The Waste Stream Audit (Week #1)
Who likes an audit? No one, but I promise, this one will be fun and revealing. We will start 2015 with a benchmarking and waste management awareness exercise. This week, we’ll concentrate on two of the “6 R’s”, Reduce and Recycle. If you already do it, take it to the next level! Since we did this year long challenge in 2012, there is so much more we can recycle! After twenty years of this myself, I have learned I can always do better!
After this waste-stream audit, keep your data. You can gauge where you are now and see your progress throughout the year as you change your personal economy, reduce your GHG emissions and your carbon footprint and gain social/cultural/environmental responsibility with your personal strategies. My suggestion? Get a Moleskine and record your sustainable journey, you will want to look back on it!!
Did you know that according to the EPA, Americans generated about 251 million tons of trash and recycled and composted almost 87 million tons of this material, equivalent to a 34.5 percent recycling rate. On average, we recycled and composted 1.51 pounds of our individual waste generation of 4.38 pounds per person per day.
That still leaves 64 million tons of trash or 30.66 lbs. a week per person that ends up in a landfill. Although we are all at different places in our consumptive habits, we can reduce that by 75% if you follow our sustainable lifestyle challenge throughout 2015.
First we can reduce, reduce, reduce. Think every time you consume, Do you I really need this? And if I do, what is the life of this resource? Can I reuse, repurpose, compost or repair it easily? When I am done with this resource, can it be given to another to use/enjoy? For those who really want to go down the ethical consumption rabbit hole, check out the ASMC (Acquisition Sourcing Moral Compass), I developed in 2012.
Are there ways you could be reducing or recycling your waste-stream by using your own shopping containers, or buying local at a CSA, purchasing only the food and goods that you need that are (or their packaging is) more earth friendly?
Could you lessen your contribution to the local landfill by composting for your garden or initiating a composting program as we have here in many North Shore communities? At our home we have two different ways of composting materials which has reduced our waste-stream by 8 lbs. or 6 kg a week for a family of two. (We will have an entire post on composting soon).
Can you leverage your influence with your local grocery store to carry organic products from local/regional manufacturers whose packaging is biodegradable? Can you initiate more sustainable practices at your workplace?
Secondly, we can recycle, recycle, recycle. Most communities throughout the US now have one container for all recyclables except batteries, electronics and styrofoam, which usually are collected on specific annual or monthly days or can be dropped off at your recycling center.
Soon, cities and rural areas will begin charging us by the pound for our waste, so let’s make sure we have the recycling basics down!
Here are the helpful EPA links below: Batteries, CFL’s (common Fluorescent lightbulbs), Food Waste, Glass, Hazardous Waste, Paper, Plastic (this includes the SPI resin identification coding), Tires, Used Oil, Used electronic devices, Other common recyclable materials
Now that you have recycled all that holiday trash and you’ve returned to your typical lifestyle, we want you to collect all your trash in your home and from your car.
Yes, that’s right, let’s take a good long look at all your trash! If you have children, they love to get involved in this exercise which can be a wonderful teaching moment!
First, weigh and measure the whole amount to gain awareness of how much waste you bring into your life with the choices you make every day.
Second, some of you may need a pair of disposable vinyl gloves for this project, go through it and separate it into 3 categories: recyclable material, compostable material and the rest (which you may have to specialty recycle or it ends up in a landfill).
Third, weigh and measure each category pile you’ve made. This time next year, we will compare this data. In the meantime, now that you are aware, you can begin to learn how to reduce your waste by making smarter consumption choices and employing a few new sustainable practices and tips that you will gain from this blog challenge throughout the year. In the weeks to come we will have the opportunity to learn, laugh, become more sustainable, meet new people, get out into nature and connect with a global population at some exciting related events.
Consider this 52 week challenge as a constructive way of designing a more enriching, more connected, healthier sustainable lifestyle in a world of quickly diminishing resources dealing with the effects of climate change.
We encourage you to tell your friends so they can follow us and the challenge too!
Please let us know how you are doing and share your thoughts in the comment area. (See that little dialog bubble up on the right?)
The Deep Dive:
The original official 20 minute video version of the Story of Stuff
A delightful brand new 18 page treatise on “stuff” by designer, Chris Thomas, the adult version of the “Story of Stuff”, You Have Too Much Shit
TED talks about recycling here. (10 minutes)
Educational recycling video (4.5 minutes) for kids here.
Misconceptions about plastic recycling here.
Plastic bag recycling here.
Outsmart your waste here.
Find out about Massachusetts composting workshops and programs here.
Learn more about your State’s composting regulations here.
Learn more about composting from the EPA here.
Art pictured above by Nick Demarco
If this is your first time here, learn more about the 52 week, 2015 TerraBluTeam challenge and exercise structure here.