I’ve been chronicling my attempts to get down to zero waste this year and it’s been an eye-opening experience. In the first quarter of the year (January-March), I averaged 0.79 lbs of trash per day. This included food scraps, plastic, paper, glass, and anything else I took down to the garbage cans. You can see the details and category breakdown here.
Fortunately, this is much lower than the American 4.4 lbs per day average, but still much more than I’d like to be responsible for. So I continue to keep track.
In the second quarter of the year (April-June), I averaged:
- 17 lbs of paper
- 31 lbs of trash
- 9 lbs of plastic & glass
- 57 total lbs of trash = 0.66 lbs / day
That’s a decrease of 0.13 lbs per day. If I maintained this level for a year, I’d reduce my waste by 47.45 lbs.
The significant decrease came from cutbacks in paper. I went from 34 discarded pounds in Q1 to 17 lbs in Q2. Mostly, I read newspapers at coffee shops, the library and other public spaces and returned them to the stand when I finished rather than bringing them home. This doesn’t necessarily stop the publisher from printing the extra papers nor does it stop the next reader from discarding the paper, but at least the paper gets another use in this new way of doing things.
Interestingly, my trash output increased. I went from 26.5 lbs in Q1 to 31 lbs in Q2. I’m not sure what caused this, so it’s an area for further thinking and, definitely, improvement.
I proudly cut my plastic and glass trash in half, going from 18 lbs in Q1 to 9 lbs in Q2. I think I was just diligent about plastic containers from the Co-Op, but some of this decrease could be attributed to the plastics clean-out I did in Q1.
So here are my goals and tactics for getting closer to zero waste in the third quarter:
- Continue reading the paper in public and re-circulating it.
- Limit take-out containers, eat fresh and only order what I can eat.
- Limit soda and beer intake. This has happy health implications in addition to waste reduction.
- Be more diligent about going paperless with bills and business communications. Call catalogs and advertisers as soon as I get junk mail.
- Continue drinking coffee at work out of my own mug, rather than buying a cup at a coffee shop.
- Continue buying spices in small batches; if I bought everything smaller and only as I needed, I’d reduce my waste drastically.
What am I missing?
Do you have any ideas for me?