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Sep 23, 2010 2
We’ve seen a lot about how much our culture uses one-time use products. It’s every day. It’s unconscious. It’s all-pervading.
We’re creating all of this ‘waste’. What is ‘waste’, anyhow? Why would anyone every produce something that is not going to be useful, completely? As we have seen, nature does not create a single thing that isn’t completely useful, down to the last molecule. All of the acorns, every leaf, and even each animal is recycled and their respective nutrients are cycled back into new life.
It turns out there is a way that you, too, can help play an active role in this process of recycling, and it’s free. Nature does all the work for you, and you don’t even have to pay anyone to take away this stuff that you once thought of as ‘waste’. We can stop calling anything organic, or simply anything from the earth in its natural form, ‘waste’. That’s because we can compost that food, and also all of your garden scraps, into new life, instead of paying someone to come, pick it up, and use more energy to put it into a sealed landfill, never to be used again.
So what is ‘compost’ anyhow? Composting is the “process whereby organic matter, including food waste, paper and yard waste, decompose naturally, resulting in a product rich in minerals and ideal for gardening and farming as a soil conditioner, mulch, resurfacing material or landfill cover.” [Source] Basically, many things we presently throw away in landfills are valuable and nutrient-rich, and by simply putting them in a pile, we could take their nutrients and recycle them into new food growth for the future. A very large percentage of the garbage produced in the US each year is organic matter.
Each time organic matter is thrown into the “garbage”, we are littering. We are wasting. The waste is taking place on so many levels. If you’ve got an apple core, an orange peel, a banana peel, or what have you, please, compost it. You can of course include leaves from your yard, grass clippings, branches and all other plant matter, in your compost.
There is no excuse to not compost organic matter. Let’s also dispel the use of the word “waste” in context to organic materials. By putting organic matter in the garbage to be taken to a landfill, we surely would be creating waste. It is waste, because we are wasting this valuable resource, by discontinuing the cycle that it is a part of, and not allowing it to return to the soil, to decompose, and reconstitute all of the microorganisms and energy within it, to the earth. We are wasting because we are creating more “waste” for the municipality to have to pick up, transport, process, and then put into a landfill – these all take precious, finite energy to do. Composting, on the other hand, is free, requires minimal human input, and can be done nearly anywhere. Composting creates free, organic fertilizer, a valuable resource, which can be used to grow food, plants, trees, and more.
Municipalities and even nations are catching on to this. Toronto and San Francisco are just two successful examples of cities that have instituted city-wide composting. In Toronto, for example, a total of 388,188 metric tonnes of residential waste was diverted from landfill during 2008.
If you can’t find any help online, just get in touch with me and I can try to help you learn how to start composting.
Please, stop littering – don’t waste your organic materials – compost.
Apr 11, 2010 0
I’m here in Portland, OR. I visited my goold old friend, Boroski. It’s been great to see him. Each time we meet, I feel refreshed.
Amongst other things, he has a few little tricks up his sleeves that I thought I would share. They pertain to creating zero waste.
1. Buying in bulk – resuing containers – Boroski shops at a few local grocery stores (New Seasons and The People’s CoOp). When he goes to buy food, he brings with him glass jars so he can not need to use one-time-use plastic or paper packaging. This way he also gets more of what he needs each time he shops, allowing him to go shopping less often, and pay less for the products. One thing many people don’t know is that a significant portion of the cost of items at the grocery store comes from the packaging and shipping. Buying in bulk reduces these costs significantly.
2. Using rags instead of toilet paper – and a bidet, too! Just to the right of their toilet bowl, mounted to the wall, is a little lever, which when actuated will spray water at your bungole, and wash it clean. This makes the next step only to dry your bottom. And, atop the toilet bowl sit a clean pile of cut up squares of worn out clothes – turning your waste into something useful, yet again! Once you clean and dry your bum, you drop the rag into a basket next to the toilet. The house roommates will wash these frequently. So, they are not needing to pay for toilet paper, which also saves trees and the planet.
If you wanted to go further, you could stop polluting the water all together, and go for something like the “Sunny John” or “Loveable Loo”. You’d also be making fresh compost for your garden and your fruit trees. The blog links to the “Humanure Handbook” on the right can give you some inspiration and ideas…
Thanks and much love to Boroski.
Jan 14, 2010 0
One-time use items. What are they? These include anything produced that we use only one time, such as coffee cups, soda cans, plastic bags, product packaging, envelopes and cardboard boxes, and plastic utensils, to name a few. Nearly all of the items we buy in stores today are sold to us in one-time use packaging. The bottle of shampoo you use is thrown away once emptied – not refilled. The shoebox is discarded once you bring it home – you don’t bring this back to the shop to be reused. Potato chips, crackers, and cereals all are packaged in plastic, sometimes with paper or cardboard outside of that – all only to be used one time. Many restaurants serve food atop paper and plastic plates, and give customers paper napkins and plastic utensils to eat with. Restaurants with take-out all use disposable or one-time use containers. All of these products are designed with the intent that they will be ‘disposed’ of after use. Today, they are ubiquitous all over the world. 75 years ago there was no such thing.
We’ve grown up accustomed to seeing these types of packaging in every store, for every purchase. Try to think of one thing you’ve bought that doesn’t have some disposable packaging with it. One thing we haven’t grown accustomed to seeing is what happens to all of this material that we call ‘disposable’ after we are through with it. Photographer Chris Jordan has some great work on the subject.
Nature does not produce a single one-time use item. Not one! Everything produced in nature is part of the life-cycle of something else. A leaf absorbs sunlight and some water during its life. It falls off when the seasons change, and lays on the forest floor. In time, it will be covered by other plant matter and organic materials, and will decompose to become the soil in which new plants can have nutrition to grow. This is true recycling, where nothing is wasted. This is true sustainability.
If something is made from a material that does not reproduce or re-grow as fast as it is consumed, or if more energy is required to produce the product than comes out during use, the process is inherently ‘unsustainable.’ And, there is no infinite way to produce synthetic materials. Plastics are generally sourced from petroleum (oil), and some is recycled. However, recycling can’t go on forever, as both the petroleum used for the material and the production of the product is finite. It takes a tremendous amount of energy to pick up the used items, move them to the processing plant, to melt and reprocess the materials and then process them again for use in another life. Another disincentive to continue this path is that each of those processes along the way are also toxic and release particles into our air that aren’t healthy.
There is also no ‘away’. Landfills aren’t some area separate from the earth. The materials we put into them don’t magically disappear – they stay here with us and they affect the natural living systems for plants and animals, including humans.
The one-time use packaging is also not the only way to go about solving the issue of carrying goods. As we have seen in America, some folks are bringing their own re-usable cloth bag to the grocery store, so they don’t need to use plastic. There’s a lot more room to go, though. Haven’t you ever thought about the fact that each of the products you are purchasing is using their own paper and plastic? Shoppers (and that means everyone who isn’t growing all of their own food) that each of the items you carry in that bag is likely individually wrapped in one-time use packaging. If you’ve bought one brand of cereal for years, did you really need to buy a new box each time you went to the store? Why not bring your own high-quality container, instead, and fill it up at the store. Just think about how much waste we wouldn’t be producing.
So what can we do about this? Minimize the amount of products you purchase that use one-time use packaging. As an example you can buy food in bulk, by bringing your own used plastic bags, tupperware containers, yogurt containers, or glass jars from salsa or tomato sauce, and fill them up, over and over again. Coops and other similar markets have large bulk food sections with wonderful options of food you can take home without disposables. These jars and high-quality containers last for a long time. Bring your own tupperware containers in your bag when you go to a restaurant – if you have take-out, you can use your own tupperware instead of their leaky ‘disposable’ styrofoam or waxed paper containers. Stop buying bottled water. Really, stop buying any bottled drink, as you can probably make a healthier drink for less money, while producing less waste, by yourself. You can read about the fact that bottled water isn’t healthier for you than most tap water here in the States, and drinking bottled water produces a lot of garbage. Furthermore, it takes a tremendous amount of energy to bottle, ship, and refrigerate all of those bottled drinks. Bring a steel water bottle with you – they are lightweight, functional, don’t leach plastic into your drinking water, and produce significantly less waste – they also function better than a ‘disposable’ plastic bottle, and are much sexier. I also choose to carry my own high-quality cloth napkin, chopsticks, and a titanium spork with me, in my bag, at all times, along with a water bottle. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve used them – it saves a lot of garbage, and sparks a lot of wonderful conversation. These utensils are also high quality, and perform better than the crap that would get used once, and tossed out, anyhow.
If you have ideas, or anything that I’ve not mentioned here, please comment or write me an e-mail.
If you make a small effort, you can really produce a lot less waste. Give it a try.