Friday, June 08, 2007

Trash

Issue Five of Crunchy Chicken's Low Impact Week

After reading a great book about trash, we've been talking recently about ways to reduce what goes in our garbage can:

1. Reuse it yourself. Put dried beans or nuts in old spaghetti jars, dried fruit in jelly jars. Store knitting sundries in an old chocolate tin. You can even knit with old t-shirts.
And try making soup stock from your vegetable trimmings, cheese rinds, and chicken carcasses. Just simmer them in water for an hour or so. You thought those things were trash? Just wait till you taste it!

2. Let someone else reuse it: donate it or sell it. You can share with your friends or take your stuff to the thrift store (ideally one that gives profits to a charity you support). Try Freecycle, or Craig's List or even eBay. Have a yard sale. Even if you can't use it, someone else may be able to.

3. Recycle--and not just the cans and bottles and newspaper. Aluminum foil is recyclable, but we didn't realize it for years. Don't know if you can throw your newspaper bags in the bag recylcing container at the grocery store? Look it up. (We just did--and we can!)
We also think about what can be reused and recycled when we buy our products, too. Try to avoid the overpackaged items and buy in bulk with reusable containers. Likewise, if we are on the road and choose to buy a drink at a gas station, I often buy something stored in aluminum or glass. Although plastic is recyclable, it is not an especially efficient process and recycled plastic is not widely used.

4. Compost. Everything from coffee grounds and egg shells to dead leaves or seedless weeds can turn from trash to gold for the garden with a little stirring and a little time. Keep your organic matter out of the trashcan in a little container until you have enough to take outside. You can even compost your already-made-into-soup-stock vegetable clippings. Meat and dairy should probably not be put in your compost pile--but if you are lucky enough to have your own pigs, you can even take care of that.

5. Reduce. As the old saying goes, "If it's broke, just fix it." OK--that isn't what the saying says, but the original saying comes from an era when where was an assumption that you fixed broken things. Now it is often cheaper (or at least it seems cheaper when we're paying) to replace a computer, a stereo, a toaster, a sewing machine, etc. than get an old one fixed. Try to consider the larger costs. And when you can afford it, buy high-quality items to begin with--ones that won't need replacing in no time.

6. Perhaps the hardest for middle-income Americans is to go against the lessons we get everyday telling us to consume more. Instead of buying every new thing you hear about, try borrowing, buying used, sharing with neighbors, etc. For inspiration, check out Not Buying It: My Year Without Shopping and Consumed: How Markets Corrupt Children, Infantilize Adults, and Swallow Citizens Whole. (And, um, check them out of your library or try to buy them used....) Do you really need another "collectible" (that everyone else is probably collecting too) that will just clutter up your house? Although I grew up calling these things "gee-jaws," I have now learned that the proper term is kitsch. Will filling your house with future junk really make you happier?

* * *

Well, my house if full of junk (mostly books, yarn, and spinning fiber). Luckily, there are many great options here. One in the DC area is a great place to donate time, yarn, and knitted items!

2 comments:

Sheepish Annie said...

Ahh...here's one that I can comment on with a sense of pride! I make jewelry out of recycled paper, plumbing supplies and cans. They are very popular and are quick gifts for the holidays.

I also save glass jars for candle making. For that matter, I recycle candles and crayons by melting them down and making new candles. Very handy to have around the house during a power loss!

Lynne said...

I'm reading through your week with some interest. Here in southern Australia we've had a drought for pretty much 10 years (though signs are that it has broken). We use greywater on the garden, We have rain water tanks to water the garden and flush the toilet. Until we had water in the rain water tanks we did the yellow/brown flush. We are about to move to Colorado where it is illegal to use greywater on the garden or divert rainwater into a tank. They keep having droughts too. Nuts, eh?

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