Over 100 American cities now offer curbside pickup for composting. According to the EPA, 60 million tons of compostable materials are sent to landfills each year. This waste can just as easily be composted and ultimately municipal composting saves taxpayers money.
Enviro Girl has been tracking her trash in order to get a handle on exactly what her household throws away. When confronted with the latest statistics on Americans and garbage (Americans throw away an average of 7 pounds of garbage per person every day), she wondered how her family compared to the national average. In this instance, her goal was to be below average. Continue reading
As part of Enviro Girl’s effort to get a handle on her household’s trash habits, and in effect understand how people can throw away an average of 7 pounds of garbage daily, she’s writing down all of her household garbage. This list excludes recycled or composted waste. Since yesterday at breakfast Enviro Girl’s family has thrown out Continue reading
As part of our exploration into trash, Enviro Girl is tracking what she throws in the garbage–a bit like counting calories or writing down every expenditure. To solve the trash problem (of 7 pounds per person per day in America), you have to understand it first. Enviro Girl considers herself to be well below the norm in trash production, but she’s tracking her trash because you never know what surprises you’ll find digging in the garbage… Continue reading
Last week Enviro Girl listened to a radio program where the guest speaker addressed the topic of garbage. He cited statistics claiming Americans throw away 7 pounds of trash a day. SEVEN POUNDS! Enviro Girl did a little research on her own and discovered this, this and this. Genuinely depressing stuff when considering the money, land space, energy and other resources wasted in our disposal habits. But Americans have a cavalier attitude about throwing stuff away–how can we convince people to throw away less stuff? And how can we convince people that generating less trash takes very little effort? Continue reading
The air is balmy, the ground is thawing, the temperature is rising. It’s time for spring cleaning. If you’re anything like Enviro Girl, you’ll probably find all kinds of junk in your basement, attic and garage. Stuff like aerosol cans. Old paint. Dead batteries. Motor oil. Rodent baits. Empty gasoline containers. Florescent light bulbs. Cooking oil. Computers. Driveway sealant. Mercury. Continue reading
Last summer the residents of Happyville were each given a ginormous trash dumpster, compliments of a new contract with the sanitation company and Happyville’s tax revenue. When she says “ginormous,” Enviro Girl means four of the five members of her family can comfortably fit inside this thing. Happyville’s citizens did NOT get recycling containers. They were told to ante up their own containers for empty cans and old newspapers. Then Happyville declared a new pick-up schedule — recycling every other week (it had been every week), but they’d still pick up garbage every week. Which made no sense in light of the new ginormous dumpsters. Enviro Girl was disgusted because she generates more recycling than waste. Her recycling barrel overfloweth, and if she misses a week, she misses a month for pick-up. NOT cool. Meanwhile, she rolls that new ginormous dumpster of garbage to the end of her driveway once a month because it never gets full. But ever one to find the silver lining, Enviro Girl reasoned that the new ginormous dumpsters would be less prone to tipping over since they are SO heavy. This could mean less trash blowing around in the ditches and across her 60 acres. Or not. Two months into dumpster-ownership, hers tipped over, knocking almost a month’s worth of garbage into the ditch. Enviro Girl grumbled and picked up all the trash.
In December ,the dumpster ended up in the ditch, half-buried with snow during a blizzard. Enviro Girl shoveled it out, knowing by the next morning she’d be unable to locate it once the snowplows went through their road. Enviro Girl faithfully used her recycling barrel, setting it a careful 4 feet away from any obstacles. Last week she found her recycling barrel in pieces strewn all over the road. Instead of chucking the barrel in the ditch as they’re prone to do, the sanitation workers let it roll into the road where some jerk ran it over in his SUV. At least that’s what Enviro Girl imagines happened.
Enviro Girl looked at the plastic shards. She looked at the temperature gauge in her Momvan. Fifteen degrees and windy. F*ck it, she thought, and drove up to her house without stopping. Her reward for being a faithful recycler and reuser and composter, for picking up the trash in the ditches and fields around her house, for only asking the sanitation workers to pick up her garbage once a month because she generates so much less than the average household is to have her beloved and necessary recycling bin demolished. Enviro Girl choked back her guilt with some leftover Christmas chocolates and reasoned that she was a friend to the environment. She’d probably end up picking up all the parts of that recycling bin come springtime anyway. And during a Wisconsin winter, it was pretty unlikely any forest creatures would choke on degrading plastic until she ended up picking it up. And who knows? Maybe someone else would end up picking up the mess she hadn’t made and that would be fair, too, because she’s always picking up messes she hasn’t made. Right? RIGHT???
Sometimes being loyal and noble and brave isn’t fun. Spiderman experienced that. Superman and Batman have had their moments of superhero angst. Enviro Girl is having hers. But she will NOT go out to the end of the road for those plastic bits. And she’s refusing to buy another recycle barrel, either. She’s shoving all her recyclables into cardboard boxes for the sanitation workers to haul away so there’s nothing left at the end of the driveway but weeds and a mailbox.
Enviro Girl’s conscience has gotten the better of her since then, and she’s now in contact with the town board to discuss matters. Her agenda: to get garbage pick-up reduced in her town, educated Happyville residents about the trash they generate and convince them to generate less, and score recycling bins for residents that rival the size of the trash barrels. Stay tuned.
A few weeks ago Enviro Girl stumbled across PERF Go Green biodegradable tall kitchen garbage bags for sale at her local hardware store. She’s noticed this store stocking many environmentally friendly products; no surprise, as the owner seems to appreciate nature and wildlife. (If the three aisles of bird seed and bird feeders indicates anything.) When her roll of garbage bags ran out, Enviro Girl remembered the “green” garbage bags and grabbed a box.
Her box of PERF garbage bags totaled just under $6.00 with tax, but Enviro Girl is used to paying a little more green for greener products. She shrugged it off and brought it home. The bags fit her kitchen wastebasket like a glove, the handles slightly elastic and gripping the top of the container. Maybe they were a better bargain, she mused, they were much stronger than the cheap roll of “Ruffles” bags she usually bought.
Enviro Girl’s family of five (plus one semi-stray cat) generates 1.5 tall kitchen garbage bags of waste every week on average. About 20.5 gallons of trash total each week — a little more during the holidays and less during the summertime — so she estimates their landfill contribution at 1,066 gallons of trash a week. These bags are made from recycled plastics and within 2 years they are completely broken down.
Feeling virtuous with her new “green” trash bags, Enviro Girl consciously upped her compost heap contributions. At $0.50 a bag, these babies weren’t cheap and she would try to save both money and garbage by committing to filling only ONE 13 gallon bag per week. She’d pay extra for these greener bags and that would be an incentive to use fewer trash bags, all good for the environment, right? By reducing her garbage by 1/3, she’d have to become an even more vigilant consumer and recycler, but she’s Enviro Girl, it’s what she does!
And then realization smacked her in the face like a bamboo bo staff! Enviro Girl was the hapless victim of green-washing. She’s embarrassed and mortified to admit it. She should have known better. She began thinking about her self-righteous investment into biodegradable plastic bags made out of recycled plastic and realized the contradiction. Biodegradable plastic? There is no such thing! Plastics are not biodegradable — they are “oxo-degradable.” They don’t degrade into nothing or even into anything helpful or harmless. According to this article in The Guardian, these biodegradable plastics require very specific temperatures and humidity to break down, neither found with any reliability in a northern Wisconsin landfill. And these special bags take a lot of energy and oil to make. They’re not a “green” choice for the environment by any stretch of the imagination. Enviro Girl was as well off using her “Ruffles” plastic bags for 7 cents a bag for all the environmental benefits of either option. And arguably the best option is NO trash bag, or reusing bags.
Enviro Girl will use up her expensive green-washed trash bags and return again to using “Ruffles” until she can find a better option. And she’s going to speak to the manager of the hardware store and tell him what she learned. For all she knows, he’s a hapless victim, too.
Mom raised nine kids when her budget could only afford two.
How’d she do it?
She was an original super-sustainer.
I just wish back then I would have seen
she wasn’t cheap or even mean –
she was progressive and being GREEN.
Today, we don’t have to be sick or Crazy to Go Green.
All it takes is a little thought to save money and we can help protect the planet at the same time.
Here are a few tips to help you go green:
1) Buy green furniture – and if it’s too expensive in your area – look on Craigslist.com
2) According to the EPA, nearly 2 million tons of used electronics end up in our landfills every year. Here’s one idea that shows a fun way to recycle computer components. Take a minute to think of other uses.
3) When towels start to fray, trim off the threads, and either sew the edges or buy a little iron-on (underwonder or double-sided adhesive) material to attach new ribbon or ric-rac on the edges. This will extend the life of worn out linens.
4) When sheets wear out, cut them down and sew the edges to use them as out-door tablecloths for summer and fall dinners.
5) When you’re scrambling eggs, add a little water and use a wire to whisk them up (it doesn’t have to be milk – trust me). It will fluff up your eggs, stretch the meal to feed many more mouths and save you a little green in your wallet.
If you can think of a few money-saving tips, add them to the “comments” section to help your cyber buddies live green.
Taxes and death are a certain thing–and sometimes it does Enviro-Girl’s heart good to see a tax raised. In her home state (go Cheeseheads!) the legislature recently decided to raise tipping fees from about $6 a ton to $13 a ton. What’s a tipping fee? It’s the charge for dumping garbage in a landfill. Because Wisconsin’s tipping fee was the lowest in the Midwest, one-quarter of the trash entering our state’s landfills was coming from border states–Minnesota, Illinois, Iowa and Michigan.
Landfills actually fill–and cost money to maintain and build. Providing a cheap garbage disposal means a) people don’t think about generating trash and b) people take advantage. Raising this fee is a small price to keep other states’ garbage out of our landfills and it starts to provide an incentive to cities and counties to address waste. Because the tipping fees only apply to nonrecycled waste, Enviro-Girl hopes this will inspire her fellow citizens to start recycling even MORE–and consider what they’re tossing in the trash each week. Clean air, clean water and clean soil are a few benefits of less waste being hauled to landfills. Fewer seagulls and less road damage from dump trucks are other bright spots resulting from the fee’s increase. And hauling waste costs money, the tipping fees should more accurately reflect that cost.
The benefits of raising the tipping fee means less out of state trash, in addition to the environmental benefits. Call it a sin tax if you will, but increased tipping fees can hopefully lead to decreased waste to haul and manage.