stone, fixing two problem areas under our counters, in which nothing seems to fit, and creating useful bins for organization! So I did some window shopping on the web to see if I could find the perfect recycling bin for our situation and I stumbled across these cute little galvanized trash cans at www.home-improvement-superstore.com.

Now seeing as how were so broke right now we can’t afford these yet, it looks as though this will be a future project when we get a little cash flow. Until then I’ll invoke my other specialized talent: my ability to organize by placing things in little piles! Until next time…stay creative!

-Gwenevere

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