How Our Family Only Generates 10 Pounds of Trash a Month

One of my minor pet peeves is driving around the neighborhood on trash day and seeing neighbors with multiple trash cans at the curb. With all the waste that people generate, it’s no great wonder why so many landfills are filled to capacity.

According to the EPA, while Americans are recycling one-third of their waste, the average person is still generating about 86 pounds of garbage a month. By comparison, our entire family only generates about 10 pounds a month. While we aren’t recycling Nazis, we are very frugal with our spending which is the biggest reason why our trash output is so low. A spending philosophy of “Use it up, wear it out, make do, or do without” naturally leads to less trash.

Here are a few of the ways we keep trash out of the garbage bins.

Buy in bulk. Buying one large container of whatever generates a lot less trash than buying a bunch of smaller containers. We have also noticed that many bulk items are packed in recyclable or reusable materials while the smaller items are not. I also buy my grocery staples by the bin and package them in reusable bags. This eliminates trash entirely.

Cook from scratch. Processed food (bagged salads, rice mixes, mac n cheese, brownie kits etc) are sealed in non recyclable plastic pouches and then boxed for convenience. Using scratch ingredients to prepare meals produces less waste and is healthier and cheaper too.

Find uses for yard waste. We drop the grass clippings on the lawn, toss leaves & garden prunings into the compost, save the wood for the fireplace, and run smaller branches through a chipper to be turned into mulch.

Use it up. The most basic way of avoiding waste is to “use it up” until it’s gone. This includes leftover food, leftover paint, art supplies, fabric, and anything else that leaves us with pieces and parts that might otherwise would be thrown out.

Donate . What is good enough to sell is donated to a charity, items that a charity might not want are either listed on or put out in the alley with a “Help Yourself” sign.

Fix it. With stuff so darn cheap these days, it’s really tempting to replace a broken down item with a new one. Our philosophy is if it’s cheaper to fix than replace, try fixing it first. If the item can’t be repaired, it’s broken down into separate components which are then recycled.

Find new uses for old stuff. With basic goods for the home and garage costing so darn much these days, we try to use what we have on hand before buying new. Old tee shirts, for example, are turned to rags, old paint cans are saved to house greasy auto parts or nails, and old sheets are turned into drop cloths for painting projects. Even things like styrofoam packaging material is saved and reused for shipping breakables to relatives during the holidays. Finding a new use for old items prevents goods from ending up in the trash and saves money too.

Be discerning with what you buy. Stopping the flow of trash INTO your house starts with not buying trash to begin with. Even though I’m thrifty, I’ll buy quality goods that last for years instead of cheaply made products that won’t last more than a year or so. This not only reduces our family’s trash output, but saves money in the long run as well.

Used buildings materials that can be recycled.
Kids activity: Making musical instruments from recyclables.
A lazy man’s guide to leaf composting.

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