I’ve decided to make August Low-Trash month, where I try to reduce the amount of garbage I personally produce. Above is the amount of trash I generated on a random day in July; I hope to reduce it by about half.
There are a few reasons for this:
•I recently read Garbology: Our Dirty Love Affair with Trash by Edward Humes. He writes that the average American produces 70 tons of trash during his or her lifetime. While it’s not sexy to think about, I want to try to create a better legacy than that.
•It isn’t enough to recycle. It’s SO tempting to think that we are given a pass on the trash front because we’re good at putting our plastic and glass bottles in the recycling bin. But do you ever wonder how much of that actually gets recycled? It varies from city to city and often times a plastic bottle will have to traverse the country to get recycled—not very eco-friendly. Not to mention, many things you think can get recycled can’t, including deli and yogurt containers. The better option is to create less trash to start with.
•I’m still scarred from watching Wall-E. Remember the Pixar movie about a lonely robot that came out in 2008? I’ll never forget his animated collection of old Rubik’s cubes, Twinkies and sporks.
•Lastly, my husband and I recently redid our kitchen and used paper and plastic cups, plates and utensils for several weeks. My low-trash month is a kind of penance for that.
As I’ve been telling friends about my plans, they ask me about the details: Will I compost? What will I do for paper towels? What about toilet paper? Each time, I initially replied, “Oh, I’m not going to be that hard core.” But I’ve since realized that I do need to be that hard core, at least for a little while, if I’m going to make this a journey worth taking. So I’m going to compromise and try different challenge for each week of the month. I will compost for a week. I will try to live without paper towels for a week. I won’t try living without toilet paper, at least until I can invest in one of those fancy Japanese toilets.
One other thing I’m not going to do is start preaching against consumption. There are many things that I do and use on a daily basis that will inevitably create trash. I’m not going to suddenly stop wearing makeup or styling my hair with various products, for example. But I do plan to investigate smarter choices and talk about companies and brands that are committed to leaving the world they way they found it.
I hope we can all learn something from my journey!