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Monday, September 20, 2010

The Great Trash Experiment Continues

I realize that in my last post I stated that trash is just not that exciting. So I understand that perhaps it is contradictory for me to be so wound up about what I am about to say. But I made that statement BEFORE I put another bag of garbage in the basement. I finally removed all the humongous bags of paper and recycled them. It turned out one of the white bags I thought was trash was really just paper! Which means I only have FOUR bags of trash, not five! WHEE!! I put it down there on September 16, a mere two months and two days after Jason and I began this silliness. And I have taken four big trash barrels of recycling to the transfer station and begun to fill the barrels again. I think this means that over 75% of the waste that comes through this household is recyclable. Wouldn't it be cool if everyone started recycling 75% of their trash?
Jason thinks we should go through all the trash, like actually spread it out piece by piece on the the most actual garbage and see if there is a way for us to reduce that waste. Gross. We will probably end up doing that. I wish we hadn't waited for cold weather to come to this. Se la vie.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

veggies, meat and economics

i still haven't located and utilized a better way to dispose of my ceiling tiles. I have dropped another trash bag in the boiler room and the next is about full. It is time to take the kitty litter to the compost spot that is not my own again. and i still wish to continue avoiding these things.
on the up side... the bag of trash that is deniably full contains all the refuse from packing for burning man. fairly impressive, methinks. On that note... enough about trash! for today... why? because trash... well, it's less interesting over time than my initial excitement indicates...

I was driving home this afternoon and thinking not-so-subversive thoughts about my formerly vegan lifestyle. I would like to contribute some thoughts that I feel are often overlooked in the ongoing discussions regarding appropriate eating habits and the overall dietary lifestyle of Americans.

I hear over and over about how meat and dairy are bad for us, bad for the planet and obviously torturous to animals. I do not deny any of this. My body LOVES meat. Loves the stuff- can't get enough. I do believe it is bad for my health overall because of the use of steroids, antibiotics and God knows whatever other chemicals are showing up in there. Yes it is bad for the planet and it is clearly VERY BAD for all of the sweet little animals we chop up and chew down daily.

HOWEVER! All of these arguments are emotional and moral, ethical at best. (sidenote: moral- personal guidelines regarding right and wrong, ethical- guidelines for right and wrong generally accepted throughout an entire community). These are valid discussions and topics for argument and debate. But there is a whole nother world of conversation being virtually ignored in this verbal tennis match!

What about the economics of the whole thing. Whether or not you think it is right or wrong or healthy or not to eat animals- What do you think about PAYING your hardearned dollars to VERY wealthy people to torture animals to cut the cost and increase overall profits for distributing that meat to you?

Let's be clear, this is not a question about EATING the meat, it is a question that begs to know "to whom do you wish to pay your dollars?"

As far as I can tell, voting in politics doesn't do much more for us than take up an hour or two every few years in November. Well, what if we looked at our dollars as votes? If the corporations have essentially bought Congress, then we can instead look to exercise control over the corporations when it proves ineffective to attempt to sway our legislating bodies. We already know that all they care about is their profit margin. So when we spend our money we vote on the products AND PRODUCTION METHODS that we value.

So, I like to eat meat. I do not want to pay some faceless rich person my money so they can get richer by treating animals in the most inhumane ways and poisoning our environment and my body. This doesn't mean I can't eat meat, but it does mean I have to put in the extra effort required to locate a farmer in my area from whom I can buy meat. I may have to buy it in large quantities which means I have to have enough freezer space to store what I buy. I may have to buy a share of meat with other people in order to afford and have space for it.

I'm just saying though. It's not always about animal rights. Sometimes it's about the economy and who I want to pay to do what.

Friday, July 30, 2010

ceiling tiles and spiders

Ceiling tiles. Yes. Throwing them away just isn't what it used to be.

I decided I need to clean the basement. We have a formerly-finished room down there. (Not the boiler room where the trash is.) One day, I would like it to be a plain old finished room.

It seemed like a simple enough mission. Clean the room and then it will look more approachable when it is time to think about re-finishing it. Bring down the vacuum, some cleaner(salt, lemon juice, and water in a bottle) and rags and it should be done in a jiffy. Little did I know about the harrowing journey awaiting me. Ok, harrowing may be a strong word, but still...

I had to face down great evil spiders of death and doom! One of those suckers charged me- it actually charged at me!!! I am huge compared to it! And I have a vacuum. Thank God. Spiders scare the crap out of me. It took a lot of fear induced adrenaline for me to get the courage(and about a week, but shh!), but I finally got em out.

So, there were two ceiling tiles fallen onto the seventies-school-room tile floor when I first got downstairs. And then a third fell on me. For just a moment I was definitely positive that a gianormous arachnid was attacking me to protect its homestead. I didn't actually scream but I know that's just because I was too shocked to emit any noise.

Anyhow, this ceiling tile fell on me and I realized three ceiling tiles is a lot of trash. Normally, I would just throw them out and forget about it, but Nooooooo... I'm doing this great trash experiement. So I now need to check the interwebs and find the best way to dispose of them.

Once I get there all I find is results about disposing of ceiling tiles with asbestos! Well, these are fairly new and I don't think they contain any, but I looked at lots of pictures (thank you google.images!) just to be sure. It looks like an asbestos free zone, so now I have the option of finding a contractor who recycles/redistributes stuff like that, throw it away or see if we should save it for some unknown as of yet future project. Decisions, decisions, decisions.

We are still filling our second bag of trash as of today. But I just want to say that throwing things away is NOT what it used to be. Just sayin...

Sunday, July 25, 2010

folk festival trash

Here is a photograph of trash. Our trash. 'Our' being defined as my husband Jason, my step-sons Cote and Marcus (15 and 12), and myself. That is the trash we generated in the THREE AND A HALF HOURS we spent at the Lowell Folk Festival in Massachusettes. I would like you to notice that one of the lidded plastic cups has another waxed paper cup (non-recyclable) inside of it and that cup is also thoroughly stuffed with refuse.

The chicken bones are non-compostable, the bags that once held gourmet pecans and pita chips are not recyclable nor is the styrofoam plate. Most of it was recycled or composted. The food smelt really bad though because we forgot about it in Jason's backpack all of yesterday. Gross.

That is a lot of stinky trash for less than four hours! We all had lunch together and kept the little plastic ramikins that various sauces arrived in for recycle, we crumpled up the waxed paper that the food was served on (paper lining for little plastic baskets that the cafe reuses) and stuffed everything together. We held onto each individual piece of waste generated just to see what it would look like. And now we share with you! Ta-daaa!! Yuck.

On a side note- those rain barrels Jason made a couplafew days ago? Well, it has rained a couple of times and we have over 55 gallons of rainwater for the gardens! And Jason just told me this morning that he kind of thought making them was a joke because he didn't believe we would get all that much water from them. Victory is ours! Now we are not paying for water or septic just to water the gardens. Turns out the water company tells the town how much water was metered into the house and it is assumed that all of that is going back into the septic system and not the ground. I am sure it is not a huge difference in cost to save on that septic, but hey, we will keep the change for ourselves!

Jason watched the video from my last post and has doctored up one of the barrels in accordance with the advice found there. It really isn't that hard... let us know if you need help figuring out making barrels! I love to help!!!

Hmmm... I feel like there was one more thing... about trash or something... can't remember... BUT! I picked my first zucchinis from the garden yesterday... HURRAY!!! Come visit me and I will cook for you... love!

Oh! I remembered. I finally changed the cat boxes... they also stink. Today seems to be a stinky day... Off to the transfer station!!! :D

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

going green

Today our first bag of gen-u-wine garbage penetrated the threshold of the boiler room door. It is currently sitting amongst the harmless and non-smelly three bags of shredded paper. You read that right- three, not two. I obviously forgot about one. That is a lot of freaking mail- imagine how many trees could be saved if it was all recycled...

Sooooo... yes. Smelly garbage is living in my basement. However, it is not as smelly as it MIGHT have been. It took one week to fill a single bag. I was considering waiting until tomorrow when I saw the small tears created from all the shoving that had happened over the course of the last seven days.

I really just wanted to put off dumping all the dirty kitty litter into the bag and thus into the basement- and i did successfully put that off. Guess why!? The transfer station takes kitty waste!! But they compost it. Gross. I am not doing that- it doesn't make very good soil for veggie gardens according to the great and powerful google, so I will let them handle that. This doesn't seem like an uncommon practice, so feel free to check out your local transfer station to find out what you can pre-emptively rescue from the great monsterous landfills!

I have been surprised how much there is to learn- no worries, I will share info as i find it! Feel free to follow the lead or ask any questions if acting on any of this information interests you!!

We have also discovered that we have access to recycling for aerosol cans through the Northeast Resource Recovery Association (NRRA- ). Our previously mentioned pizza shop, hereforth referred to as Jack's, now has a contract with this organization to have recyclables removed from the store for us. We have our own dumpster with a lock and everything! They handle 1-7 plastic, glass, metals, the aerosol cans, cardboard, paperboard and Lord knows what else. It is amazing how much stuff can be recycled- and more amazing (but in a bad way) how much of it ends up as trash anyhow. Your local transfer station probably has an online listing describing what recyclables etc. they handle.

So, Jack's is on its way to reducing as much waste as possible also! Hurray! Just fyi, we are not using the shop dumpster to handle our recycling at home so we only need pick up once a month. I have plenty of storage for our stuff here, so I will be taking it in myself when necessary. It will be cheaper and I think this means less burning of fossil fuels- never a bad thing.

The NRRA sells earth machines (which are just name brand compost bins if you don't have time to build your own) for a $42 and they supply rainbarrels for $60- not bad copmared to the prices I have seen. Look online or ask around to find something similar in your area. There are also tons of online resources for building your own bin- it is remarkably easy to do!

You can make your own rainbarrels if you want to save your dollars, too. Jason got some 50 gallon barrels free from Coke and converted them, but you can easily use 5 gallon buckets for the same purpose. If you don't have a garden, you can water your little houseplants with the rainwater captured. five gallon buckets are available (for free) at any local pizza shop and many restaurants- they are often thrown away! Here is a link with written instructions and a video. The written instructions recommend using bleach to clean your barrel- I very strongly do NOT recommend using bleach, but other than that it is a solid source of information.

Here is another short video... it may load a bit slowly but it is worth watching- a well explained example of how to make a big rainbarrel. There are tons more links on youtube and google if you want to go hunting for a video that works for you... but i think this one is pretty good. :)

Again- please ask any questions that you have at all- I would love to help make it easy for anyone to begin going green!!

Friday, July 16, 2010

The Great Trash Experiment- Day 1

As I threw away some post-breakfast trash this fine new england a.m., I noted my relief at the total lack of paper waste sitting atop the tiny shredder by the kitchen can. For months my husband had stacked all the stray bits of mail and other paper that settled in our home to be shredded, either for recycling or some yet-to-be-made art project. We both spent a great deal of time sitting on the pale pink and white marbled linolium floor waiting for the small machine to finish eating all the paper we could stuff into it.
There are currently two big black trash bags of shreddings sitting hidden from view in the boiler room of our home. The art project was made without their use and I finally gave up on saving all the scraps from their nasty demise in a landfill until we get another bin for me to haul them to the recycling center.
Relief from the insidious clutter!!!!! And then the little wheels of my early morning brain started turning. All that clutter that drove me batty is a mere fraction of what comes and goes through this house. We separate all of our recycling (metal, 1 and 2 plastic, cardboard and glass) and store it in 50 gallon bins outside. The trash goes down to our pizza shop's dumpster (no worries- we own the place!) to be hauled away regularly by waste management. I bring all the recycling out when the cans are full. And we have a large compost bin in our yard.
So, I told my sweet hubby about this thought over lunch. "My experience with all that paper is simply a tiny, laura-sized microcosm of the trash that our entire planet is dealing with. What if we had to keep all of our trash and store it because there was no one to take it away? Would that change my consumer choices? Would I only buy things with the least packaging possible?"
And Jason said "That's a good question- would we buy more previously owned things because the packaging is already disposed of? You know, maybe we should try storing our trash!"
"Great idea', I say. 'For how long?" We settled on a month.
So, starting today, Friday, July 16, 2010, we are not taking out the trash. We are going to look at how much garbage we generate and what we can do to minimize our impact in this area. When the month is over we will look at how much we have and continue exploring options for reduction. Then we may very well try again for 3 or 6 months- just to see what happens. I have already put containers in the bathroom to hold the paperboard centers of the tp rolls and a little spot for the hair from our brush and shower to be composted. Tissues are flushable, so no more tossing those in the trash. And a bin for all the damn paper recycling need to be aquired as soon as possible. I wonder if anyone on craigslist is giving one away...