If somehow you missed the memo, I, Maman Loup, am one of David Suzuki’s Queen of Green‘s 2014 Coaches! In a nutshell, I have now adopted 5 local families to help them achieve their families’ get greener goals. Each of my families is a different shade of green, so each one will have its unique challenges which I hope to help them overcome.
Since I like to set a good example, I decided to also coach myself… and no better way to ensure I comply with my own goals than to post them on the internet.
Module 1 starts this week, and it tackles the topic of waste. If you want to follow along, you simply have to choose three actions to help your family reduce how much waste you produce: one that is an immediate action, one that is a short-term goal and one that is a long-term goal.
Keep in mind that I am a hard-core greenie, and have been working at this for about 5 years. Your goals may look totally different than mine, and that’s okay!
In preparation for this module, two weeks ago I set out to assess exactly what we are putting in the garbage can since we are already such diligent recyclers, reusers and composters. (You don’t have to do this, but I definitely suggest paying keen attention to what you are throwing away: it will give you ideas on where you can make changes!)
Turns out, the main items that make up our garbage are toilet paper (from nose-blowing, mostly), non-recyclable food wrappers (from cheese, crackers, coffee beans, etc.), dryer lint, packing tape from all the packages I receive and kitty litter.
Tonight, I weighed our 2 weeks of garbage:
According to the Queen of Green…
The average person produces 1.986 kilograms of garbage every single day.
After my two-week garbage can assessment, I discovered that our family of 2 adults, 1 toddler and 2 cats produces about 4.5 kg of garbage in 14 days. (I say about because that was the closest I could get between my bathroom scale and kitchen scale.)
I’m proud to say that that is significantly lower than average, and works out to mere grams per person per day in our household. But there is still room to improve!
What is already working for us in terms of waste reduction?
- cloth diapering;
- washable feminine hygiene products;
- making my own body care products;
- cloth wipes instead of wet wipes;
- no plastic wrap in the house;
- no paper towels (if we don’t have them on hand, we have to use something else!);
- water bottles and travel mugs;
- religiously recycling all recyclables;
- composting 100% of kitchen waste;
- swapping and donating all unwanted goods;
- using reusable bags, including for produce;
- carefully disposing of electronics and other tricky-to-recycle items.
Alright, so now let my self-coaching begin!
Step 1: “Define one activity that’s already working and build on it.”
In our family, that activity is using reusable products.
To build on it, our immediate goal is to replace tissue with hankies.
Today we started using washable hankies. I made them just like I made my son’s diaper wipes: by cutting up squares of old flannel pajamas. I have set up the little wet bag for used hankies, and an Ikea bucket to store fresh ones. I also plan to cut back on using toilet paper for its… ahem… intended purpose.
Step 2: “Define a second activity that is new to the family.”
We normally put out the trash once per week. As a short-term goal, I want to even further reduce what goes into our garbage so that putting out the trash only twice per month becomes regular practice.
To achieve this short-term goal, our immediate goal of blowing noses with hankies will help a lot. So will choosing a lighter-weight kitty litter (there are clumping litters made of corn or wood byproducts which are significantly lighter than clay-based litters) and reducing our purchases of packaged foods (our biggest challenge).
In addition, I want to return to using biodegradable garbage bags to take out the trash! (I some how jumped off the biodegradable garbage bag train and need to hop back on…)
Step 3: “Plant the seed for a third activity, a long-term goal”
The long-term goal is to be accomplished over the next 6 months based on what my families have learned in this module. Thanks to my readings as a coach, I’ve realized that, although recycling is an excellent way to reduce garbage, the best way to reduce waste is to make choices that produce zero waste (recyclable or otherwise.)
So my long-term goal is to put out our recycling only once ever two weeks, and since our bin is overflowing after a couple of days, this is going to be our biggest challenge.
To achieve this long-term goal, I will be seeking out ways to cut back on the items that make up the bulk of our recycling bin mass:
- non-returnable drink containers (in Quebec, bottles for wine and spirits are not returnable);
- metal cans and glass jars;
- milk cartons;
- yogurt tubs;
- cardboard boxes from items received in the mail.
Here are my ideas on how to reduce and/or eliminate these items:
- lobbying for the SAQ to start putting a deposit on wine bottles and accepting them for refunds;
- purchasing dry beans instead of canned and, eventually, learning to can my own tomatoes;
- purchasing at least some of our milk at Marché Maisonneuve, where they carry milk in glass bottles that are returned for refund;
- making my own yogurt and/or purchasing it at Marché Maisonneuve where it is available in jars that are returned for a refund;
- ending my addiction to flyers… time to put up a sign asking for “no flyers”;
- finding companies that can re-use boxes (including my father-in-law, who sells seeds by mail) and organizations that may need glass jars, since I can only re-use so many myself.
What are your family’s 3 activities to start making less waste?