J500 Media and the Environment

Compost, Plastic, and Two Scoops of Poop by jseverin

Jeff’s Trash

  • Coffee grounds and filter
  • 2 egg shells
  • 2 banana peels
  • 2 lettuce leaves
  • Yogurt container and lid
  • Cotton stuffing from a new bottle of acetaminophen
  • 7 tissues
  • 4 dryer sheets
  • 2 plastic straws
  • 2 plastic lids
  • Plastic “zip strips” from frozen fruit bags
  • Plastic safety seal from syrup
  • Plastic granola bar wrapper
  • Dog hair
  • 1 small plastic bag of dog poop (not pictured)

That’s a rundown of what ended up in my garbage over a 24-hour period. Weighing in at just over a half pound (not counting the poop – handling that once was enough), I would say our household of two plus a pooch is well under the average of 7.5 lbs of trash per person per week.

Of course, this list doesn’t include what was recycled. In the same time frame we added the daily newspaper, some paper packaging, a few beverage containers, and some plastic bags to the recycling. That adds another 1.75 pounds. Since I don’t typically polish off a 1.75-liter bottle of Jack Daniel’s every day, let’s call it 0.75 pounds.

Overall, I’d say we’re not doing too bad. But could we ever get to zero waste? A quick look in the garbage can tells me we could at least come close.

First of all, it is obvious that we need to start composting. I would guess that food waste in our house is higher than the 12% national average, and most of kitchen scraps we toss could be composted. The tissues could also be composted, and since I don’t have the time or talent to knit a dog-hair sweater, I could put those long golden dog hairs in the compost bin too.

We could cut out some addition waste with smarter shopping. I can drink my smoothie without a straw, and we could opt for liquid fabric softener to skip the sheets. But that still leaves a few scraps in the trash that are mostly plastic. The yogurt container isn’t recyclable in many communities (although TerraCycle is working on an innovative reuse program) and it’s hard to find frozen foods that don’t come in plastic bags or medicine that isn’t sealed with plastic.

So is zero waste possible in the modern household? Without giving up some modern conveniences, I don’t see zero waste in my near future. But through composting, more responsible shopping, and finding a solution for our pooch’s poo, we can cut our waste to next to nothing.

– Jeff Severin


3 Comments so far
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I’ve been reading through the posts with interest as I’m a journalist (20 years plus) turned self-sufficient crofter (similar to a homesteader) in north-east Scotland. I’ve tried to leave a small imprint for years and tried to write about it in the mainstream media, but in the end decided it was better to lead the life I want to and not the ones corporations want to dictate. I also have the freedom to write in my own terms on my own blog.

Anyway, it’s great to see a new generation of environmentally aware journalists coming through. I’ve put you on my blogroll for others to find and enjoy, too.

And Jeff, even in the boonies it’s not possible to have a zero waste household because far too much waste is dropped from passing cars or blown in by the wind. Most of the rubbish in our bin comes from those two sources.

Comment by Stonehead

Thanks so much for adding us to your blogroll and weighing in. Good to have you here and would love your insights from across the pond.

Comment by j500

…it’s not possible to have a zero waste household because far too much waste is dropped from passing cars or blown in by the wind. Most of the rubbish in our bin comes from those two sources.

It’s hard enough to reduce your own footprint without having to clean up after someone else. But then again, if we are trying to go zero waste, does that include waste generated by the products that we consume? Like with calculating a carbon footprint should we also be looking at the waste generated by the entire supply chain? After a trip to San Francisco a few years ago, I started drinking Anchor Steam Beer because I was impressed by their 99% diversion rate. Judging by the source of the statistic (someone who had visited the brewery), it’s not something that is widely advertised. If companies that are doing this good don’t promote their efforts, how can we as consumers choose the best options for reducing our overall waste stream?

– Jeff

Comment by jseverin

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