a boots-on-the-ground view of the change that's a-foot


by Tao Oliveto, Carrboro, NC

If you’ve been chosen to Step It Up, Keep Winter Cool, Buy Less Stuff, Flick Off, take the Nature Challenge or, just get sane by consuming less in your own way, you will very soon notice something wonderful happening right in front of your eyes…

You will be creating less trash – a lot less. The good news for you is that you will spend less money, fill far less trash bags and spend less time carrying stuff to the curb, dumpster or recycling bins.

The bad news is that it will hit you – hard – just how much trash you created and sent to the landfill in the first place. Ouch. Yeah. As I’ve said before, the truth sometimes hurts.

Once you recover from this trash-truth, you’ll be able to enjoy the fact that you’ve taken an important step towards a less chaotic, materialistic lifestyle and moved towards more simplicity, happiness and sustainability. Share your revelation with friends and family. You could even flaunt your trash-less state in front of neighbors. You will smile because you are being the Change.

In the U.S. today, we (residents, businesses and municipal facilities) dispose of 251 million tons of trash per year or, 4.6 pounds per person per day. Even more shocking is that as much as 82% of what ends up in landfills in this country could easily be composted or recycled. Below are approximate percentages of landfill materials:

34% paper

14% yard trimmings

12% food

11.7% plastic

5% metals

5% glass.

Currently only 32.5% (of 82%) of this material is recovered for recycling or composting. The remaining 20-something percent of materials in the landfills is wood, rubber, textiles, some of which could be recycled as well.

If just 1 million people cut down their trash by 10%, we could reduce our yearly CO2 emissions by as much as 50,000 tons. PEOPLE WHO TRASH LESS HAVE MORE FUN

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4 Responses to “Trash-Less”

  1. Greg Says:

    Fantastic! Connie and I do a wonderful job of recycling. In fact, it takes us months to fill up the trash can to be picked up by the city. We recycle paper, glass,plastic, etc. and we compost and dry our clothes on the line. The heat is on at 60 and 58 at night. We will move it to 62 when it is real cold.


  2. Jeannie Says:

    **Sigh** I just moved to an area where paper is not recycled. It’s very hard to revert to putting it in the trash!! I wonder what I can do besides write a letter to my representative? Let me know if you have any ideas. Unfortunately this is only a temporary spot for me or I would roll up my sleeves and try to do more…

  3. Sami Grover Says:

    Jeannie – do you have a compost heap? Scrunched up paper is an awesome way to aerate your compost, and also feed it carbon (compost heaps should be way more carbon than nitrogen, but unfortunately most kitchen scraps are mostly nitrogen rich).

  4. Jeannie Says:

    Sami, I am trying to talk the people I’m staying with into composting. I think if I help them build a bin, they will be into it. The problem is not only at home, but my employer (I work for an accounting firm!) generates lots and lots of paper. Fortunately most of it’s filed and archived for long periods of time, but I can’t compost all the work scraps I don’t think. I can definitely compost the house stuff though, so thanks for the info. I knew it was okay to compost paper, but I didn’t know it was so good for the heap!
    Will spread the word to composters around here about the paper!

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