When Mr. MVP carted our recycling wheelie bin to the end of the driveway yesterday he commented that it has been unusually empty the past couple of months. We discussed that our trash output has been oddly low as well. This conversation lasted long enough for me to notice that there was a bug floating around the front door and then the subject was quickly changed three times in speedy succession from bugs, to Moon Pie, to zombies. Our brains move fast around here.
Let’s all move forward 16 hours to right now when I just looked out the window and noticed our neighbors’ recycling wheelie bin was filled to the tippy top and right next to it was their garbage cart that was also overflowing with bags of trash. I don’t have x-ray vision so I couldn’t see whether or not our other neighbors’ bins were also piled to the top or had just one or two bags, but either way, multiply our neighborhood times every single neighborhood in America and suddenly the trash and recycling really starts adding up.
When we switched our diet from a regular organic diet to a FODMAP free diet I started to notice our trash and recycling load decrease, but I also was starting to make small changes that made a gigantic impact on our trash load. Team VP has gone from filling up a full trash wheelie bin once a week and a recycle bin once every two weeks to two small bags of trash per week and filling 1/4 of the recycling cart every two weeks. How was this magical trash and recycling voodoo goal met you ask? Well, I’m going to tell you.
At the supermarket try to avoid buying prepackaged foods. We purchase our rice and spices in bulk at the Food Co-op where not only is it cheaper, but the packaging is eliminated. Our meat is almost the only food we buy that comes packaged. Skip the bottled water, juice boxes, lunchables, prepackaged meals, frozen pizzas and pasta sauces. All of these foods can be made fresh, in thirty minutes or less with much healthier ingredients creating much less waste. In the produce section we don’t put all of our avocados, green peppers, apples, bananas, tomatos, and lettuce in a plastic bag, but instead, we simply put them in the shopping cart. When I get home I wash and process each fruit and vegetable accordingly and there are no extra plastic bags to throw away.
In the laundry room, ditch the fabric softener and the fabric softener sheets. The sheets are terrible for the environment and the fabric softener is just another bottle that requires recycling. We buy our eco friendly laundry detergent in bulk and it includes a coconut based softener. It’s one bottle and it works. For tough stains we buy Biokleen Bac-Out. I started out by buying a spray bottle and I watch the sales on Drugstore.com and stock up when the refill bottles go on sale. Two bottles of Bac-Out will last me almost 18 months and I use it on everything.
Give up your Swiffer. Go on, I’ll wait right here. Swiffers are not biodegradable so every single one you throw in the trash is going to stay there, forever. Lots of people swear by reusable dust pads, but I have a really hard time with this concept. I cannot even begin to think about dusting my floor and picking up all the dog hair and crud from an entire day and then having to brush all that ick off into the trash, so I can then wash the reusable pad. No thanks. I vacuum our floors, a lot. We have a Bissell vacuum that is older, but it works like a champ and because it has a canister I can simply empty it right into our trash. Our vacuum picks up more than a Swiffer ever dreamed of pushing around and for those small messes, we keep a broom and dustpan.
Around our house we don’t use multiple cleaners for every surface. We kicked all the chemicals out of our house about a year ago and when that happened we discovered a less expensive, simpler way to clean. Biokleen All Purpose Cleaner is a concentrated cleaner that we dilute with water and either put in squirt bottles under the sinks and in the car or I use to mop the floor. I can use Biokleen on everything in our house from the windows to the floors to the furniture. Mr. MVP even cleans the grill with it. It degreases, it shines, it cleans windows, it cleans bathtubs, it removes stubborn spots, and I swear to you it smells like oranges.
When we do throw our trash away we toss it in a biodegradable bag, which sounds super expensive, but actually, they are less expensive and just as durable as the big name brands and they decompose anywhere that natural organic material will in nine months. Full Circle bags are made from 80% recycled plastics and will not leave behind any harmful toxins when they are decomposing. We’ve been using Full Circle bags for about two years now, and we love them. We buy them at our local supermarket for less than what we paid for a non-biodegradable bag that we purchased in bulk.
In your kitchen use cloth napkins and give up the paper plates. Cloth napkins can be fun. Team VP has been using the same cloth napkins since we’ve been married – 9 1/2 years. Your dishes don’t have to be fancy, but making a commitment to using them and not buying paper that ends up in a wheelie bin is an important first step. To make it easier designate a cup for everyone in the house for that day, grab a coaster and label it with the name each person. As soon as the cup is empty set it on the coaster instead of in the sink, so it can be reused. At the end of the day, every cup gets a bath and the cycle starts over again.
Using less does not have to be difficult, awkward or expensive. Sometimes all it takes is a little brain power and usually it can save time and energy. Buying less and consuming less are obvious ways to help Mother Earth, but there are easier ways too like vacuuming instead of Swiffering. You can do this – today make your coffee at home and put it in a travel cup – it’s never too late to start!