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Trash the Trash

Trash the Trash
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My fiancée Samantha Smith and I recently became one of three finalist couples for Clay Hill Farm’s Green Wedding Giveaway. This yearly event provides a complete wedding package to a couple that demonstrates commitment to sustainability and the environment as well as inspiring others to explore their own shade of green. The winner is chosen based on public voting and a community giveback campaign. The main idea of the contest is to spread the message that “you don’t have to sacrifice your dream to make a difference.”

Part of our community giveback is a campaign to minimize the waste we create. We have been documenting our journey and adventures to eliminate trash from our home life and making suggestions for the small changes others can make to have a big impact. We discuss what we already do to reduce our trash, areas for easy improvement, and areas where we find it takes a bit more work to reduce waste.

On the night of March 6th we kicked off the campaign. We created the website and documented our trash that had accumulated in the prior week. Our typical waste for two people was about half of a bag each week. The bulk of our trash turned out to be food packaging, paper towels, and bathroom waste. Trash collection was the next day, so we had a clean slate to start with.

The easiest adjustment that had a huge impact was eliminating paper towels. A roll of paper towels had always been in reach in the kitchen, so whenever there was a need to dry or clean something, habit dictated reaching for them. Shortly after replacing the paper towels with a cloth towel, that habit was broken and trash saved from the wastebasket.

Another large impact came from minimizing food-packaging waste. During our next trip to the market, we focused on purchasing foods that had as little packaging as possible, or just packaging that was entirely recyclable. We also started to bring our own reusable containers for purchasing meat, fish, and deli items. Typically, these items all come in a plastic bag or styrofoam dish that just ends up in the wastebasket, often creating a foul smell. Many fish and deli packaging also suggests transferring the food from the deli packaging when you get home. So we figured; why not put the food in a reusable container straight from the deli? An unexpected benefit to purchasing food with minimal packaging was that we started eating healthier. We purchased more loose fruits and vegetables. Instead of shopping at chain supermarkets, we bought more food from smaller markets that tend to carry more food from local farmers.

The bathroom has been a difficult area to minimize waste. Tissues, cotton balls, Q-tips, and a few other common bathroom trash items are difficult to eliminate from daily use. However, many of these items can be composted if one has adequate space at home. There are still areas for potential waste savings in the bathroom, such as using a straight razor instead of a safety razor and using a bar based lather instead of shaving cream from a can.

This project has allowed us to take a step back and evaluate our way of life. Small adjustments and self-evaluation have shown us that small changes allow us to be a bit greener. Most of the things that we have done are very easy and do not take a lot of effort. Nearly everyone can make these simple changes in their own home. After three weeks, the total trash accumulated can fit into a potato chip bag. You can follow our TrashingTheTrash project online. We welcome all comments and suggestions readers may have as well as any tips and tricks that should be shared with others.

Public voting for Clay Hill Farm’s Green Wedding Giveaway ends April 2nd with the winner announced April 8th.

Please Note: This information was accurate at the time of publication. When planning a trip, please confirm details by directly contacting any company or establishment you intend to visit.

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Updated Thursday, March 31st, 2011

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