Greening The Zoots

I Totally Haven’t Even Told My Husband We’re Doing This Yet


I’m doing something insane, guys. Seriously. Even crazier than I usually do around here. I’ve joined a challenge posed by a new Green Blog I found to keep my trash in my garage for an entire week to see how much garbage I create. And if you think that sounds crazy, consider that the guy issuing the challenge is one day away from finishing one whole year of doing the SAME THING. As in, as we speak, he has a year’s worth of garbage in his basement. It’s a fascinating story you should totally check out if you get a chance. But in the meantime? Let’s ponder what the HELL I’ve signed up for here!

Why, exactly, are you doing this?
If you’ll recall, my family decided to make the effort some time last year to start taking anything to the recycling center that we could. Especially the things that they don’t want in the bin: like glass and cereal boxes. (Huntsville residents, find the list of what goes in the bin here.) This made a HUGE impact in how much garbage we created every week as before that? We were about to have to ask the city to give us another garbage bin. And that’s kinda disgraceful. Since then, some weeks have gone by where we forget to but the garbage bin on the street, but we have enough room for TWO weeks of garbage in it now. So it’s not a big deal.

I’d like to try to make that amount even smaller this year. Just find ways to reuse, avoid over-packaged items, recycle more, anything to reduce what we send out in our garbage bin every week. I thought, in order to see how much of a change we make, monitoring it for a week would be a great idea! I decided we’d do this project for a week now, and a week in six months and compare the lists to see how much we reduce.

What Exactly Will You Be Putting In Your Garage This Week?
Essentially I’ll be removing all trash cans in the house for the week, forcing everyone to give their garbage to me so that I can sort it in the garage. All of the garbage without food or grime on it will go in another pile, compartmentalized if there’s a lot of repeats. Anything that we can wash clean will go in that pile, but anything that we can’t get clean enough for me to feel comfortable leaving in the garage…that will go in the outdoor garbage bin. But not until AFTER I’ve documented it and photographed it.

How Will You Document The Results?
At the end of each day I’m going to photograph our garbage before dividing it up into the areas we’ll keep it in for the week. I’ll also document it in list form so that at the end of the week I’ll have that list along with the photographic evidence of how truly wasteful we are. So my children can hold it against me in 10 years.

Will You Try To Create Less Garbage Than You Would Normally To Make Yourself Look Better?
No. The point of this is to see how much we waste normally. In 6 months, when I do this again, hopefully we’ll have adopted new habits that will reduce our garbage production, but I’m not going to do those things this week. That said – I’m sure I’ll avoid certain things because I don’t feel like carrying the trash around with me, but I’ll do my best to keep things wasteful as usual!

What about diapers
I will count how many of those go in the outside bin, but that are indeed GOING IN THE BIN. I’m not going to take this so far to photograph dirty diapers or keep them for a week. There are several reasons why we don’t use cloth diapers and while I’m sure we could change this year, and we might decide that – it’s not something I can up and decide to start tomorrow. And also? We’re trying to show how much garbage we create and we use disposable diapers, so changing that now wouldn’t give us a clear picture.

Is your whole family participating in this insanity?
We are participating as a household, and then I’m participating fully. In other words, any garbage the household produces will be documented. Any garbage I produce outside of the house I’ll bring home to document. But – my family won’t have to do that part. I’m not going to inflict my own insanity on them.

Now – Starting when I wake up tomorrow morning (good timing, huh?) until when I wake up next Thursday – I’ll be doing this. This week will be my baseline so that in six months I can try to calculate how we’ve improved throughout the year. Hopefully seeing this garbage in a pile in my garage will really help me see how wasteful we are and will inspire me to make changes in our lives this year.

Either that, or it will gross me out so much I run away screaming and continue my life living in the woods and surviving off of fish and berries.

We’ll see.

17 thoughts on “I Totally Haven’t Even Told My Husband We’re Doing This Yet”

  1. Awesome and congrats. Trust me, after a year of doing this, a week will be a breeze (but hopefully there won’t be one or those diapers will smell). At least it’s not the summer right! Good luck and thank you so much for the bravery to question.


  2. Good for you! It’s funny in Germany, because so much stuff is recycled that we have to take our recycling out 3-4 times before we take the trash out once. It’s a great feeling 😀

  3. Compost!! Compost!!! Compost!!! Seriously. I would do it, but I am renting (yeah lame excuse may rethink) and don’t want to dig a hole. We will sometimes forget for a few weeks to put out the garbage……

  4. I have a summer house in Wildwood New Jersey, we have to separate our garbage regardless of being Green, Pink, Blue or yellow. What I did and it has worked especially for the renters that use my place (I say renters, I mean family that goes there for free) is I bought 4 small kitchen garbage cans and they are labeled. Paper Only, Plastics, Glass and Aluminum, household non recycled.

    It was a pain at first, but you would be surprised how much I was using of the paper plates and stuff, they I went to “shock” washing dishes. It was really interesting and it seems to save the earth. Although the jokes still fly about Jersey being the Landfill of the country.

    Think about the multi can use.

  5. Cool! DH has started a recycling program at the school he works for. So we now do it at home too. At first it was a pain to figure out what could/could not be recycled but now it’s fairly easy.

    Good luck!

  6. This is very cool. I’ll be interested to see how it unfolds and what your lists and pictures look like! I’ve recently rededicated myself to reducing my waste, and I’m still figuring out how to do it efficiently and have a big effect. It takes a while to hone the system here! (Just figuring out which things my local recycling center can and can’t take has been a challenge, for example). Good luck!

  7. Love it Kim! I wish you all the best of luck and patience with this project. On a side note–really love the photo of the Blue Moon bottles. A suggestion that my brother (from Birmingham, a Blue Moon fan, was not familiar with so maybe it’s just in South Florida) but a slice of orange into the Blue Moon–really yummy and refreshing. Of course, that means you have to pour it out of the bottle into a glass, which is maybe contradictory to your mission to waste less.

  8. Wow, I think this is awesome. I just read a book called Garbage Land by Elizabeth Royte and it changed my life. I recycle everything I can, I’ve started a compost heap. I’m lucky that I already use cloth diapers, but I just put in my order for cloth wipes and family cloth. It feels so awesome to be doing something good for the environment for a change. (faithful lurker for 5 years) I guess if one thing would make me de-lurk after all this time it would have to be recycling. You rock Zoot.

  9. Wait – how often do you have to go to the trash?! We have free garbage in our town (one of the benefits) and we have to bring it once every few weeks. I believe we use a bag or two every week. We only recycle soda cans – and we usually only open one – two soda cans a day, so that doesn’t take up much room (and goes in a separate place in the house anyway).

    There’s no recycling options where I live. It’s a really small town – people here still leave their car doors unlocked!! LOL. But other than bringing your empty cans/bottles, there’s nothing you can really do. I rarely use paper plates – maybe a plate or two once a day, and almost always wash dishes.

    I guess, with me, it’s one of those things where I have a hard time figuring out how we could be more good to the earth, without sacrificing financially.

  10. That’s a great idea; the amount of trash my family and I create is heartbreaking. The county hasn’t given us any recycling bins, but where is the recycling center? I guess I could at least do my part and get a good part of recyclable goods out there myself. I am doing good just to remember my greenbags when I shop.

  11. That’s pretty intense. I know that we are more wasteful than we should be, but I can’t even imagine how smelly it could get to have all that garbage collected. Ew. 😛

  12. I can’t wait to see your pictures. Now I want to do it just to see how much worse it is than I think.

    We compost and recycle but the switch to cloth diapers really made me feel better about the amount of trash we produce. Especially now that we have two in diapers.

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