According to Stats Canada, in 2004 Canadian households created 13.4 million tonnes of waste. Only about a quarter of this waste was recycled with 73% of it going straight into Canadian landfills. When I read this my jaw pretty much dropped and I couldn’t help but wonder how much my family was contributing to that number.
The easiest way for me to figure that out was to simply keep track. I started out rather smug but after holding onto our bags of trash for one week and looking at how much we were actually throwing away I was reaching for a hefty helping of humble pie. Before I started keeping track I would have guessed my family threw out about 2 bags of garbage per week if not less. It was more like 3-4 depending on the week, that’s at least a bag for each of us. I honestly didn’t know this, I am generally not the one who hauls our trash out to the dumpster and even if I was it’s hard to really grasp the amount until it’s sitting in front of you all at once.
When I examined what we were throwing away the experience was, again, rather humbling. I realized that most of the things we were throwing away could easily be avoided. Not just by recycling or composting (keep an eye out for those in later posts) but by simply using things up.
This week’s challenge kind of overlaps with last weeks challenge, but I really wanted to keep the focus here another week for one very important reason. My family throws out A LOT of food.
Some of it is unavoidable, there is just no saving-for-leftover-night after a toddler has rubbed his dinner all over his runny-nosed face but declined to actually eat any of it. There is, however, a great many things we throw away that CAN be avoided.
Embarrassing examples of things I’ve thrown out in the last week (by no means a comprehensive list!):
- An avocado I forgot we bought
- A quarter of a carton of buttermilk past it’s expiration date
- Partial leeks, onions, peppers, and other produce
- 1 can of chipotle puree minus about 3 tablespoons
- Half a can of coconut milk
- One partially used tub of sour cream also passed it’s expiration
Most of these items went bad and were discarded for no other reason than they were purchased for a specific recipe and the remnants went unused afterwards; basically bad planning on my part.
Another 52 week challenger mentioned this very same problem on the Facebook page not long ago, only in her case she was concerned about the leftover bits of beauty products that are thrown out when she buys replacements. For you it may be cleaning products, or ink cartridges, or notebooks that never quite get filled up before you move onto the next shiny new crisp clean one (Ok that one is mine too). Whatever it may be this week your challenge is to come up with a strategy to put every last bit of the things you buy to good use.
Planning: This is the obvious answer to my dilemma. This week I will be organizing our menu plan to make sure ingredients get used. In the case of the sour cream, for example, it was used to bake a banana loaf, if I had planned to make perogies or tacos the next day it would have been easy to use up the rest of the container but I just hadn’t planned for it.
Plan to use less: If you find you are throwing something out simply because you have more then you can use, find away to purchase or make it in smaller quantities. Don’t get sucked into the idea of bulk buying when it may not actually be beneficial to you. There’s no point in getting a better dollar/unit price if you don’t actually need large quantities.
Share with a friend: If you are having trouble finding items you often end up throwing away in smaller quantities, or if you still want to get the best dollar per unit price but don’t need large quantities, then maybe a friend or family member can make use of what you don’t. In my case I think I may be looking for someone to swap freezer meals with. This way I can still save money by making things in bulk batches but my family doesn’t get sick of eating the same chili for weeks on end and then toss the rest.
Think about packaging: In the case of old beauty products I think I can guess why the ends so often don’t get used up. Those little packages make it really difficult to get the last little bits out in order to use them. I have this same problem with lotions or soaps that come in hand pump containers. I have also noticed that many packages are designed to look nicer when full. Consciously or otherwise we as human beings want the pretty package and get tempted to replace products earlier then needed for this very reason. If we make a point to avoid this kind of packaging (or packaging all together) it may help eliminate these problems.
As always I look forward to hearing about what others are doing this week. Do you have trouble using all you have? How will you be trying to reduce the unused items that end up in your trash?