January 20, 2012

A No Waste Way of Life

Perhaps I've been a bit slow to figure this out, but one day, while we were getting ready to make a trip to the recycling center / landfill, it occurred to me that the only things we throw away come from things we purchased, not from things we produce on the homestead. While we waste nothing that we grow, gather, produce, or raise for ourselves, our trash bags were filled with wrapping, packing, boxes, containers, broken parts, broken items, all from things we bought. On top of that, I am required to buy those trash bags just to throw the stuff away. This is frustrating on many levels. As a conscientious inhabitant of the earth, it goes against my sense of responsible stewardship to throw anything away. As a consumer, it's frustrating to know I've paid for every scrap of packaging and filler I have no use for, because those costs are passed on to the consumer. Plus, it takes time and fuel to dispose of the stuff, either mine, or a disposal company's (with the additional cost of paying for their service). As a homesteader it can be downright discouraging, because it means I'm still far too dependent on the consumer system.

Industry's answer to this recycling. Many products and packaging are now manufactured with recycled materials. Well, we should have been doing that all along. But have you noticed how these products almost always cost more? In my way of thinking, if the manufacturers are really wanting to do something to help the environment, shouldn't these cost less, to encourage everybody to buy them? Instead, it is expected that we will willingly pay more, for the sake of saving the planet. I don't get the thinking here. If their bottom line is money, doesn't it follow that mine is too?

The eye opener for me was when we lived in Florida. I was researching staring an herb farm, and somehow got a free subscription to a small business owners magazine. The first issue was about businesses going green. This was right up my alley, so I read it from cover to cover. When I set the magazine down, I was dismayed. Not one article, column, tip, ad, or letter to the editor, ever once mentioned environmental concerns, responsibilities, or motivations. The entire gist of the magazine was about profit, and concerns about losing profit because "green" products are more expensive to manufacture. The advice focused on advertising tips, semantics, gimmicks, how to balance the cost with short cuts, and using environmentally friendly products to bait customers.

Something else that bothers me, is that thanks to advertising, the media, and a few well meaning but out of touch environmental groups, there is a trend to make the consumer feel guilty about destroying the planet. While we do have responsibility in regards to our personal habits, I can't help but point out that in our modern way of life, we can only choose from what's offered to us. If I go to the store and am offered six brands of toilet paper, all wastefully manufactured, what can I do. I doubt the greenest person on earth is going to deny themselves toilet paper just to make a point. I know that's a silly example, but if we don't have a choice, or can't afford the "right" choice, then why are we being blamed for the problem?

I think most of us will agree that our 21st century lifestyle, with all it's choices and conveniences, comes with a price. That price comes in the form of overflowing landfills and pollution from the byproducts of the manufacturing process. Recycling is one good answer, assuming the recycling process is more energy efficient than the manufacturing process, which it isn't always. Even so, it is only a new innovation because trash and garbage are a relatively new innovation. Before the industrial age, folks had less. In having to make do with less, they were creative and clever with what they had. They produced very little actual waste. This was their way of life.

Now, our economic system is based on manufacturing rather than agriculture, and on ever increasing profits and "consumer spending," rather than meeting needs. Consequently, we have become trapped in a buy / waste cycle, so that the only way to truly waste less, is to buy less. However, we are repeatedly told that confident consumer spending is the key to economic health and growth, the key to pulling us out of the recession. When folks stop purchasing, companies lay people off, jobs become scarce, and we approach economic disaster. So. More buying = more waste = destroy the planet. Less buying = less waste = economic disaster. What a conundrum!

Such realizations demand action, and I'm no exception. I'm not however, going to jump on any bandwagons. With all respect to those for whom they are important, movements are not the answer. Not that they don't stem from good motives, but movements tend to turn into advertising ploys, fads, and political weapons. I say, let's just start doing what we ought to have been doing all along, and training our children and grandchildren to do the same.

What we ought to be doing as consumers, is learning how to make do with less. How to do without. How to be creative with what we have. How to be content with what we have. How not to be suckered by advertising, fads, and trends. How to resist impulse buying. How to analyze whether or not we really need a thing. How to accurately appraise the value of that thing. How to do more for ourselves, grow more for ourselves, make more for ourselves. You frugal folks understand this. And the economy? Well, I've said it before; the economy never should have been based on a consumer / profit system in the first place.

Is a no waste way of life a realistic goal? Is it something we can actually achieve? Honestly, unless given enough time, I don't know. I do know however, that without a goal, no progress is made, and that this is an area in which I still have freedom to make choices. So, no challenges, no invitations to join me, just sayin' what's on my mind. Something for each of us to think about.

46 comments:

  1. A while ago I came across a blip on the internet about a family who produced 3 pounds of garbage per 6 months, or something like that. It was amazing. Unfortunately, I don't remember where I saw it anymore.
    I hate waste as well. I hate it most when it comes to throwing out something that I can no longer use, but can't donate. We used to have bamboo blinds in our last house. They don't fit this house's windows, so I tried to donate them to Goodwill, who won't take them. So I was left with the choice to throw them out, or find something else to do with them. I chose to find something else to do with them. That's the kind of stuff that grates on me most. However, I hate all the packaging that other things have on them as well. After a Christmas at my parents' house (big buyers), I could just cry at the number of trash bags.
    What's the solution? I don't know. Maybe live smaller? If you come up with a good plan, let me know. I hate throwing stuff out. All I can ever see is that stuff living for years and years in a landfill and piling up and up. Very discouraging.

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  2. Although I like the idea of "home" recycling and doe it as much as possible, the "industrial" recycling of products has always made me wonder if there is more fuel / resources being used to recycle than it would to just remake the product. But I agree, it drives me nuts to toss, even into the recycle bin, containers. Like if you wanted coffee (or pasta or whatever), why couldn't you just go to the store and there would be a big vat that you could fill your own container with?
    And the fact there are still tons of perfectly good glass containers going into landfills.

    Like you said, it's not going to get any better unless we teach our children how to REALLY recycle.....the corporations are still there to make a profit (over environmental reason) and the government mandates usually cost taxpayers too much money.

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  3. Reminds me of the story of stuff.

    http://www.thesimplefarm.com/2010/12/freedom-from-stuff.html

    I find now that I don't live that close to stores (costco mainly was our nemisis) we don't buy stuff nearly as much and therefore don't throw nearly as much stuff away. I don't feel deprived although I do miss taking my family out to dinner tasting all the Costco treats.ha.

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  4. I agree there is so much more waste today,than in years gone by,I don't remember my grand parents having even half as much trash as we today do,And I wonder as well if recycling is more cost effective as we are told ! Blessings Jane

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  5. It's a "Dammed if you do....Dammed if you don't" kind of thing!
    Recycling is a pain some times. But with no curb-side pick-up, I load up the stuff and take it to the drop-off point ( more time and money (gas) spent to get it there.
    I made a huge score on my last trip, But it amazed me at the stupidity of it all!
    As I was placing the recycle materials into the dumpster, What did I see.....Four unopened cases of canning jars!!!!. Two quart size and two pint size, still with the plastic wrap on!!! I could not belive it. What a find!
    But as I was pulling them from the dumpster, the guy that works there ask me what I was doing? He told me that I was suppost to be putting things in, not taking them out!!
    I explained that this is my way of recycling and a waste of something I could use!
    We talked for awhile and when I left, he told me that if I ever saw something I though I could use, I could take it!
    Amazing!

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  6. I don't think there is a chance of any real changes being made unless/until our society undergoes a huge revolution on so many levels.

    All we can do as individuals is continue to strive toward our personal goals of working for a no waste way of life. Unfortunately, the masses who do not think this way are too . . . massive.

    Excellent post!

    P.S. Carolyn, our hometown natural foods co-op has bins of bulk foods where you can fill your own containers and by-pass all the unnecessary packaging. (And save a bit of money!) Sadly, the biggest sellers in the store are pre-packaged foods that are the fastest and easiest for shoppers to throw into their shopping carts. See what I mean about the masses?

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  7. Great food for thought, as usual, Leigh. Our chosen way of life is to continue to reduce our waste, choose carefully before we buy, and reuse whatever we can and donate whatever we can't.

    I wholeheartedly agree that we should pass these values and lifestyle choices on to our children and their children - it will be their world very shortly.

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  8. I agree with your post 100%. Most specially with the concept that we have to teach our children how to make do with less. It is something I have struggled with constantly in this "must have" society. We have chosen as a family to buy less stuff, and to concentrate our spending on a few quality items rather than a whole bunch of "stuff". The problem comes from outside of the house. They earn "prizes" at school that are made of plastic. Extended family bring over the latest "must have item", and how do you take it away once the child has received it? If we can teach the next generation how to make do with less, than maybe we have a fighting chance.
    Thank you so much for sharing this post.

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  9. Jocelyn, I would really like to know how they did that! Other than the things I mentioned in the 2nd to the last paragraph of this post, I don't have much else of a plan. I think it's lifestyle changes that are needed, as others have said. Unfortunately we are in a major house upgrade and establishing our homestead, both of which take money and make more waste in the packaging!

    Carolyn, the eye opener for me with industrial recyclying was when I read Food Not Lawns by Heather Flores. It takes more energy to recycle those plastic shopping bags than to make them!

    Doug, great video and great goal on your part. I'm going to do something similar, once our kitchen is done and I can get to my boxes of packed away kitchen stuff. After I weed through that, I plan to do the same with everything else!

    Jane, that's exactly what I'm talking about. And I agree about wondering about industrial recycling. There just seems to be something hypocritical with the entire system.

    Tom, great score! Actually, it's a shame you were even questioned about rescuing those boxes of canning jars. If somebody can reuse something, they should be encouraged to take it!

    Mama Pea, good point about the natural food store. We do the same when possible. And I agree it will take a major change of thinking in this country to actually change anything. Unless of course the country does undergo an often predicted collapse, in which case they'll likely be nothing to buy anyway.

    Debbie, I think if everyone would do as you are, it would make a huge difference. All those little things do add up.

    Natalie, it's definitely a problem. I think as parents and grandparents, if our kids and grandkids see us happy and contented with less stuff, it just may plant a seed. I'd like to think so anyway.

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  10. @Tom Stewart. I'm proud to admit that my regular trip to the dump often ends up with me bring back as much or more than what I took there. Our garbage dump people are also really good to set aside things that look useful to others coming to drop things off and are happy to find new homes for garbaged items.

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  11. http://www.storyofstuff.org/

    I feel somewhat better because on trash day I see that my neighbors are throwing away a lot more things than I am. But then I have to look at my overflowing recycling bins that my husband takes to the recycling center.

    I would like to buy items in bulk with my own containers like someone mentioned above, but then the "germophobe" in me creeps out in thinking of how many people before me put their hands into that bin.

    Our society is very much based on consumers using products and throwing away the wrapping (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M1t90Bg9wAw)

    I'm trying.

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  12. I fill at least one large paper grocery bag a week of just junk mail and ads the mailman delivers every week and then have to pay to have it recycled.

    Last time I was at the thrift stores and bought some glassware they didn't have any paper to wrap it up for protection. I am going to start saving ads and newspapers and taking it all to the thrift stores instead of paying to recycle.

    Most of the stores in this area have some bulk bins, mainly pinto beans. However I would never by from a bulk bin ......... why???? I see parents let their children run their hands thru all the beans like the bin is a playground. I know beans will be washed, soaked and cooked but can't get past the dirty little hands playing in the beans.

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    1. I have that problem with the fruits and vegetables.

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  13. I agree with you. We need to learn to live with less "stuff." In this society, epecially in the US we buy too many cheap things and then throw them out when they stop working(which doesn't take long.) I was just reading a book about a guy who built his house out of materials he found that other people were throwing out. Amazing. I have been thinking about producing less waste myself. We throw out way to much garbage for a family of five. Lots to think about. :) Thanks for the inspiration.

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  14. One of my pet peeves is the inability to get things repaired. With the current buy it, break it, throw it out society, it is impossible to find anyone who can repair small appliances, etc. And I'm no good at figuring it out and DH is totally uneducated about how to fix things. I grew up on a farm where things got fixed, mostly because we didn't have the money to buy new stuff.

    We have a collection of electronics that will be taken to a recycle pickup tomorrow. Some of them work just fine but we can't get the drivers for them anymore for the newer computers. Therefore, we can't use them. One printer that I love has one tiny broken part, but I can't find it anywhere and the office supply place can't find the part.

    And, I personally think plastic bags should be illegal!!!!

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  15. I think we need to have personal commitment. Make do , get by or go with out is practically my motto. I am really working on recyclying kitchen waste. I have a compost bin but working forward to a bokishi bin. My recyclying ceter is amazing. They take everything from floresent light bulbs to batteries. They help it to not be such an excuse. I also dabble in freecycle a little. I have a long way to go. I have a dear friend who is really good at re-purposing things. I am getting better and better at that as well. We are not responsibile for all just a small portion. Influence can make a differance. Even if it is small....Good read.Melissa

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  16. Doug, that's the way all garbage dumps should be!

    Renee, yeah, germs are a concern and a reason to be cautious. I agree with that somewhat, but on the other hand, I can't imagine a totally sterile world the way some folks think it should be! One of my pet peeves is when the wrapping and packaging is sturdier than the product itself!

    TL, excellent idea about the ads and newspapers. It's a shame you are forced to pay for recycling, it's that same mindset I was talking about. Unfortunately I think it discourages folks from doing it, though I'm sure it pays for the cost of reproducing it.

    Aleise, sounds like a really good book! I agree there is too much cheap stuff being sold. Another thing that bugs me is products that require refills. It's like they want to guarantee themselves an income from their product.

    FFG, agreed! And yes, electronics are an especial problem. Not only do they break easily, but they become outdated just as fast. My printer is broken too. I may just not bother replacing it.

    Melissa, excellent points. Goals and commitment to them are key, I agree. Freecycle is a great resource too. Thanks for bringing that up. And thank you for mentioning Bokishi composting! I'd heard of this but didn't have a name to do a search. Something I need to pursue as well.

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  17. Leigh, excellent post! I am not into the "green movement", but believe we should take care of our little piece of this earth. Like Carolyn, I would love to be able to go to the store and have bins of things (coffee, flour, etc) that I can just fill my own containers with.
    And you are dead on with the fact that recycled is more expensive. I will not pay $2 more for a ream of paper for my printer just because it is recycled.

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  18. Great post, Leigh. Living in the country we find ourselves shopping online as we get settled into our new place after living in an RV for twelve years. This not only saves fuel to drive to town forty miles away but is convenient. But we're guilty in filling up the landfills with corrugated cardboard boxes! I feel badly about that.

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  19. I think that we do have choices. But many people today do not want to be inconvenienced in the very least to make the better choice. People today feel entitled and only want to do what is easiest for them, never thinking of what the consequence of buying that product is. Buy it and throw it away, repeat. For example I know several people who do use reusable toilet paper. They use cut sheets of flannel and wash them no differently than you would a cloth diaper. Same with reusable feminine products. And people are surprised by this. Why? That is the way my Grandparents did it and theirs before. There was no such thing as throwing paper down the outhouse. So it is all about being responsible for ourselves.

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  20. Well, I just came off of a big political discussion on fb, so I apologize in advance... LOL

    No, actually, I think it's a balance between convenience and consequence. If we don't use those plastic bags, some bog company goes out of business. But then, do you know anyone local who would be happy to make canvas bags - I'd rather pay them for those than waste the plastic, plus it supports the local community.

    If you want convenience foods, maybe take a different approach. Is there a neighbor you know who wants the same? Maybe one night a week you make each other dinner - your neighbor's having lasagna? She makes an extra one (in your pan) for you to take home. Convenient! You're making chicken a la king? Make one for her, too, to take home.

    I suppose that's applicable to any type of product we purchase.

    Anyway, I'm trying to reduce, I think it's appalling how much trash we can produce in a week. I suppose it will be easier after I move to the country this year and actually CAN'T go to the store every day when I "need" something. Priorities are a-changing!

    ~Beth

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  21. Wow, Leigh, from chicken songs to tough talk about the economy of waste!

    I remember this article from Sunset about a family that a practically zero-waste system: http://www.apartmenttherapy.com/5-steps-toward-a-zerowaste-hom-135711

    @Natalie above: we rage about the school prizes! Those are the worst!!!

    We've been doing our best to teach or kids about waste and where we've started is with the quality of the things we buy. This seems to work well as it resonates with the kids. Now I hear them complaining about how something is "disposable" and cheap. How it comes with more than its own weight in packaging.

    And there's more "weight" than just the physical packaging. There's the environmental cost and the human cost too. And the kids are starting to get that as well. They're getting to be proactive...

    We produce one paper garbage bag of trash each week. Not bad for a family of four; however, I know that's deceptive. A lot of the garbage goes into the recycling. But as you pointed out, it takes energy to recycle.

    But I try my best to add in some positive angles when I'm talking to the kids. I want them to be concerned, but not defeated and hopeless. I think back to the 70's and how easy it was for youth to feel the world was helpless. I want my kids to think they can have an impact, that they can make a positive difference.

    Some days that's harder than others... :)

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  22. This is the way I try to live my life - focusing on reduce, then reuse, and only then recycle.

    A few months ago I read a brilliant quote, which went along the lines of "every pound (or dollar) you spend is a vote for the way you want the world to be". I find it focuses the mind brilliantly when considering a purchase. It's been especially apt for me, having just moved house and needed to reconfigure all of my storage, including purchasing furniture items.

    I feel a post in my long-neglected blog on this, but I've managed to reduce my waste to less than half a grocery bag per week. Moving house generated one shopping bag's worth of waste and one cardboard box. But I realise I may be a special case.

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  23. My partner and I are doing our best to start a truly sustainable urban aquaponic farm at present, and it's truly discouraging to encounter the barriers to true progress that our economy imposes.

    We believe that in order to really make a difference, our farm has to be environmentally sustainable, socially responsible, and financially self-sustaining. It's difficult enough to get it to the break-even point when food is so devalued in this country, with the market flooded with herbs and lettuce grown in CA and Mexico with unsustainable water supplies and questionable labor practices. We've managed to get it there, but we still are encountering too many people who believe that it's not making enough money yet to be attractive, and push us to take shortcuts that compromise our values.

    I never realized how much our economy is based on greed until I started this venture. It's nearly impossible to get funding for a business without having to agree to screw someone or the environment over. Our values seem so out of line with the situation we find ourselves in. It's a shame that we haven't woken up to the situation changing in front of our eyes. We need to start cooperating and working together if we want to survive as a species, and I'm not sure that's going to happen until something big and bad enough scares us into changing our habits.

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  24. I love this post. In our home we try to live as waste free of a life as possible, too. I have often shared your frustration. I love that you are thinking about these issues and provoking us to do the same. Thank you!

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  25. I love how often you make me think, and what great comments so far. While I don't think that a totally waste free life is possible in our society, it is important to minimize the waste. Our dump unfortunately prohibits us from rescuing things that I might like to, but I manage to get by with 1 trip there a year. What can be fed to the animals goes there, or to the compost heap. I run the burn barrel for junk mail and boxes. I'm not ready to give up toilet paper either, and the idea of making reusable is creeping me out more than the kids playing in the bulk bins at the store.

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  26. Funny timing here, right after I read this today there was a family on the view talking about zero waste. Their Blog is http://thezerowastehome.com/ this may be the one Jocelyn referred to. One thing you would need to do to succeed her way is to shop at meat markets that have a butcher, and groceries that have bulk items, she takes her own containers. And go to a bakery instead of a supermarket, taking a pillow case to carry her bread. Also farmers markets where you can take your own bags. It is an interesting concept that requires a change in livestyle, maybe we can all start one step at a time and make some serious changes.

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  27. Oh, I love when you write these eloquent, thought-provoking posts! I've noticed a similar trend in our home--the more we make here ourselves, the less we buy, and the less waste we create.
    -Jaime

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  28. Stephanie, thanks. I think the green movement has become a gimmick and a fad, which is a change because the principles are important ones.

    Janice, yes, living farther from town does cut down on it in one way. Of course the delivery wo/men still have to do the driving and you're right about the packaging. Still, cardboard can be used for mulch or compost!

    Jane, that's the real crux of the matter isn't it, that some folks will refuse even though they have the right information and knowledge. I know people like that too, it's almost "in your face."

    Funny, I used cloth diapers with both babies and am familiar with washable feminine products, but never thought about cloth toilet paper. Something to think about.

    Beth, it seems that there are a lot of little ways to actually make a difference. It just takes a little creative thinking and cooperation. And it's true, living farther away from town means less trips to it!

    Badgerpendous, well, I'm versatile. :) Thank you for the link! And good for you for training your children in the way they should think about this. I agree about not going overboard, either way actually. Sounds like yours have good heads on their shoulders.

    Geodyne, interesting quote, and so true actually. I think it does take a conscientious effort to reduce waste, but obviously well worth it.

    Cobaltandindigo, interesting observations. Sad really, it just shows what I read about in that magazine, that the bottom line is always about money.

    I'm not sure some folks will ever get it, no matter what flies in their face. Those with that sense of entitlement are also very good at putting the blame on everybody else.

    Michelle,thank you! I think it's something a lot of us are working on.

    Sue, well, I'm glad to hear that. Sad about your dump, ours is like that too, but there is an area to leave things others might want, also a bin for a local thrift shop. Like you, we find another use for everything we can. Only the leftovers go to the dump. I reckon we make a run with trash and recyclables every 2 or 3 weeks.

    Tombstone Livestock, thank you for the link! Interesting ideas, but doable. As you say, it's lifestyle change which is sometimes hard to change. Still, new habits are well worth it.

    Jaime, it's encouraging isn't it? And another reason why our goal is as much self sufficiency as possible.

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  29. Thanks for a thought provoking post. Yes, future generations should be taught to be responsible citizens. Compare to my neighbors, I generate very little waste (I am big on composting)My veg garden provides me with produce for most of the year and I try to reuse and recycle whenever possible, still I generate a certain amount of trash.

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  30. Right on. Have you ever read "Serve God Save the Planet" by Matthew Sleeth? I love that book. You might be interested...

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  31. Leigh, so well said. As I walked around our farm the other day I started looking at all the "junk" and realized whata gold mine of "resources" we had been collecting right here. THIS is the year we change things, we save things we grow things, we preserve things. THIS is the year it will be different, and your blog had so much to do with that decision. Thanks for all you do.

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  32. I find youtube is excellent for getting how to repair stuff videos. I was able to change the screen in my phone and avoid throwing it out, thanks to youtube. My friends think im cheap and maybe so, however I enjoy repairing broken items or reusing them for another project, If at all possible. Even doing this i'm still creating to much trash. Something to continue working on for sure.

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  33. Norma, if only more people would compost! It really does cut down on waste. So does reusing and recycling. But you're right, it's hard not to generate any trash.

    Neal & Laura, no! Thanks for the recommendation. So many folks seem to think that God is anti-environment, though that makes no sense at all. As Believers, we are called to be stewards of His earth.

    Donna, thank you for that! It's amazing how we can inspire one another. I know you all will make good progress on this. And blog about it to inspire the rest of us!

    GIL, yes! Thank you for mentioning that. That's the best answer to broken stuff and YouTube is an excellent resource. I'm impressed you learned how to change the screen on your cell phone!

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  34. Oh man do I here ya! Thanks for the post. I my family saved a years worth of garbage,
    Separating it before hand to make disposal easier later and wow. Most was recyclables and packaging. After that we got our garbage production down from 4 32gal cans down to two. And now that we live in the country its about 1 1/2.

    We do use store bough garbage bags but not many. We use empty feed bags mostly and then put a small bag of garbage on top so the city will pick it up.

    What changed? Eating out less, buying bulk items that aren't individually wrapped. The grocer out here still has 5 pound flour sacks of usable printed fabrics. ( make food from scratch). Stop buying and do more trading. I'm now very much a barter kind of gal. I trade EVERYTHING.

    We are finishing our house, So far everything used ( sinks tubs cabinets etc).

    I even traded goats for insulation. I'm saving all glass bottles.and jars for a wall/ window project.

    Cardboard boxes are being used as seed starters and raised beds ( even recycling at a center or through local disposal.has a carbon footprint).

    Its still yucky to me. I still feel guilty dropping things in the bin.
    I appreciate this post more than you know. I'm going to use it to manipulate Lover into seeing things my way ( aka the right way).

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  35. Leigh,
    What an excellent discussion. You make some great points. It is too bad that it isn't flashy or sexy to use/purchase less, and to do the things we ought to be doing anyway.
    I wasn't aware that stuff with recyclable packaging cost more.
    Have you noticed that even if the packaging is recyclable, as least some portion of said packaging isn't recyclable, like plastic bubble packaging on cardboard, or plastic lids made of a non-recyclable plastic while the rest of the plastic package is recyclable?
    On thing that really annoys me is planned obsolescence. I would really prefer to get my small appliances repaired, rather than purchasing new. But many products are planned to become obsolete, so that they are not supported by the company, or some silly plastic part breaks and it is a lot more expensive to repair the thing than buy a new one. This is to stupid, but it is how companies ensure that they will be able to sell their products in the future.
    Is the solution to go back to an agrarian society?

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  36. I recently stumbled upon your blog, and find your writings on self sufficiency really great. I currently live and work as an English teacher in Japan, and often am shocked by how much packaging and waste comes with the goods I buy. My small town Japan seems much more tuned into recycling than my small town home in West Virginia. Very interesting indeed. Glad I found your blog!

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  37. Betty, yes, feed bags make great garbage bags! Thanks for mentioning that. I'm fascinated that you can still get fabric flour bags. That is so neat. And hurray for bartering, and excellent resource.

    Eleanor, thanks! Good point about packaging. It's annoying to have that of better quality than the product itself. And I agree about planned obsolescence. It is a major pet peeve!

    A. Bear, thank you! And welcome. So interesting about your life in Japan. Interesting too, how they approach this same problem. It is very universal.

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  38. Thanks for visiting my blog. Love your post here! We're not 0 Waste but we're getting there with each skill we learn. We've been working hard at this for 7 years. Every time we pick up a product we ask ourselves if we can make it ourself? If we can use it again? Can it be repaired? And most importantly do we really need it? One product at a time we've eliminated purchasing with all the extra wrapping that goes with them. And as far as electronics I know this will sound blasphemous but they're not really needed. We have a TV but it will not be replaced. Our only computer is a small lap top and it serves us just fine. A good solid book is more friendly than a hunk of plastic Kindle in my hand LOL Not judging anyone else here... just saying that these decisions can be made and still live a very happy and fulfilling life!

    Oh, and flannel TP is much more nice to the bumm! We love it and will never go back to paper.

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  39. Thank you for the return visit, excellent comment, and following! This is exactly what I'm talking about and how each of us should be thinking about our purchases. You're right that it is a journey, but your years at it are encouragement for the rest of us.

    I agree about electronics, and real books! I sometimes wonder how much of the average budget is eaten up by ongoing costs for telecommunication services for example, as well as the gizmos to keep up. Something to think about for sure.

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  40. I love this post. It really makes me think! I completely agree with everything you said. But I also commend you on agreeing that society, as a whole, should be blamed, not the guilt trip that a lot of groups aim at individual people. Sometimes I wish we could shut fast food restaurants and malls for a month just to show people that there's a life outside of prepared consumerism.

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  41. Meg, thanks! I think if you shut down all those fast food joints and malls people would panic! I honestly wonder how many folks are emotionally prepared for something like that, if it happened for real.

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  42. Hi leigh!
    I was just browsing and came upon this post. I wonder if you have ever heard of the zero-waste girl? She makes most of her own products and saves all her containers to reuse some other way! She has a blog that I think you will find very interesting!
    http://www.trashisfortossers.com/?m=1

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  43. I remember when my grandma took me to the store with her to get flour. She complained the whole time about what she was going to do with that "damned paper bag" I didn't understand until later that when she used to buy flour it came in a cloth bag that she used to make clothes, quilts and other home things with. She got multiples uses from things like that. She also told me about the milk delivery and how they came back to get the bottles. She said that they used to buy apples in a big barrel that grandpa would use later to store squash, potatoes or something int he root cellar. When they got too many of them he would cut them and make planters. Our generation has been spoiled and trained to think that we have no say. You are voting with your money. Tell the companies what you want and then don't buy from them until they give it to us. Make an effort to go to the co-op and get bulk things in your own container. I know a lot of people don't have all these options, but just do the best that you can. And try to do better as you move along.

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    Replies
    1. And look how quickly that happened across the generations - almost no time at all. If only the trend would reverse as quickly.

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