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What is the best way to find where your waste is going? The best way is to do a waste audit and this is how to do it.
1st: Make a list of what's in your trash can-
There are different kinds of waste, but the most important kind of waste you audit is in your trash can. When you look at your trash, you analyze what trash you’ve created over a given period of time. This can be daily, weekly or monthly, or until the can is full. You write down what is in your main trash can; analyze if it needs to be thrown away OR recycled/given away/composted, etc.; and weigh it. The weighing is optional, but it can help you keep track of where you are at and how far you go.
Your audit can include all of your trash cans, from the kitchen, bathroom, offices and other rooms of the house, or you can just audit one room at time if you want to tackle your waste in smaller steps.
2nd: One Man's Trash....-
First off, are you throwing away things that are usable, either for your family or others around you? Clothing can be sold to ThreadUp if you have good quality items and certain brands, given to a neighbor on Buy Nothing Project or Freecycle, donated to your local thrift store, or used for craft projects. They never need be tossed into the landfill. You never know what may be useful to someone else. There’s a produce sticker artist you can send your stickers to, which aren’t recyclable or compostable and otherwise would need to be tossed.
3rd: Can it be recycled?-
Next, can you recycle it? Check with your local recycling agency to see what they recycle. The contents vary by location, but there are some harder to recycle things that can be recycled if you mail them as well. (See my Free Resources page, under the Zero Waste Section for more ideas) Glass and metal are always best. Then comes paper, then plastic, then items can only be trashed. Paper can be recycled 4-7 times before it can be composted. Plastic just gets downcycled by being “recycled” once.
Are you throwing away food scraps? If so, can the scraps be transformed into another meal? Veggie peels and meat bones make great broths. Fruit scraps can become smoothies or vinegars. Cooked grains can be made into casseroles or soups with dairy and other leftovers.
5th: Could it, would feed a bird?
If your scraps don’t seem edible, could they be given to pets or livestock to supplement their diets? Chickens are omnivores and eat almost everything thrown into their coop, cats and dogs can eat meat scraps (not pork) and the list goes on.
6th: Just rot it!
If your food scraps aren’t edible and can’t be given to pets and livestock, can you compost it? If it is a food, paper product, or comes from life (i.e. hair, nair clippings, plant waste, etc.) it can probably be composted. Some places have commercial composting facilities, but most of the time you will need to use some form of home composting (worm bin and/or bokashi bin for indoors, black soldier fly composting, outdoor pile, or any combination of these methods).
7th: Do you really need that much wrapping?
Can you get it with less packaging? Shopping at other locations may provide you with alternatives that have less waste, including bulk shopping, shopping at the farmer’s market, and bring your own container options, which often are cheaper than buying in smaller packages.
8th: Is there a reusable option?
Can you get a reusable version? Are you tossing of a lot of paper towels, antibacterial cleaning wipes, Q-tips? Start small and make or buy a few reusable alternatives that can be washed and used over and over. Reuse some old worn-out clothing to make cleaning cloths to replace paper towels and cleaning wipes. Buy an ear spoon to replace Q-tips.
9th: Maybe I'll make one instead..
Can you make your own alternative? Are you finding lots of packaging from eating out or packaged foods? Start making your own, one simple meal at a time. I love searching for "copycat" recipes from my favorite restaurants.You will save money and be healthier. The same goes for cleaning products and many toiletries as well.
10th: The Ultimate Question...
Decide if you really need the product after all. After thinking through your alternatives, you may just find that your favorite product isn’t actually needed after all.
11th: Give it a try!
The last step in your waste audit is to start to implement a change or two. After your changes are comfortable, repeat the audit and see if there are any other changes you are ready to make.
I was out and about a couple of times this past week. The items I picked up were recycled where possible and thrown into the garbage where necessary. Here are the photos from those two outings:
|Cigarette Butts can be composted!|
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Have you ever done a waste audit? If so, how did it go?