Monday, November 24, 2014

A System to Deal With Waste


Decreasing waste is wonderful in theory, but if you don’t have a system in place to deal with waste, it becomes very complicated. So what is waste? Waste is stuff you can’t reuse, isn’t good enough to donate somewhere for someone else to use and is likely to end up in the landfill. When I made my most recent stop at the Homestead, I was enthused about recycling, composting and minimizing what would go to the landfill. To my dismay, my systems were no longer in place.

My compost heap was fully composted and ready to relocate to the garden. I also wanted to set up a new system of 2 compost bins, one to fill and one to age. So began the deconstruction of the compost heap. The old log sides were removed, but before we could haul the composted soil to the garden, the waist high weeds had to be raked down and moved to a spot where they could be added to the new compost bin. We did not have enough time to complete this project while we were there, so it will be completed on our next visit. Sadly, our compostables went into the trash.

My burn barrel was buried and broken by an overenthusiastic tractor which seemed to think it was no longer of any use. Trash was carted to a shared dumpster, to be taken to the landfill. I do have another burn barrel, but I need the lid cut off, so I can use it. It is an old, empty industrial 55 gallon steel drum.

In our area we have no full service (all metals, glass and plastics) recycling center, so other than aluminum cans, these items go to the landfill. I did repurpose quite a few plastic items, and cleaned out my cabinets to find a couple bags of containers I could take to the local thrift store.

Junk mail, strangely, is not a problem at the Homestead. As we heat with wood, we need something to start the fire with. The envelopes and paper from the junk mail work just as well as newspapers. I also stuff toilet paper rolls and small cardboard boxes with dryer lint (yes, I do sometimes use the dryer instead of the clothesline) for this purpose. Most of the glossy papers get thrown in the trash, though, because they don’t burn as well.

It doesn’t sound like much to clean out the compost bin and rebuild it, and to cut the top off a steel drum, but for us it is a bit of a project. The compost has sat for so long it has become an ideal garden spot. Since I prefer this spot for the compost bin, we have to dig the compost out and relocate it. With shovels. Safety concerns demand that we have the proper tool and coordination to cut the top off the steel drum. This will entail enlisting help. Hopefully next time we stop home, we’ll get our systems back in place and keep the Homestead “green”.

Until then, we’ll work on improving our waste generation and disposal in the tiny trailer.

Also see:

Decreasing Waste

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Decreasing Waste

I just finished reading "The Humanure Handbook". I know, eewww, right? It got me back to thinking about decreasing the amount of total waste I generate. Living in a trailer with limited water capacity and living on the homestead, where we have to haul all our water in, has made me very conscientious about my water usage. 

Humanure Handbook

This isn't just about water, though. I also stumbled upon a site about living without plastic. Now that's drastic! On the homestead, we recycle or burn almost all our trash. In the trailer, we have not been consistent with this. There is also the issue of how much we bring in that ends up going out as waste. Not just packaging, but also all the plastic shopping bags - ugh! I am getting better at remembering my reusable bags, but not all the way there, yet.

I use a lot of plastic ziploc bags. We frequently brown bag our lunch on errands and day trips and I do a lot of cooking from scratch, so prepwork also gets bagged. I also stumbled upon How to Store Produce Without Plastic. I had just bought some veggies, so I decided to put some of these tips to use right away. We had a whole bunch (bunches, actually) of carrots, so I washed them and put them in the veggie bin, with the broccoli and covered it all with a damp towel. The lettuce, celery and green onions I washed and wrapped in damp towels. After sitting overnight, I went to make my lunch and everything was still fresh and crisp. I cut up some of the veggies for our bento boxes and put the rest in a bowl, covered with a damp towel, in the fridge for tomorrow. At lunch time, everything was crisp and delicious. I have already eliminated the lunchtime ziplox with the bentos and sandwich boxes (um, plastic ones...) and now I can eliminate the refrigerator storage ziplox. I like. Not that I don't have other uses for ziploc bags, but this cuts down a great deal. 

Now that I have my sewing machine set up for a few days, I can whip up some more cloth veggie bags and towels and some cloth sandwich bags. Yes, I know, bacteria. That is why we wash things and let them dry thoroughly. We wash plastic and we wash cloth. And believe it or not, bacteria does grow in plastic...

There are things that I do prefer to use plastic for, however. The sawdust toilet would be one. (See the Humanure Handbook.) Also for water jugs that I have to be able to lift and maneuver. Not to mention that it cuts down on the weight in the tiny trailer/mobile homestead. But I am, once again, conciously trying to reduce my own waste and use more enduring containers.

I had a few more pictures to post, but my systems are working against me, so I am going to go ahead and post this as it is.

What are you inspired to do to reduce your waste?