Monday, December 31, 2007

365 Days Of Trash


The idea for this project came about six months ago as I was throwing something away in the garbage. It occurred to me that I was doing nothing more than that. I was making it go away, not dealing with it, not accounting for it, simply removing it from my sight. When you think of it in simple terms like that, it’s really quite insane. I came to the realization that if we were all accountable for our waste, if we couldn’t simply make it disappear, we’d have to deal with some pretty ugly truths about the way we live. And in so doing, it would cause us to start making better decisions about what we buy, where we buy, and what’s left over when we are done with that purchase.

So starting tonight at midnight, I am not going to throw anything away for 365 days in order to see what my impact is. It sounds sort of nuts at first (perhaps for a bit after that as well), and believe me, while I am intrigued by the concept, I’ll admit that there are parts of it that I am dreading. Am I really looking forward to going on vacation and bringing all my trash home in a suitcase? Hardly, but that said, I need to be honest about this or it’s not worth doing in the first place. My hope is that, as the experiment takes shape, I will be able to quickly ascertain what waste I can simply cut out through choices, what waste is necessary but that can be dealt with in a sustainable way, and what waste I just simply can’t do anything about.

As I’ve mentioned this idea to people, it’s amazing how many of them instantly start to come up with ways that will debunk what I am attempting. “Oh so you’re not going to use the toilet for a year” is a common one. For the record, I go into this with full cognizance that I will create waste, and some of that waste will have to go “away” – after all, I’m not trying to endanger the health of my family or my community. That said, I am trying my best to account for what I do add to the pile. So with that in mind, and realizing that things may morph as my waste learning curve begins to take shape, here are

The Rules

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. Finally, 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”.

Where’s It All Going To Go?

For now, I’m going to keep stuff in the basement of our house and I will post pics of it all as it accumulates. I say for now, because I truly don’t have an idea of how much “stuff” I generate (thus this experiment). I’ll have to deal with it accordingly as I go along. Food and anything compostable will go into our trusty worm composter, so while I would consider that stuff waste, it’s sustainable waste, so therefore won’t go into the overall accounting. That said, I’ll be mentioning this stuff as I go along as well (how much went in, how much castings I take out of the system, etc.)

The bottom line is that I am going into this with an honest attempt and a whole mess of questions. Hopefully I’ll be able to answer all of them, and in 365 days, who knows, maybe I’ll be garbage free? Doubtful, but we’ll see.

Stay tuned.