Year of No Garbage Day One

I’m terribly excited to announce that our third and final family Deprivation Adventure will be…. a Year of No Garbage.

So far I’ve only told a handful of folks about this project. Their response is always the same: there’s a pause, a thoughtful “hmm” look, followed by a small smile and then: “What about (insert trash item here)?”

What about milk containers? What about old clothing? What about the plastic cellophane wrap at the top of a water bottle?

Believe me, as January first loomed ever closer on our family calendar, we’ve all stopped countless times to look up at the rest of us and suddenly ask a variant of this question.

What about Band-Aids? What about the paper they wrap our sandwiches in at the local deli? How about chips? Are those bags recyclable? What about toothpaste? Or plastic pull-tabs?

So many questions. Which, of course, is one of the reasons I love this project and why I’ve been thinking about it in the back of my mind for- I’m not kidding- years now. As this last week of December unfolded and New Years approached, it was as if every time I went to throw something into the trash I’d go into slow motion, pausing to consider: what was I really throwing away, anyway? And, as if for the first time I really looked at our trash and thought about it. Sure, there were things I realized on second thought were probably recyclable after all, and which were then rerouted to another bin, or the compost container. But many things were just “hmmm” things— things I had really never been given a real reason to stop and consider before.

There were yarn bits from a knitting project. The plastic wrapper from a block of cheese. The plastic netting from a bag of clementines. Foam packaging from a new piece of technology. The wrapper from a stick of butter.

Oh my yes, this will be a very interesting year.

Just as in our previous projects, of course, there will be rules– some parameters we’ve already decided and others that we haven’t even yet realized we need to consider. The main gist is this: we can recycle. We can compost. We can donate, give away and sell. But no trash, no garbage and no landfill. After one big final garbage sweep of the house (see our one minute video above) all the trash cans in our house have been removed.

And, as before, there will be exceptions. The first is health and safety. If one of my kids needs a Band-Aid, or medicine with a made-for-the-landfill wrapper? They’re getting it. Period. Also, my husband’s photography business will need to continue to function, so his studio across the street will still be able to throw away trash, with the understanding that he will work to minimize it as much as possible.

Both our daughters Greta and Ilsa, now ages 19 and 14, will participate. Given that Greta now goes to school in New York City, that should prove to be an especially challenging and interesting part of the project.

And as before we will, of course, make mistakes. There will be dead ends. There will be a box to contain the items that represent those moments, which I have named the Whoops Box and my husband has alternately named the WTF Box.

Our garbage company allots us one 96-gallon container worth of trash removal a week, and I’ve been paying attention: we fill it every week. That means our household alone is contributing nearly 5,000 gallons a year to a landfill somewhere. This year? Our goal is to reduce that contribution to none.

Think we can do it?

Stay tuned to find out. Be sure to follow me on Instagram and use the hashtags #yearofnogarbage and #trashlesseve

Happy New Year everyone!

10 thoughts on “Year of No Garbage Day One

  1. Good luck! Have you watched that documentary No Impact Man? Definitely inspired me to check my habits… although I still have a long way to go! Might give you some ideas though. I just bought a book on the Japanese art of wrapping gifts in fabric to try to do that next Christmas after realizing this year most wrapping papers aren’t recyclable. I look forward to reading your blog!

  2. I commend your efforts! I set out for 2020 to be my year of no plastic bags, which was quickly derailed January 3rd by a silent grocery cashier who bagged half of my order in plastic bags (without asking) while I was still unloading my cart and before I could hand over or say anything about my cloth bags! (Sigh). You inspire me to keep trying – thank you!!

    1. Thank you! And oh I’m so glad you are going to keep trying- sometimes it is so hard to catch them at just the right moment… and then how many times have I had that debate in my head: do I ask her to UN-bag my stuff now? How much of a crazy person would that make me?

  3. I commend your crew for its efforts at zero trash. We have gotten down to one kitchen garbage bag per week and we can still recycle in our area. I’d love to do better and will be inspired by your project.

    Just finished A Year of No Sugar and it really helped me feel not so alone in trying to make sense of this crazy food system we have. I will continue to tweak my diet while maintaining my adoration of dark chocolate.

    What you do matters.
    Best wishes in this glorious new year!

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