Getting to Zero Waste: Q3 Results

I rushed home from work today to weigh my trash. I know, I’m weird like that: driven by results, a bit of environmentalism, and in love with personal experiments. It’s the end of the third quarter and the weigh-in must be done, as I attempt to get myself closer and closer to zero waste.

Without further ado, in the third quarter of 2013 (July-September), I tossed out:

  • 20 lbs of paper
  • 21 lbs of trash
  • 12.5 lbs of plastic & glass
  • 53.5 total lbs of trash = 0.48 lbs / day

To compare the quarters, it looks like this:


  • Q1: 0.32 lbs / day
  • Q2: 0.25
  • Q3 0.15


  • Q1: 0.27 lbs / day
  • Q2: 0.31
  • Q3: 0.23

Plastic & Glass

  • Q1: 0.20 lbs / day
  • Q2: 0.10
  • Q3: 0.10


  • Q1: 0.79 lbs / day
  • Q2: 0.66
  • Q3: 0.48

That’s a 39% decrease per day from the first to the third quarter! Over a year, that change would amount to 113.15 lbs of trash saved from the landfill or recycling center. My not-so-secret goal from Q1 was to get below 0.50 lbs / day – mission accomplished!

The significant change came through reductions in paper and trash this last quarter. However, in Q1 and Q2, I actually didn’t add in my redeemable bottles and glass to the Plastic & Glass category. In Q3, I started weighing them, so for the weight to stay the same is also a decline of sorts.

You can read about some of my strategies and tactics from previous posts about getting to zero waste. My new goals are to:

1) stay below 0.50 lbs / day and

2) decrease my daily waste by 50% from Q1, which would be 0.40 lbs / day.

I think these goals are entirely possible, but I still need to identify some additional tactics:

  • Friend and blog reader Stacie Jacques suggested Paper Karma, an iPhone app that lets you take a photo of junk mail. They contact the mailer and unsubscribe you. I’m downloading this app right now.
  • Plastic coffee cups still haunt my recyclables, so I need to either cut back or bring my own glass/mug.
  • I could definitely cut back on purchased water bottles too.
  • I could really make a point of returning free newspapers to a newsstand somewhere, somehow.
  • I’m usually pretty good about turning down plastic and paper bags when I only buy one or two items at the store, but I’ve been especially lax lately about my canvas shopping bags. I need to place them in a more prominent spot in the car.

In addition to these “shoulds,” I have a few things I’m particularly proud of, including:

  • Not having more than four sodas in the last two months. It’s a healthier habit now, for both me and the planet
  • When I’ve eaten out, especially at the Co-Op, I’ve only bought what I will eat there, and I’ve used the washable plates and silverware.
  • Reading newspapers in public spaces. Living in a (small) city, I value places like the coffee shop, library and park as extensions of my living space. To grab a newspaper there, and leave it on the stand afterwards, has made me appreciate our community resources more.

I suspect that the next quarter will be interesting. I’ll work on my tactics, but at what point is major change necessary to get closer to zero waste? Or even 0.40 lbs / day?  I actually want to examine my trash a little more closely, just to see what’s holding me back. I’m not willing to go without kleenex or note paper entirely, but where is there room for further simplification?

If you’ve been reading along with this experiment, what items could you do without to keep them out of the waste stream?


Photo credit: theilr


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