I recently read Edward Humes’ new book, Garbology. One of the key facts out of the book is that the widely quoted EPA estimate, that the average American throws out 4.3 lbs of trash per day, is wrong. We actually generate more than 7 lbs each.
That 7 lbs can sneak up on you. I make most of the meals I eat, rarely indulging in take-out with its bags, plastic containers, utensils and unneeded condiments. On the other hand, when I eat a granola bar, there’s a wrapper, and they come 6 to a box. There’s no real way around this unless I’m going to make my own granola bars, which I won’t be doing. We generate a reasonable number of diapers. Not as many as some families with two non-potty trained kids because we don’t change wet diapers all that fast, but a good number nonetheless. We probably overbuy food at Costco and inevitably throw some spoils away (Kristen over at The Frugal Girl posts pictures of her food waste every Friday). We don’t drink bottled water or soda but we do drink beer. We buy individual microwavable mac & cheese containers for the kids. They get antsy about waiting 15 minutes for the boil-in-a-pan kind. We try not to buy much “stuff” (excess toys and trinkets, clothes no one wears) — a quest made easier by the fact that as a work-from-home type, I’m never in stores. But stuff finds its way into our lives nonetheless, with its packaging. Plus there’s a daily newspaper. Recycled, of course, but recycling is a different matter from not generating waste in the first place.
So I imagine we’re not far off from the 7 lbs. How do you think you stack up? Have you ever consciously tried to reduce your waste? Do you repurpose things? Re-use them? Like what?
Photo courtesy flickr user Wesley Fryer