Is it Easy Being Green?

My daily adventures in attempting an environmentally-friendly lifestyle

No Impact Experiment, part 2: Trash January 13, 2010

Filed under: composting,recycling,reducing waste,Reuse — isgreeneasy @ 5:56 pm
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The second week of my No Impact Experiment focused on one of my favorite subjects–trash. I think about trash a lot–maybe a little too much. But this gave me a chance to think about it even more! The instructions were to save all of my trash for one day and separate it into piles of stuff I used for more or less than 10 minutes, and then think about how it made me feel. Then I was supposed to put together a no trash travel kit consisting of a reusable water bottle and mug, tupperware, old t-shirt or handkerchief and reusable produce bags. Throughout the week I was to keep track of what I absolutely had to throw away and couldn’t find an alternative for.

So what I found out is a) I’ve been dropping the ball on reusing a durable coffee mug when I buy my americanos; b) I use a decent amount of tissues; c) food waste is definitely, by far, the thorn in my trashy side; and d) the answer to how creating trash makes me feel is: crazy. I weighed my waste one day and had 1.7 pounds, most of which was food waste like vegetable scraps, coffee grounds and egg shells, plus a hefty five pound turkey carcass (it was a couple of days after Thanksgiving and I made turkey soup). Food waste is heavy and takes up a lot of room in the garbage. Since starting my little composting project I’m able to compost some food waste, but because I have a small bin I can only compost a fraction of what I create, which is so frustrating! I looked into how No Impact Man was able to compost everything in the middle of NYC, and he had worm bin for some of the waste and dropped off the rest for a local environmental group that does composting.

I also looked through my recycling bin, because even though it’s not going to the landfill, these are still resources that I used for a short time and will be “down-cycled” to the point of not being able to be recycled anymore at some point. Our recycling bin always fills up fast, which is definitely better than throwing things in the garbage, but it still isn’t ideal. Many of those things could just not be there in the first place. I had one pound, 12 ounces of recycling from two days, and it consisted mostly of paper–newspaper, mail, packaging–and then also included a milk container, apple cider jug and a couple of glass jars.

So where can I make improvements? Since the trash week I’ve been much better at taking my own mug when I buy coffee; I’ve used it probably half of the time which isn’t too bad. I’ve also worked on reusing produce bags when I shop; I’ve been good about using durable shopping bags, but I’ve been pretty inconsistent with the produce bags. I’ve been thinking a little more about packaging, for instance, I’m trying to never buy meat in the plastic or styrofoam containers–instead I’m getting the paper-wrapped meats from the butcher counter. That will still create waste, but it’s not quite as evil as the plastic. Those are a few changes I’m working on so far, and I’m still thinking about other changes I can make. I don’t know if I’m willing to replace tissues with handkerchiefs, just don’t know about that one right now.

The unavoidable food scrap waste is just going to be an ongoing dilemma I fear. I am going to look into giving my food scraps to a local farm at my farmer’s market; I’ve heard that some of them may take organic waste. I’m at least working on wasting less food buy buying/cooking more realistic amounts, so hopefully that will help a bit. Fortunately my husband is a leftover-eating king, so he’s doing his part for the team! More trash-reducing updates to come!

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No Impact Experiment, part 1: Consumption November 25, 2009

Ok, I’ll admit it right away: I totally blew the No Impact Experiment. By Tuesday (I was supposed to start on Sunday) I hadn’t done anything and after finally reading the how-to manual, I was feeling overwhelmed and behind. I didn’t want to give up but needed to rethink how to do this. Thanks to a friend’s idea, I decided that what would work best for me would be to do one part each week, rather than each day. I wanted to give this thing proper attention and time and it’s a lot to do in a week. So, feeling much better I focused on the first topic last week: consumption.

The instructions for the consumption day were to: 1) create a list of the things I need to buy this week, then delete the items I can do without and figure out if I can get anything second-hand, borrow them or make them myself; and 2) try not to shop for new items (other than food). For this particular week this task turned out to be pretty easy; I didn’t feel like there was really anything I needed to buy beyond food. I avoided dangerous places like Target. I pulled out the needle and thread to mend some socks (my husband loves to call it darning for some reason; I guess it makes him feel old fashioned). I definitely enjoyed being a non-consumer for a week.

But that’s the thing–it was only for a week. No Impact Man did this for a year! That would be very, very hard. Just this week I bought several things to prepare for Thanksgiving. And then the TV broke, so we’ll be getting a new one soon. Although I’m not No Impact Man and won’t just “do without” no matter what, I did think about what I could do differently long-term. I could be shopping second-hand more (Craigslist is such a great resource–husband recently found an electric keyboard with all the bells and whistles for $20. It’s older but works great!), and although I don’t think I’m purchase-crazy, I could put some more thought into what I buy and think about whether I really need what I’m about to buy.

The No Impact Experiment shared this video that I saw awhile back that helps you get into the mode about thinking (probably way too much) about stuff:

 

Time for a carbon cleanse! November 15, 2009

Filed under: sustainability — isgreeneasy @ 7:09 pm
Tags: , ,

Lately I’ve been feeling like I’ve been back in coasting along-mode with my eco-conscious behaviors. I have started some new habits in the past several months, but I’ve been feeling like it’s time to revisit and kick it up a notch again. Since I was feeling like things needed a little shaking up I was intrigued to find out about NRDC and No Impact Man’s “No Impact Week” that starts today. They’re cleverly calling it a “carbon cleanse”–an abbreviated version of what No Impact Man did for a year. (He spent a year trying to live with no net environmental impact. Here’s some background on that project. It was a cool idea, and ended up turning into a book, documentary and non-profit project.)

The words “no impact” are intimidating, and also impossible, but I guess the idea is that it’s something to strive for. So, I signed up and I’m ready to go. So far I’ve just filled out an online survey that consisted mostly of questions about my environmental behaviors. Interestingly, there was a section that focused on quality of life issues; it made me get more reflective than I expected to when I had to answer questions about how happy I am with my life. I was wondering why those kinds of questions were included and I imagine it has to do with material possessions not equaling happiness, the satisfaction of simplyfing and ideas along those lines–the kind of stuff that sounds great and makes so much sense but doesn’t always translate easily to daily life.

We’ll see if this week-long experiment will have much effect or spur me on to create some changes that I haven’t gotten around to or just haven’t taken the leap to do. I have a lot of questions running through my mind right now (Will I have time to do these things? Will I be able to afford it? Will I have to do things that will label me an eco-freak? Will I be told to do something I just can’t do that day, or give up something I just don’t want to give up?) but I’m ready to give it a shot. Want to join me? You can sign up here.

Here’s a video that gives a good idea of what the No Impact Week is:

Ok, now I have to go figure out what I’m supposed to today. And tomorrow. Yikes!