Several years ago I became keenly aware of the amount of trash my family generated. Sure, we put out maybe half the amount of trash as our suburban neighbors, but as I headed down the ally on my way to work that morning I noticed with sadness the mammoth trash cans lugged to the edge of the ally by every household. Some houses needed two trash cans and even those were filled to capacity, spilling over to the cement below. I thought to myself – this is just one street and only one of the TWICE PER WEEK collection! Wow, that’s a lot of trash!
They say a change begins with just one step, and that realization was mine. I began to notice excess packaging, purposely done by clever marketing executives to make their product look bigger or better to the consumer. I noticed the numerous items shrink-wrapped in plastic, and single purchases thoughtlessly double bagged by rushed grocery store workers – items that actually had HANDLES made into the product!
Since this was before the feel-good days of responsibly placing your purchases into a designer reusable bag, I obtained several cloth bags and resolved to reduce or eliminate plastic grocery shopping bags from entering the waste stream from our home. I now keep fabric bags in my car so even on an unscheduled stop, my bags are with me.
But how else can I reduce landfill trash that comes from my household? There are only two of us here now and my household trash is typically the size of a miniature office trash can every one to two weeks, but I know there’s still more I can do – it’s a challenge to myself. But I already use fabric bags for 100% of my purchases, I reject overly-packaged products, I buy quality, I reuse, I recycle, I compost… what else can I do?
I began to look at the small amount of packaging contained by the products that passed my packaging-police eye and thought to myself about that product itself, “wonder if I can make that?”. To my delight the answer is almost always YES! I’m now more likely to whip up cream soups instead of opening a soup can for a recipe. I prefer to use fresh jalapenos instead of buying them in cans. I have seasoning that I’ve mixed up to be able to make my own salsa in less than 3 minutes using fresh tomatoes and vegetables in a blender instead of buying salsa in jars. Not only do these actions bring me much satisfaction, but the products are typically healthier, less processed and almost trash free!
I’ve learned to make cheese and yogurt, noodles and seasonings, even soap and personal care products. I’ve found that I derive an immense amount of pleasure and pride from providing these items for my family and I’m amazed at how simple some of this stuff actually is! Have the marketing folks really convinced us that buying is the only way? I had certainly swallowed their story.
Making some of the things your family uses regularly is usually very quick and very easy to do. I challenge you to give it a try. Start small and try to make something you typically buy. It can be as easy as a seasoning mix or cake frosting, or more complex like making your own cold-pressed soap. You can Google any of this information at the click of a mouse and you may be very surprised at the result!