Sunday, May 17, 2009

Learn from my mistake...

Do not wait 2.5 weeks to empty your kitchen compost bin, and if you do, don't open it inside the house:


Seriously, I just made this mistake and the whole first floor of my house smells like baby poop mixed with puke. Wow, sorry roommates. I have learned my lesson.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Recycling and Composting 101

I learned a whole lot yesterday about recycling and composting, and rather than expecting you to click on tons of links, I've been encouraged by Danne to write a real post. So here you go!

I read a bunch of accounts of what works and what doesn't when it comes to apartment composting, and I decided I'm sort of going to wing it. I'm putting two lidded plastic containers (perhaps trashcans) on my back porch, and a small bin in the kitchen. I'll put some holes in the bottom of the porch containers and rest them on slats in trays. Once the kitchen bin is full of scraps, I'll dump it in the first porch bin. When that's full, I'll fill the second porch bin. I'll turn the contents approximately once a week. Hopefully by the time the second bin is full, the first will be soil-ish. I'll use some of the soil for my own plants and give the rest away to... someone.

A lot more can be composted than I originally realized. You can obviously add fruit and vegetable scraps, but you can also compost bread, pasta, beans, rice, paper towels, hair, nail clippings, q-tips (not the plastic ones), dryer lint, vacuum bag fillings... The list goes on. It is advised that you don't add meat or dairy products unless you have a really successful compost pile going. These products attract pests and often cause unwanted odors. It is important to have "brown matter" in your compost as well as "green matter". Green is the food garbage. Brown is sawdust, dead leaves, grass clippings, newspaper, cardboard. The ratio should be about 60/40 green to brown. Also, in order for the waste to break down efficiently, everything should be cut in little pieces. And so begins my adventure with composting! Wish me luck!

On to recycling! So many more items can be recycled than I ever knew. This month is about avoiding the consumption of items that prove wasteful, but also figuring out how to dispose of waste properly. I found solutions for some problem items: plastic bags, lids, and #5's. Plastic grocery bags can be brought to a number of locations to be recycled, found here. You can bring other kinds of plastic bags too! These include:

  • Retail bags (hard plastic and string handles removed)
  • Paper towel and toilet paper plastic wrap
  • Plastic newspaper bags
  • Plastic dry cleaning bags
  • All clean, clear bags labeled with a #2 or #4
  • I read somewhere that you can include ziploc bags as long as you cut off the zipper part (that's a different type of plastic).

Aveda is helping to build a new recycling program for rigid plastic lids and caps. So now you should save all of those water, gatorade, soda, peanut butter, mayonaise, ketchup, shampoo, lotion, and laundry detergent caps, and bring them to your neighborhood Aveda store. And! #5 plastics are rarely recycled by local recycling centers, but Preserve's Gimme 5 program has placed bins for these hard-to-recycle but very common #5's in various Whole Foods locations. You can even recycle old Brita filters, woop woop!

I read a fun list of things you can do with cardboard boxes instead of tossing them in the recycling bin. You can make a self-composting compost bin, build an armchair, build a house, make an egg incubator to hatch chicks, or plant column gardens (Make a column with cardboard, soil, and gravel, and plant leafy vegetable seeds in slits cut in the cardboard. Your veggies grow sideways out of the vertical surface instead of straight up from the ground. Awesome!).

Reading all of this information and watching the video on Green as a Thistle inspired me to put a full water bottle in our toilet tank to save on water each flush and sort all of our recycling according to the new things I found out. We now have separate spots for lids/caps and for #5 plastics. Oh, and I joined Freecycle!

Side note about deodorant: Tom's of Maine's deodorant package is composed entirely of #5 plastic so it's recyclable (unlike most other deodorants whose dials are something that can't be recycled). Deodorant is something I'm struggling with a bit because, let's face it, I sweat a lot, so I prefer a strong antiperspirant. I have a big problem with putting those chemicals directly onto my skin every day though, so I switched to Tom's. Tom's just isn't cutting it as far as odor resistance and sweat stopping go, though. The Green as a Thistle girl said coconut oil is a great deodorant, so I might give that a try. Why not, right?

Okay, that's all of the information in my brain for now. Yay, no trash!

One last thought, please drink water and coffee out of reusable bottles and mugs. It's really just silly not to.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

May's Challenge: Be Trash Free

I'm excited about this months challenge, I really am. So far the months that have been the most rewarding are the ones that are the most difficult, and not only is not making trash difficult, it's pretty much impossible. Since I work full time and am not able to go at this 150% (i.e. making my own bread to avoid food packaging) this month seems like it's mostly about consuming less, recycling or reusing everything you have to consume, and composting the rest. I already make an effort to limit my consumption (I have dishes, silverware, and hand towels at work to avoid the disposable versions), and I'm an avid recycler, but there's still a lot of questions I have, most pertaining to what can and can't be recycled. I did a bunch of research this afternoon and here are some resources that I found that will be helpful to anyone participating in this months challenge:

-First of all, a friend sent this blog to me a few months ago. I went through a good portion of it today and I definitely encourage anyone who wants to go trash free to check it out: They have a ton of really great and informative posts.

-From that blog I came across this article that answered a lot of questions I have about recycling:,21770,1835098,00.html. A few things I learned: Bottle caps (plastic and metal) are not recyclable and neither is plastic cutlery. If you try to recycle a pizza box that still has food remnants in it, it can ruin an entire recycling batch. Packing peanuts are not recyclable, but you can take them to a number of facilities that will reuse them. It seems like most anything can be recycled, but just not tossed in your recycling bin. Lots of things need to be sent to a specific facility.

-I didn't look too far into this site yet, but it seems like it could be useful:

-This blog isn't specifically about not making trash, but living more green in general:

Some changes that I've made already:

-We are composting at home and I even have a container at work to put food scraps and tea bags in.

-I'm making an effort to purchase food with the least amount of packaging possible. To prepare for this month and get an idea of how much trash I produced on a regular basis, I kept a trash journal all last week. I'd say about 95% of all garbage was food related. If I were a package designer, I would be pushing my company to consider more sustainable options. Is it really necessary to sell pre-cut, individually packaged apples? Do we really need frozen pb&js?

-I'm saving things like bread bags and reusing them.

That's all for now, I'd love to hear if anyone has any great tips for reducing/reusing/recycling. I need to figure out what to do with cat litter too. Has anyone had good luck with alternative litter options?

Friday, May 1, 2009

Litter is lame! Happy No-Trash May!

I can't believe it's May already! 2009 is flying by. The fact that we have assigned a different challenge to each month probably has something to do with it. As the end of each month approaches, I start thinking about what I have to do for the next month. In most cases so far, I'm looking forward to the next challenge. May is no exception, but I must say, this task is rather daunting. No trash?! Eek!

I really really liked April. It's amazingly gross how much trash there is, and as Danne said in her most recent post, once you start looking for trash, you realize it's everyyyyywhere! I feel really awful if I pass by a piece of litter without picking it up, and this is definitely a habit I will keep up from now on. Yesterday, for the last day in April, I went to the beach in Southie and picked up as much trash as I could within a 2 block stretch. I set out to go for a long walk and pick up trash along the way, but there was so much litter, I needed to narrow my scope. As is the case pretty much everywhere I've been picking trash, the most common items were water bottles, coffee cups, beer cans, cigarette packs, scratch tickets, and lids. So many damn lids. Lids to coffee cups, soda cups, and plastic bottles. If people would only drink coffee and water out of reusable containers, we would have so much less litter.

Littering is a matter of laziness and thoughtlessness. People who litter do so because it appears to be easier to drop trash on the ground than to wait and put it in a trashcan. Or they don't want to make a mess in their car so they make a mess in the environment instead. They don't think about the consequences. I wish there was a way to make everyone collectively realize that littering is a big deal, it's harmful, and it's lame. You are a huge loser and everyone looks upon you with disdain if you litter. I mean, do these people do the same thing in their houses? Shit, the trashcan is all the way in the kitchen. I'll just drop this Dunkies cup here on the floor.

The best way to combat litter in an immediate way is to place more trashcans around the city. There's a park near my house that has only one trashcan at the far corner of it, so of course people don't want to walk across the park to throw things away. The cleanest areas of the city are the ones that have trashcans on every block (and probably also have hired help sweeping up trash). Adding trashcans would help with the grossest trash, by far, the poop bags. Ya know, plastic bags with dog poop inside? Ughhhh sick! That plastic bag is preserving that poop. The poop would be much better off in the open air where it could disintegrate and eventually wash away or decompose into the ground. If there were more trashcans, people wouldn't have to walk as far with a bag of poop in their hand, and they'd be less likely to leave it on the ground. Think about all of those poop bags out there on sidewalks and in landfills. Sick. Maybe when someone buys a dog, that scenario should be brought up. "Tell me, what would you do in this situation? Your dog shits on the sidewalk, and there are no trashcans in sight."

Sorry I just complained about dog poop for so long.

So now it's May! I'll be grocery shopping mostly at the Harvest Coop in Central Square, and I've already started a little compost pot in my kitchen (my roommates are using it as well, which is awesome). I have to figure out what the heck to do with the food scraps after that point, though. I don't have a yard for a compost bin. Does anyone have any suggestions?