Reduce Your Garbage to Just One Can per Year!

Celebrating Earth Day: One can of garbage a year? Here’s how!

 Metro Recycling Information hotline specialist Betty Shelley and her husband, Jon, have put a major dent in their household waste. With simple changes over time, they’ve reduced their garbage to a level less than one 32-gallon can a year. Here’s how they did it.

 Getting started:

·         Started recycling in 1972.

·         Experienced an aha! moment while enrolled in a Master Recycler class in 1992, wondering, “When garbage is thrown away, where does it go?”

·         Took a course on voluntary simplicity in 1992, learning the connection between consumption and its impacts. 

·         With a course on sustainable living, discovered that the world would need six planets’ worth of resources if everyone on Earth consumed as much as the average American.  

 Moving up:

·         Switched to cloth napkins and eventually eliminated other paper and disposable single-use products.

·         Began composting yard debris, buying a small chipper to process fir tree debris on their property. Also started composting kitchen scraps such as vegetable peels, tea bags and more.

·         Made an effort to (1) recycle materials that weren’t accepted curbside and (2) avoid items that couldn’t be recycled at all.

·         Dropped garbage collection service to one can a month, then to on-call service, followed by two cans annually and, finally, one can per year.

 Enjoying the benefits:

·         Reduced their costs, thanks to lower garbage bills. 

·         Saved time and money on yard work and watering after replacing the lawn with mostly Northwest native plants.

·         Felt more in control when shopping, reusing bags from home instead of accepting new ones at the checkout stand each time they visited a store. 

 “Once you start reducing your household garbage,” says Betty, who loves to cook, travel and entertain friends, “it can become like a game. You get on a roll finding new ways to avoid waste.”

 Here are tips from Betty and Jon:

·         Opt for buying products in bulk, and store them in reusable containers.

·         Share or exchange items with friends to avoid purchasing excess products.

·         Explore new uses for old items. When Betty and Jon took down their fence, they recut the wood, building a compost corral and a screen in the garden. The old pier posts from their deck were flipped over for use as pathway stepping stones.

·         Before buying an item, consider what you’ll do with it when you’re done.  

·         Choose products and practices that support sustainability – focusing on quality over quantity, for example, and repairing rather than tossing.

 Want more ideas for going green on Earth Day or any day? Call Metro Recycling Information at 503-234-3000 or click here.


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