Sunday is trash night in my neighborhood. Everyone sets out their bags and bins for collection, I take a stroll to look for good pickings, and marvel at the piles of refuse we consign to the heap each week.
Many of the houses around me are piled every Monday morning with three or four big black trash bags, each and every week the people that live there manage to create that much waste! I can't tell you how to fill those bags, it's a mystery to me, but I do know the things I do around my household to reduce waste...
The most important, as always, is to reduce what comes into the house! When shopping I (of course!) use cloth market bags. But I also use cloth bags for bulk foods and produce, or reuse old plastic bags. Buying bulk foods not only saves on a lot of packaging, it reduces wasted food. One buys what their household needs, and never too much.
If you focus on eating foods that can be bought in bulk or reusable packaging you also see a change in your diet. Avoiding excess packaging often means avoiding processed foods as well.
Naturally, not everything you want to buy comes in reusable packaging. From food to clothing to household goods almost everything has some kind of wrapping nowadays.
When you're shopping you can however consider the fate of the packing material. Is it cardboard? Paper? Annoying hard plastic blister packs that require bolt cutters to open? When you can pick the item that has minimal packaging, and is recyclable. While it's better to not create the waste in the first place, if you have to try and recycle it!
Ready for the really hippy-dippy stuff? Compost. Seriously. If you have even a small yard or garden the soil enrichment is priceless. There are many styles of bins, turners and boxes - or you can just pile stuff in a corner. It assuages some of the guilt of a ruined dish if you know it's being composted into next years garden. Separating out all the food waste will also keep your garbage from smelling!
I keep a small flip top trash can in the kitchen to collect funky food, my parents always kept a yogurt container. You need something with a cover for inside, then empty it regularly. The pile shouldn't ever smell outside, after dumping kitchen scraps just toss a little dirt or leaves on top to keep away flies.
There are also options for the yard-less. Under-counter vermiculture bins are perfect for apartments or small houses. Some progressive cities are creating municipal compost programs with curbside collection bins. If there's a community garden in your neighborhood they will often have a compost pile you can contribute to.
There are a lot of small things you can do to reduce your environmental impact, and managing your waste stream is a good place to start. Consuming with the thought in mind "how much garbage is this going to make?" shows companies that we care about packaging. Recycling everything that you can preserves natural resources. It's easy to have a much smaller bag on the street corner on Garbage Day!