In May this year the Kitsap County commissioners included food waste in the yard waste pickup. Last month Alex and I found out about this and immediately ordered a yard waste container from Waste Management. Some items we compost ourselves – vegetable scraps, coffee grounds, and egg shells. Other items can only be composted in high temperature operations, like weeds, dairy and meat; now we can give those to WM to take to a commercial compost operation.
Hot diggity dog! We were so happy. We immediately repurposed our kitchen garbage can from landfill bound items to yard waste. Now we put out both the recycle can and the yard waste can every other week and haven’t yet put out the landfill can. There are still things we can’t recycle: plastic containers and bags, light bulbs, broken glass, but the volume of these is pretty small.
We have a good collection of canvas and recycled plastic shopping bags to use at the store, and I take my big basket to the farmer’s markets and refuse plastic bags, so we severely limit the plastic we accept. We buy bulk foods though and have been worried about the bags they come in; if we buy one bulk item per weekly shopping trip that’s 52 in a year, and even though we are washing and re-using them, that’s still a lot of non-biodegradeable bags. Last night at Whole Foods in Seattle I found muslin bags from Eco Sustainable with tags that say “deduct tare weight 0.63 oz.” I got so excited, I said to the checkout clerk, “If this works, it’s going to solve a huge problem!” I’m switching my local bulk food buying to whatever store accepts these bags.
The yard waste initiative suddenly makes a zero waste goal seem actually attainable. In the last two years we have changed our habits: we filter our water at the tap, re-use newspapers and cardboard for garden mulch, and make our own compost. Now when we consider buying an item with a lot of plastic packaging we look twice at whether we really need that thing and try to find alternatives. All these initiatives have substantially reducing the sheer volume flowing out of the household. I used to think of it the house partly as a waystation for the stream of stuff that moves through consumer society. We’re reclaiming our house, moving it out of that largely toxic stream, and repurposing it as a place where food is grown, cooked, stored, eaten, and returned to build the fertility of the homestead.
Every step we take in this direction makes our lives better.