A young family I know lives on a limited income. One way they have decided to save a little money is to decline paying for the local garbage pick-up. Instead, they deliver their own garbage to the disposal station where it is then hauled to an incinerator or landfill. They make a trip to the disposal station once every two or three months. At the station their garbage is weighed. After having their garbage weighed they pay a per pound price for disposal. At their most recent trip to have their garbage weighed they discovered that the three of them were generating about three-quarters of a pound of garbage per day after they removed recyclables such as glass, cans, and cardboard.
An average American family would have produced over 10 pounds of garbage per day after removing their recyclables, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). When they told me about their accomplishment in comparison to other families they were pleased and shocked. How is it that, with no apparent effort, they are generating more than 10 times less garbage than the average family of three?
They speculated that the fact that they cook most of their food from scratch and from home grown food may be at the heart of their low garbage production. They also buy well-made, durable products with minimal packaging, compost food scraps, and reuse some food containers and bags. Additionally, they purchase high-quality, used and unpackaged goods when possible.
With the holidays upon us this family, like all of us, is at risk of ramping up its garbage production. According to the organization reduce.org, Minnesotans’ garbage production increases by 25 percent between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day. A 25 percent increase in garbage produced per day for a family that only creates three-quarters of a pound of garbage per day is not significant. They will still be below a pound a day. Your normal family is going to jump to over 13 pounds per day. That’s just a little gross.
How about setting an example for the grandkids this holiday season. Cut down on trash by giving them some of your time. How about giving them a coupon for a trip to the waterslide, zoo, or state park up north? Or how about a coupon for a golf or bowling lesson or lessons? Those things don’t involve mountains of packaging; just some love or time.
As for the kids, when they ask you what you want, suggest a coupon from them to walk your dog five times, clean your apartment, or shovel the snow. No styrofoam, batteries, or plastic there!
Then, during the rest of the year, show them ways that we all can cut down on our garbage production habit. When we were kids our families only produced about two pounds of garbage per person per day, according to the EPA. Let’s figure out how they did that so we can return to the good old days. That way families that make three-quarters of a pound of daily garbage will be almost normal.