This is an honest record of the things I threw away for three days. I tracked everything I disposed of, whether in the recycling, compost, or trash (in Seattle, where I live, we have to sort our waste into those three categories). I didn’t leave anything out to try to make myself look better but I did include significant reusable items I used.
Why did I undertake this little project? I wanted to focus on the ‘reduce and reuse’ portion of the phrase ‘reduce, reuse, recycle’. Yes, I know it’s better to put things in the recycling or in the compost than to put them in the trash but here’s the thing: it still takes energy to process recyclables and compostables and to produce these items in the first place. That’s why it really is better to utilize reusable items than it is to use and recycle single-use products. Saving energy anywhere we can is the name of the game.
So here’s my day-by-day account of what I threw away for the past several days. Are these things similar to what you throw away?
Reusable tupperware container
Two seaweed snack wrappers: trash
Two seaweed snack containers: recycling
Paper coffee cup: recycling
Cardboard coffee sleeve: compost
Plastic coffee cup lid: recycling
Paper plate: compost
Knife and fork: compost
What are the takeaways from recording my trash output? First, I don’t think I’m doing terribly when it comes to the amount of stuff that I throw away/compost/recycle but I can always be better. As I’ve said before, success in living environmentally is all about planning ahead. When I used and then recycled coffee mugs, I hadn’t planned ahead and had forgotten a reusable mug. Another lesson I learned from this project is about the importance of buying in bulk instead of using individually-packaged foods. Over the last several days, I threw away many drink mix packets and seaweed snack packages. My new goal is to find a way to buy these things in bulk in order to stop throwing individual packages away.
I challenge you to keep track of what you throw away, too. It’s pretty enlightening! What can you do to decrease your trash production?