talking trash : final tally + thoughts

trash jar

Hello friends!  So excited to announce that our family was featured on Buzzfeed!  We are beyond grateful to be able to share the low impact message with a broader audience and hopefully inspire more people to implement sustainable swaps into their lives.  I was inspired by others like Bea Johnson, Ariana of Paris to Go, and Lauren Singer to reduce my waste.  Without these people freely sharing their alternate lifestyles, I might never have thought it was even possible.  I’m so happy to, in turn, share our lifestyle as well to reach other people, especially hoping to encourage other families.

In October I started collecting our trash in a jar as a way to hold myself accountable for my waste output and also as a curiosity of just how little trash we could produce.  You can read the previous posts here: 1 month (which has info on HOW we reduced our trash), two months, 3 months, and 4 months.  Around 4 months, the whole drama with Package Free Shop and Lauren Singer unfolded, and I became aware that displaying our small output could make others possibly feel discouraged, or compelled to compare their output to ours.  We are privileged to have access to unpackaged and affordable local food.  I read this post by Sustainable Sabs, entitled “The Trash Jar Myth” and it really resonated with me.  I had never thought about it this way before.  Then there was this post by Renee Peters, The Truth Behind Zero Waste.

As we become more and more comfortable with this lifestyle, I currently don’t feel the need to document our output anymore.  Low waste is second nature to us at this point and we don’t need the motivation of a visual output.   I also feel uncomfortable at the thought of preventing others from even beginning this journey.  Everyone’s situation is different and valid.  Never feel guilty about using something plastic that you truly need.  It took us a long time to get to this point.  I came across the concept of zero waste in 2013 and it was really only until 2016 that we were able to seriously reduce our trash.  It took a lot of adjustment, lifestyle changes, and plenty of “failures” and frustration.  After completely burning out by going all in, I scaled back and started implementing one little swap at a time.  Key word: time.  Also, we live in an area with access to bulk and farmers markets which make things much easier and less stressful than someone living without access.  If you’re looking for some of these swaps, this post “beginning to reduce waste” has some good ones.  Also, these may be helpful: zero waste: on the go kit // zero waste mailbox // “zero waste” grocery shopping // “zero” waste bathroom //zero waste kitchen // simple low waste fridge // simple low waste makeup + skincare // simple finances.

Long story short, I took some photos and did a final tally of the trash jar and then dumped it all the trash can.  It felt right.  Here’s all of what we would have put into our trash can for 7 months, NOT including recyclables (mostly metal and paper and glass but there was also some plastic here too) and compostables.

trash jar

1st category:  food packaging.  Things like this slip in sometimes, from people giving it to our kids or just simply wanting a candy or not being prepared.

-2 vegan cheese wrappers that I thought was paper but is actually plastic lined

-2 coconut caramel wrappers bought on a long drive home

-4 kids bar wrappers from my grandma giving these to the kids

-gummy snacks that probably weren’t vegan that my daughters teacher passed out at school

-non dairy yogurt starter packets from my first foray into yogurt making

-K2 fermentation starter from kraut making experiments

-mushroom hot cocoa mix from an event I went to

-tempeh culture started packet

-popsicle wrapper handed out at a school event

food wrappers vegan trash

2cnd category:  random items

-tape from 2 copper pots I thrifted

-clear plastic shell from a birthday party toy frog.  this is what people though was a condom in the buzzfeed video lol.

-plastic wrapper from a replacement part

– plastic window from and envelope

-plastic outline of new insurance cards

-2 wristbands from an event

-various sticker backings

-lollipop plastic stick

-2 bandaids I wasn’t fast enough to refuse at the doctors office

-little bits of acrylic yarn trimmed from a friendship anklet

-old glossier lip balm tube

-2 broken hair ties

-a few broken hair bands

-synthetic ribbon from a gift

-plastic cocktail toothpick from going out- even though I asked for no straw it had this pick

-synthetic clothing tags

-tape from art projects from school

trash

3rd category: food seals and labels.  this is the hardest one to get around for me, sometimes I need things that arent in bulk and even if they’re in glass they often have these plastic seals.

-plastic lid top seals and shrink wrap seals, from vitamins, coconut oil, tahini, coconut aminos, kombucha, etc.

-plastic tags and ties from herbs and greens- sometimes I miss the farmers market and have to buy at the store, which have these plastic bits.

-plastic stickers and labels from reusing old kombucha jars

-a cork I thought was natural cork (which I can recycle for reuse at my local co-op) but was actually synthetic, boo.

trash jar

4th category:  produce stickers and tags

trash jar

-lots of produce stickers from watermelons, bananas, avocados, mangos, and other produce that I wasn’t able to buy at the farmers market.

-stickers from jars of bouillon, kombucha, mustard, gochujang, other food jar items

– plastic clothing tags (even though we shop secondhand theres still these tags)

-stickers from a day at a museum and volunteering

-houseplant tag

Also not picture but part of our trash:  a few tempeh wrappers (I didn’t want this to smell or mold in the jar even though I washed it well) and a straw that came in my drink that I somehow lost, a package of 4 açaí packets that I bought because I really wanted açaí bowls.  I’m 100% not perfect and I don’t expect myself or anyone else to be.  I think it’s a slippery slope trying to be all or nothing, for me at least.

I also had some plastic recyclables, including vegan yogurt containers (before we started making our own), miso containers (available in bulk 1.5 hours from us and sometimes I run out), a braggs aminos plastic bottle, plastic bread bags (theres a booth at the farmers market that sells day olds made from locally grown, milled, and baked bread run by small family) which I used for my grandmas dog poop bags lol, mascara container (recycle through Origins) and some incidentals that came into our house from guests.

It was a really fun experiment and very eye opening to keep our trash.  I think if you’re just getting started, keeping a journal of what went into your trash every day for a week is a great way to see what your biggest sources of trash are and make improvements in the most useful areas for you.  Never feel overwhelmed or discouraged, we all start somewhere and even the smallest swap is huge.  No need to purchase fancy products either, you can use what you have, thrift items, or sew things like produce bags from old sheets or pillowcases which are all actually less wasteful than buying new.  Please feel free to ask questions in the comments below or have a look around the blog to learn more!

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3 thoughts on “talking trash : final tally + thoughts”

  1. I’m so far aware from fitting my waste in a jar but i get inspired seeing others doing it. I recognise that the amount of waste we generate depends on a lot of factors, some of which we can control and others we can’t. I just try to do my best and don’t feel a pressure to compete. We’re all on the same journey, just at different points 🙂

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