Thursday, January 3, 2008

The Rules

I realized I should have a link to a rules post so here they are, ready to be added to as I go along.

1. If something is waste that I have generated, I’ve got to deal with it. If I buy something for myself, the packaging is mine to deal with. Hopefully this will entail figuring out what it is made of, what would happen to it if it were “thrown away” and what I will be doing with it.

2. Any waste that I generate that can be recycled, will also be saved. Recycling is better than “throwing away” but it still takes energy and creates waste so I think accounting for recycling will be an important factor.

3. Any waste, which for health reasons (dog poop, medical waste from doctors visits, etc.) cannot be saved, will at least be noted and examined regarding the impact of its creation and disposal.

4. Food preparation has been something that I have been struggling with as I have a wife and two daughters who are not undertaking this experiment. Since food will be prepared for the family at times, I’ll have to figure out how to account for this and will be as honest as I can be in my accounting as I go along. In order to make up for any possible discrepancy in this area, I have decided that when out with my daughters, I will be responsible for any waste they generate as well.

5. I know there will be gray areas that I haven’t thought of, and some of this will have to morph as I go along. That said, I think the golden rule is going to be “when in doubt, it’s my responsibility to deal with”.

6. My wife made some soup from a box (I hate these things) for some friends of ours and since there was extra, I had some. Thought about it afterwards and I don't think this will go to the basement as it wasn't made for me (it would have been used had I not been around) and it wasn't a meal I was eating, just something that was there so I had some.

7. Ok, as I progress, I've been trying to figure out what's "mine" and have been struggling with this, mostly as pertains to food. So I think the good rule of thumb is that if it's something for the family, and I ate part of it for my meal, I've got to own the waste from that food. Having said that, if my daughters eat cereal (ughhhh) and I don't, then the boxes, etc aren't my waste. Seems like that's a reasonable way to go.

8. A few people have mentioned that I'm putting too much paper in the worm bins so i thought I'd address that. When i say its' going into the worm bin, I don't mean immediately, I mean eventually as they need it. I figure if at the end of the year I'm left over with a pile of paper fro the worms, I'll keep feeding it to them and eventually it'll be composted. Same end, just a different time frame.


Anonymous said...

I can’t believe you are doing this alone! You are going to become so busy trying to deal with the garbage you won’t have a life! Are you sure you want to go through with this?

For the record, I don’t live on a farm. In 1990 we bought a small 3 bedroom 1970’s rambler on 1.2 acres of manicured lawn dotted with various fruit trees and ornamentals. These fruit trees had to be sprayed monthly at times which required a chemical respirator, suit and gloves as well as hoses, sprayers, extra cartridges, specially marked measuring cups and goggles. The lawn was sprayed for weeds and fertilized three times a year by a fellow in a big white and green truck with tanks of chemicals mounted on back. Our place came with eight separate sprinkler systems and a well in the front yard that supplied our drinking water and the water for the lawn and trees. We live in a sage brush steppe desert with a 35 year average of 7.55” of precipitation per year. The soil beneath the lawn is sand and anything liquid passes through it quickly so you have to water long and often. We drink the water from 75 feet below our lawn.

There are real farms all around us. Thousands of acres of dry wheat and huge apple and cherry orchards which are rapidly giving way to the dot com of the agricultural world: vineyards. In the past, the commercial orchards owners lobbied for laws that now require us to “spray your fruit trees or We the County will do it for you and send you the bill”. I don’t blame them. They were here first. “Not spraying” is not an option.

It took an incredible investment of time and energy (human and otherwise) to maintain this perfect 1.2 acre landscape of fruit trees, non-native plants and endless grass. It took 4 hours to mow. How many people are like me and have a garage full of weed wackers, fertilizer spreaders, hedge trimmers, leaf suckers and gas hog lawnmowers which, like me, they have spent endless hours of their lives trying to fix and maintain? Did I mention the parts inventory? It is an hour round trip for a cotter pin or a gas filter. I have so many tools I have tools to fix tools!

Unless you live in a condo or apartment, you probably own your own collection of old bottles of chemicals, hoses, sprayers, specially marked measuring cups, goggles, gloves, spray bottles and toxic powders. How do you dispose of them? Where does it all go?
As for the fruit trees: we chopped most of them down over the years; some died on their own. Looking back on it, this was probably due to lack of water. I hated hearing the pump motor run and run and run.

There are two small dwarf pears left that never get infested or moldy. They stand in the middle of the vegetable garden and produce more pears than I can give away. One variety keeps for months if kept cool. We share the windfall with the wasps too. They eat other bugs. First step in garbage management: live as close to neutral balance with your immediate environment as you can. I’ve tried to think of other ways of saying this more clearly, but I can’t.

Lola said...

It will be easier for you if you make it incredibly easy for your wife & daughters.

A compost bucket, and an area where it would be easy to store certain materials. I invested in those stackable vegetable bins that can go into the kitchen. It helps the others in the house to see how much waste they're generating.

Also, have you considered making your own paper from the items that you would be recycling? I use all sides of the paper before and then it just takes a bit of knowledge and a blender to create your own paper. Eventually, it wears down to unusable material or down far enough that it might be compostable.

I've also moved away from plastic containers and use glass wherever possible. The can be recycled but generally, I use them to store things like tea, spices and other items. It saves me from having to buy jars and such for storage.

Loose tea is great. Here in Victoria, I go to a place called Special Teas. You can check out their site at http://www.specialtea.com/. There must be someone more local to your area.

Good luck.

Lola said...

To cut down on take-out containers, I invested in a set of these: http://www.pyrexware.com/index.asp?pageId=103&pid=348. I take them everywhere I'm going to eat out/take out. I can even reheat in them so I don't have to dirty extra dishes...

Anonymous said...

Hi there. My personal rules for my plastic collection are that if I partake of something, even if someone bought it for themselves, I include it. So by my rules, I'd be including that soup box. Otherwise, it becomes really easy to let yourself off the hook by eating things that other people buy "for themselves." Just my two cents.

This looks like a great project. I'd be happy to link to you on my blog, and I'll check out your Yahoo Group, too!


Anonymous said...

I've been giving a lot of thought to your rules, particularly about the one about eating in restaurants... seems to me that this year is as much about accepting responsibility as it is assigning it. When I own a business, and I create waste, then I have a responsibility to dispose of that waste in a proper manner. Taking the waste from the restaurant seems excessive, and worse, inconsistent. Did you take the food waste from the kitchen? No restaurant expects you to take their waste home and dispose of it. That is their job. Simply put: If you get take-out, your responsibility. If you eat in, theirs. If you eat in, but get to-go cokes, yours. If I eat with you, you pick up the tab. Think that just about covers it... oh-- I'll get the tip.

Dave said...

Wow Smitter, cool story. Thanks for sharing the info.

Dave said...

I hear what you are saying, but in all honesty, am I not culpable if I assume that the restaurant is dealing with their waste in an appropriate manner without knowing that? I think I'll stick with the plan (which really isn't that big of a deal). Besides the fact, it will help offset anything I may have missed at home as a result of living with the family - being vigilant on that end, but no one's perfect.

And I know where you are going with this tip thingy, you probably skip out on it while I'm not looking anyway (heheh)

Dave said...

I guess I need to clarify things a bit more on this front. My point re the soup box was that if it was made for me for my meal, I'd own it, and if I decided to eat it because I wanted it, I;d own it too. That said, I really ate the soup because it was leftover and sitting there, not because I really wanted or needed it. For the record I tend to have attrocious eating habits, I kind of still eat like a college kid. That said, if my kids are eating cookies and I have one, I own the packaging (so i haven't been eating them which is killing me believe me).

Greengo said...

This is such a great project. I can't wait to see what you produce. When i first heard about this, i didn't imagine you were doing this as a married man with 2 kids! ...Good luck!

Don't tell my wife this, but since i got married, the waste we produce has gone up more then 10-fold. We recycle everything we can, and use cloth bags, glass jars at the coop, the works... but somehow, the kids and family life make the garbage can fill up way more than i thought possible.

Anonymous said...

I don't want to seem like I'm arguing about a small point to sabotage your whole project, so let me say out front that I totally support what you're doing. I'm here every day to check it out, so I'm not trying to assassinate you now. But I am curious about where you draw your line as to what you "own". You took the table cover, but not the food waste. Did you take the boxes the food was shipped in? What about the waste from the grocery store that sold you your food? You could get really carried away and start taking your share of the waste generated by the people who sell or cook your food. It quickly gets immense and impossible and like any typical math-brained guy, I'm just looking for some boxes to put stuff in (but that would generate waste).

Again, it's good that you've started this and that you aren't bogged down by these problems (as I would be... thus never beginning something like this at all). I'm living vicariously through you, and as my wife can attest (thanks to you) seeing waste everywhere. Thanks.

No really. Thanks!

Dave said...

Oh Duane, must you assassinate me? For those of you who hadn't guessed, Duane is actually a good friend and someone who's life I make miserable simply by pointing out things that we all do that are destructive and don't make sense. I rather enjoy it.

That said, you are right Duane (as painful as it is for me to type that) I can't be responsible for all my waste unless I grow cook and serve all of my own food. Add to that growing and making my own clothes, and all the products I use. If I had food left over i would have trucked it out (I now carry a tupperware in my backpack along with my bamboo cutlery set, drinking bottle and coffee cup) but i generally eat everything on my plate (thanks mom).

I guess the point is that when this is all done, I won't be able to say "this is all of the waste that i created" but rather "this is all the waste that I created that I could quantify" and fully recognize that I was responsible for more. It's definitely not an exact science although someday i hope it to be (my garbage that is).
Ironically enough i had no problem with that part of it but more with the whole "food at home thing". Marking things has made the difference and leaves me feeling like I'm being true. Before I was definitely erring on the side of overcompensation. It does seem like I waste much less than i thought I did which was good, but we'll see where that leads.

Owen K said...

Hi, I just found your blog via StumbleUpon.

I must commend you on such an ambitious project, with a noble aim. Can't say I'd be overly keen on doing this myself though.

Well done, and good luck.

Dave said...

Thanks Moo. Check back in often as i love to hear what people are thinking.


Jennifer said...

Kuddo's for you. good job! We just don't have the room in our house- we don't have a basement or garage... Anyhoo- In our home we are blessed with just one garbage bag a week! (and thats gone down too) I have started using paper/cardboard/newspaper in our composter or in my garden.. (you should see my crazy neighbors faces)- we have great worms in our yard! The only thing that gets thrown out (and I hate) is the plastic wrapping of stuff. How can we get rid of that plastic wrap??

Dave said...

Hey 299,
Well the first place to start ont he plastic wrapping is in your purchasing habits. You've probably already travelled this road, but by buying smarter and in bulk you may be able to cut down on a lot of it.

Other than that, contact government officials and ask them why they think this should be allowed in the market place. We need legislation to truly fix it.

Consume Less, Conserve More!!!!


Unknown said...

Hi Dave,

My name is Alexis
Im a High school senior, also apart of Mr. Dillman's AP earth and environmental class. I think you ideas and efforts to be eco-friendly are wonderful. I find myself becoming more and more eco-friendly and concerned about our environment each day.
I know you are a huge advocate for recycling, but how do you feel about the recent oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico? What are your views?

Dave said...

Hey Alexis,
It's bad no matter how you cut it. A lot of negligence and a lot of caring about money more than people sadly. That said, the only way to stop stuff like this in the future is to cut our dependence. They drill to make money, so stop the moneya dn the drilling stops.

Shelby said...

Hey Dave,

My name is Shelby, I'm a high school senior in Mr. Dillman's AP Earth & Environmental class. What you have going on is a monumental step towards being environmentally sustainable. If everyone knows exactly what they're putting out into the world, it will make them think more carefully about the products they buy and choices they make. I also noticed during the garbology lab, you can gauge your overall health by looking at how much/little you consume/waste. Throughout the lab I noticed that my food waste was the highest (mostly fruit peels and melon rind) but my nutrition was very unbalanced. The lab opened my eyes to myself and how I was effecting the world.