Back To Basics: Your Trash Can

With everything from climate change to the new energy bill at the forefront of the environmental sector, we can sometimes forget about the little things that make a difference.

For example, leaky faucets can drip at a rate of one drip per second. That can waste more than 3,000 gallons of water each year. The simple act of fixing a leak, or even just turning off water while brushing your teeth, can have a huge impact.

Since the little things can often get lost, we decided to return to our roots and get back to the building-blocks of sustainability. And what better to start with than the one item we all have…trash! So, let’s get down to the nitty gritty facts about your trash can and reducing your home’s waste.

Although many U.S. cities maintain an active recycling program, recycling in most is not mandatory, making it an option to residents and businesses. Photo: Amanda Wills, Earth911

Although many U.S. cities maintain an active recycling program, recycling in most is not mandatory, making it an option for residents and businesses. Photo: Amanda Wills, Earth911

Step 1: Think Inside the Bin

Before you pick the color, type and design of your trash can, its best to know what exactly you’re going to put in it.

Seem simple? Well, it used to be. But with expanding curbside programs and more reuse ideas, what you used to throw out may actually belong in another bin. Take stock of your waste and re-assess what you really need to toss out.

Time For a Trash Audit

While it isn’t the most pleasant job, a trash audit is a necessary step to really grasp what you’re throwing out and, in turn, what you can save. The audit itself is simple, just follow these easy steps:

  1. Pick a time period – A week is a good place to start.
  2. Get everyone on board – If they live in your house and they make trash, they are involved, so catch ‘em up to speed.
  3. Throw stuff away – Go about your normal routine, and toss out what you usually do. It is important that to be honest with yourself and not try to be on your “best behavior.” Remember, you’re trying to get an accurate measurement of your waste output.
  4. Weigh in – Each time you take a trash bag out of the house, plop it on the scale. This way you can have a baseline for comparison. Though you will visually be able to see your trash dwindle, the satisfaction of cold, hard facts is the icing on the cake.
  5. Put on some gloves – Check daily to see what you threw away that could have been recycled, composted, reused or avoided. This part is the eeewwww moment. But, by doing it daily, it wont be as bad. Don’t be deterred by what you find. Remember your mission. You can do it!
  6. Get graphical – Write down your findings, and use them to make a plan. What can you recycle that you’re currently tossing in the trash? What can be composted? What can be reused and, in turn, what didn’t need to be there in the first place?
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  1. It’s hard to believe that in the article above you stated that reuse “can have a huge impact on your waste production…(and) even more importantly, reuse can be a lot of fun.”

    Do you really believe fun is more important than saving our environment??? Have you totally forgotten the satisfiction of simply doing what’s right? Do your writers have poor values, or are your editors careless editors?

  2. Oh my goodness Linda – are you for real? I’m just grateful for all these great articles. I think everyone reading this knows that the environment comes frist but for many people, having some fun while doing the “dirty work” is attractive as well. I guess you don’t believe in having fun while helping the environment…or maybe you were just having a bad day. (Although, that’s no excuss for being rude, especially to people who are trying to do good.)

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