Reducing our household waste is one of our goals this year. Household waste is anything that cannot be re-used, recycled, donated or disposed of otherwise. In short, household waste ends up in the landfill. Landfills are not an eco-friendly way of dealing with household waste. Some items can take decades to break down while certain plastics never break down in landfills. The reality is landfills are becoming over filled so at some point everyone is going to have no choice but to reduce their household waste. It may sound simplistic but one of the easiest ways to reduce household waste is to avoid buying those products that create household waste like blister packaging, plastic packaging, over packaged items, and to eliminate buying anything packaged that you possibly can. However, I have noticed there are certain household activities that can significantly increase household waste. Here is how we keep these activities in check with respect to producing household waste:
- home canning - Home canning is likely one of the most frugal and eco-friendly things you can do with very little waste being produced. Jars are reused as are rings and some styles of lids (Tattler, glass inserts). The metal snap lids can be put into the recycle bin or used in crafting projects. A high influx of produce during the busy canning season can produce waste like corn husks, corn cobs, fruit pits, peelings, and containers while year round canning produces waste like bones, fat and minimal produce waste. Corn husks can go to the burn pile as they don't compost well. Dried corn cobs and dried fruit pits are given to a friend who burns them in his wood stove for heating his home. I dehydrate some produce peelings to make vegetable powders and put the rest in the compost bin. If there is more than can be dehydrated or composted they go into the food waste disposal. I have several plastic hampers and fruit baskets so always take my own when going to a produce stand or orchard. All bones, fat and meat trimmings are used to make stocks. I freeze them until I have enough then make and can stock. Fat from defatting the stock goes into the food waste disposal as does small bones. Large bones are given to a friend who has a huge German shepherd that likes bones.
- large get togethers - This includes family events like holiday celebrations and family celebrations as well as entertaining, of which do a fair amount. We actively encourage recycling by having appropriate bins easily accessible. We discourage wrapping paper for any celebration opting instead to use reusable cloth gift bags or unique, non-disposable wrapping. I bought bulk pack restaurant grade stainless steal cutlery at Sam's Club so I have more than enough for 30 place settings to eliminate using disposable cutlery. I have five sets of dinnerware giving me more than enough for 30 place settings to eliminate disposable plates and bowls. If the event is over 40, we get plates and cutlery from one of our friends who owns a restaurant/catering service. Everything including serving ware is geared towards being reusable or at worst case can go into the recycle bin. I love cooking from scratch which keeps kitchen waste to a minimum to begin with. Quite often folks bring homemade dishes and goodies to these events usually in containers they can take home. There is always way too much food! Food waste can be a problem at larger events so we started a tradition where everyone takes home a meal for the following day. This actually started with a pig roast we held for our 30th Anniversary with about 75 in attendance. We realized there was too much food left over some that couldn't be froze or kept for much more than a couple of days. It has become a huge hit with our family and friends AND we are glad the food will get used rather than wasted.
- small get togethers - We host monthly games night ten months of the year and we have spur of the moment get togethers like pool parties, games night and just having a few people over several times a month. I very much discourage folks from bringing pre-packaged snacks like potato chips buy offering healthier, homemade alternatives without the packaging.
- personal care - This is one area where it is difficult to reduce waste other than simply not use certain products, especially those sold in tubes that can't be recycled. That includes sunscreens, toothpastes, medicinal salves, herbal remedies, creams and lotions. If I can find an alternative in a jar, I buy that instead. For the most part, we have simply reduced what we buy of products sold in tubes. A lot of cosmetic containers like lipsticks, eyeliner, powders, nail polish and that type of thing cannot be recycled either. I've opted for the natural look using aloe vera, sunblock and occasionally a mineral powder. That has eliminated a lot of cosmetic containers. Toothbrushes are still sold in eco-unfriendly packaging so unfortunately that does end up in our household waste.
- cleaning - The containers of most cleaners sold in plastic bottles can be recycled but some cleaner containers like the pressboard in powdered scouring containers cannot. Aerosol containers can't be recycled. We opted to use natural cleaners (eg. vinegar, household ammonia, baking soda, soap) and nix using commercial cleaners other than Simple Green, a non-toxic biodegradable concentrate.