Sunday, May 1, 2011

Reduce your rubbish (and take out the trash!)

Ask yourself: Why not make the Grand Canyon a landfill?

Now that I've covered outer space exploration, why not look at space on Earth?

As an aspiring minimalist in a world of excess and extremes, I know that empty spaces represent both conscious choices and hard work.  Without attention, empty spaces fill up fast.
Like fractal geometry, at any scale, empty space has impact.

I value the space I have reclaimed in our house by removing objects that are not useful enough to stay.  And I'm quite frankly excited about our rubbish bin.

To our neighbours, on trash day

To you, the empty space in our trash bin is not worth a thought - except when you put your overflow into it.

Sometimes the empty space is our missing bin, because we only put our trash every other week.  Even our recycling bin stays echoingly empty for long periods of time.

I'm proud of that empty space.  It's no accident but a result of hundreds of individual choices we make.
Would you like to take out the rubbish less often?

Avoiding waste
  • Vegan - you can buy vegan foods with a whole range of packaging options, but we don't have meat-contaminated plastic packaging to deal with.  Or bones, which must be disposed of in even more packaging...or perhaps Photoshopped out.
  • Natural foods - less processed foods have less packaging
  • Home cooking - we do sometimes indulge in takeaway food and it excites the whole family, but for health and cost reasons, I keep a conscious tally of how often
  • Bulk buying - several kilos of cashews or raisins come freshly packed in a large ziploc bag instead of multiple disposable bags, and after we have used up the food, the ziploc bag can protect other foods (like bulk flour or oats)  or even a kid's puzzle.
  • Secondhand buying - the retail packaging is long gone and you often don't even need a bag to get it home.
  • No buying - keep items like soda and bottled water off your shopping list entirely and you are already ahead of the game.
Waste not destined for the rubbish
  • Composting - no food scraps go into our rubbish and almost none down the waste disposal.  The Auckland City Council runs free composting classes and perhaps your area does too.
  • Recycling - Auckland has made this trivial by providing bigger wheelie bins for recycling of all types than for rubbish.  Again due to our purchasing choices, it is usually put out every other collection period.
  • Burning - in the winter, we turn waste papers and paper packaging into heat.  The ashes go into the compost.
Why worry?  The council supplies these bins, and if we have space in ours, why not fill it with yours?  Well, the Grand Canyon is still empty, I suppose, so fill 'er up!
Now is also a great time to protect the Grand Canyon from uranium mining.

A note on the Final Frontier
We've already made serious inroads into depositing unwanted junk in space:

"There is no federal restriction on the dumping of garbage into space.  In the absence of this regulation, space missions will continue to risk their longevity to suddenly significant pieces of scrap as small as a centimeter in length.   Based on the gathered evidence, dumping trash into space would, be and is, an unintelligent decision that causes many more problems than it could ever possibly solve.  Before further contaminating Earth’s orbit, more thought has to go into creating an efficient trash collection service or other means of improving the situation instead of continuing to add to it."
In other words, just like on Earth.

Yes, you make a difference!

Nobody would ask you to do all these things, all at once.  It has taken me all my life to become this odd.

@miniMum, is there just one waste habit you are not comfortable with today, that you could commit to change tomorrow?


  1. Sometimes I look incredulously at the other bins in my street. HOW do they manage to fill their regular bin to overflowing every week, as well as their recycling bin every fortnight?

    It takes me a month to fill the recycling bin, and probably that long or longer to fill the regular bin (except I put them both out for collection every week), and I think we produce far too much waste.

    Though, I must admit, some weeks the bin is full of grass clippings because we haven't found a solution to disposing of them.

  2. Hi Susan, great to see you here again!

    Look at it this way - the bins are designed to take the average household's waste, and default behaviour is to take up available space.

    Unless you are very conscious, the packaging on a standard weekly household purchase will top your bins up.

    The Reduce part of Reduce Reuse Recycle hasn't reached the manufacturers' pockets yet.

    Until then, I must add Refuse to my Rs!

  3. I proud (and astounded) that there are at least two souls who don't fill their bins. See, my mother loves to 'tidy' which equals throwing things out, which equals a full bin. And we have chooks for compostables (they eat it), plus a garbage disposable. So it's really the packaging that does it. And all the beer drinkers!

  4. Anon, thanks for taking the time to comment.

    I'd love to hear more - is your mother tidying up and throwing away things that are actually rubbish? Sometimes people throw things away that could be donated because then it's GONE and they don't have to do anything else with it. I certainly understand that impulse.

    I hate tidying myself which is why I'm trying to have less stuff around.

  5. This is really great.

    We do our best to reduce how much packaging we bring into our house. And everything else for that matter.

    First, we often pass things along. People tend to give us a fair bit, and if we can't use it, then we find a home for it. It's been a good process, really.

    Second, what would normally be disposable, we try to use non-disposable versions. EG, we use cloth instead of paper towels. This reduces waste and packaging. I'm trying to move us to "family cloth" which is cloth wipes instead of toilet paper -- which would also reduce waste. Of course, we recycle our toilet paper rolls and the paper wrapping, but a lot of it goes with the waste disposal, yes? So, we are looking to switch there (I'd love to move to a composting toilet, but. . . it's hard to do when you are renting).

    Third, recycling and composting is really fabulous. Once we started doing this in earnest, we discovered that we have pretty much no trash. And, we are not vegan (it wasn't sustainable for our health). First, we use a bokashi bin for meat/dairy (it also does bones and sinew and such), which ferments the trash. Then it can go into a normal cold-compost bin. Then, we have a cold compost for paper and veggies. We try to decrease paper in the household anyway (eg, no junk mail! that's the biggest paper thing!).

    For recycling, like you, we have very little. The bin is HUGE and we mostly recycle bags from frozen vegetables (which makes up about 1/4 of our intake of veggies, or 4 bags per week) and our egg cartons (we buy 5-dozen per week). It takes about a month to 6 weeks to fill the bin with just these. And those egg cartons are usually used for art projects at the kindergarden, so I tend to take them there instead!

    This means that our trash. . . actual trash. . . is very little. I don't remember the last time I put out trash. . . except some green waste from the garden that can't be composted to be put back into the garden -- kwim? weeds and the like. I'm wondering if i should burn and then compost? hmm.

    Anyway, i try to keep it minimal. I'd rather never have trash, and just compost and recycle on occasion. We reuse so many bottles (eg, refill olive oil bottles, reuse jars, etc etc etc), so we hardly have any glass to recycle.

    It's great really. A process that I enjoy!

  6. Hi Jenifer,

    Fantastic to get that window into your own conscious efforts to avoid throwing things away.

    I still have the cloth wipes that I used for the kids and they still need them sometimes. I'd like to use them myself but I'm not sure DH would be keen. But every bit helps, right?

  7. Our city has three different sized garbage bins, with a premium paid for the larger sizes. Good incentive for everyone to be aware of what they are tossing out! I use the smallest free size, but I live alone and follow a lot of your tips.

    As a landscape architect I wanted to comment on the value of space. It's often overlooked or seen as something to be filled/used. But there would be no vista without an empty valley, a tree grows more beautifully if it has space, not jambed up against a building, a room looks better if it isn't crammed with furniture. We need some emptiness, and to value it as worthwhile on it's own.

  8. As a developing minimalist I am SO enjoying the discovery of space - thanks for your expertise!

    Space in our home

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