Here is the waste we produced in February and March! We were out of town for 2 weeks in February and I didn’t haul our trash back with us, so some is missing 🙂 It was a mostly zero waste trip in terms of plastic use (although we flew in a plane….so increased pollution waste…not great!). For tips on traveling zero waste, check out this guest post by my husband. Really, he’s a great writer and it is one of the best posts in this blog!
Anyway, here is the trash:
In the upper left corner is all of our boarding passes and luggage tags. The big plastic bag is from flying with carseats. Last year we flew and the airline put our carseats in huge plastic bags. We reused them for this trip, but this bag got a huge hole in it. Now I know why people have those nice carseat bags for travel! I think borrowing one from a friend is the best way to go.
One conundrum I have (and you probably do too if you’ve been trying to reduce your trash) is what about plastic someone else gives you? For example, the black notebook in the bottom right is from a conference last year. I recycled the paper in the notebook, but the cover and binding is plastic. Much of the stuff in the bottom left is stuff people gave my kids. So here are my thoughts on what to do when someone gives you something you know will be plastic trash at the end of its life: First, inwardly congratulate yourself on noticing! When we first started reducing our trash there were so many times I ended up with a sample cup in my hand before I even noticed it was plastic! Second, if possible to refuse, politely do so. “No thank-you” are some of the most important words for reducing your trash. It took me a while to realize it is a good thing to speak up for myself, especially when saying no to something I don’t think is right. I don’t have to accept an item I don’t want. Third, if it is something you do really need, like a name tag or notebook at a conference, try to give it back to the organizers at the end of the event for them to reuse next year. This has worked for me frequently–I will even give back handouts at the end of a presentation for the presenter to reuse for someone else. Fourth, if you do end up with unwanted plastic, try to figure out what you could have done to avoid it to know better next time. Bringing my own cloth napkin and shot glass “sample cups” has allowed us to sample things without using the sample cups–or I briefly explain we are trying to avoid plastic and ask the server to put the sample on a plain napkin that I can bring home and compost. It often takes a little creativity and maybe some preparedness, but usually there is a way to avoid single use plastic.
This does get a little tricky with kids, thus the ballon dog in the corner. Sometimes people offer things directly to my kids. I have a standing deal with them that if they choose to not accept a plastic toy/sample cup/plastic wrapped candy/ect, I will make it up to them later with a zero waste treat (usually a piece of candy from the bulk bins). Sometimes they say no and sometimes they say yes. I think they will grow into this more as the get older (they are only 4 and 2 years old right now). What 2 year old will say no to a balloon dog, no matter how much candy they might get later if they say no?! 🙂
The fliers in the top right are from a car company that swears they can’t control their mailing list. For my local Chattanooga readers, it is the MTN view Hyundi. Maybe if several of us call then they will do what it takes to manage their mailings? Their number is on the mailings–if you’ve been receiving them please take a minute to give them a call. Our junk mail has decreased significantly through following the steps in this post by Mama Eats Plants and by calling companies asking to be removed from mailing lists. I keep a stack of unwanted mail and make calls when I have a few extra minutes and want to feel productive.
You may notice the black pony-pack planters. We are gardeners and have way too many of those! I tried buying some strawberries in those biodegradable pots where you plant the whole thing, but they still have a plastic sleeve around the top. Probably a better choice than the all-plastic planters. An even better choice is to buy from places that accept their planters back for reuse. Crabtree farms does this and their annual plant sale is this weekend. It is more expensive than Walmart, but then the quality is also completely different. Plus it supports an awesome organic local urban farm!
One new discovery this week, UPS will accept back those annoying “air pillows” and bubble wrap back for reuse! Here is about 6 months worth of air pillows I dropped off at a UPS store this week. They guy at the store said not many people return stuff to be reused, but maybe that can change 🙂 Of course, only buying from stores that ship their wares in zero waste packaging is even better, so let me also give a plug for lifewithoutplastic.com, where you can buy almost anything made without plastic and shipped zero waste. (They didn’t sponsor this post, just sharing a great resource!)
That’s all for now, if you have a question about an item in the picture of our trash, feel free to ask in the comments below!