Homesteading – Waste

We didn’t put out our trash this week. I don’t think we did last week, either. This sounds terrible, but it’s because it takes about a month to fill one small trash bag, the kitchen sized one. It’s mostly unrecyclable paper and overwrap, and not much of that. We have almost no waste.

This was one of my goals when we decided to go back to homesteading. Zero waste, with little recycling. We’ve come close to meeting our goal after less than two months, because of one simple thing.

We don’t buy much. What we do buy is consumed. Reusable items – boxes, some paper, some jars and bottles. I have a couple of bins to take to the recycling place, a few aluminum cans left from the move to take to the bottle redemption. The key, apparently, to reducing waste is to reduce shopping.

I buy whole foods, things without complicated packaging or with just paper packaging which can be reused or recycled. We have received a few things by mail in recyclable envelopes and boxes. We just don’t have much to throw out. We are done with the possessions purging, and are now having to acquire some things but we make an effort to buy used, or buy items that are completely unpackaged.

It’s not like we are packrats, either, filling up cupboards and closets with empty things, old bags, peanut butter jars – we have empty cupboards and drawers, and there is space to hang clothes yet in our closets, with little need to acquire more.

Potato and orange peels, coffee grounds and tea leaves, all get composted. Even in winter. I collect them in an old kettle and carry them out to the tree line once a week. I suspect that we may be leaving some choice bits for the neighborhood fox and the field mice. Since we eat very little meat, and I haven’t bought anything with bones, we haven’t had the problem of disposing of that kind of waste. While meat wastes are not compostable, we can dispose of them in our wild stretches, as scavengers will happily consume them. The only waste I’ve had in terms of spoiled food was when I accidentally left a cup or so of borscht on the stove overnight. No heat under it, but beets and potatoes are excellent growing media, so it got composted, as there was no meat in it.

When we have a woodstove installed, we will burn some of the paper. I am looking for ways to buy products without plastic overwrap, and we will make a better effort to cut back on the use of plastic shopping bags. A lot of businesses ask you if you want a bag, but there are quite a few that just bag everything without a second thought, even if you have your own bag with you. I will avoid shopping at those places. The sooner plastic shopping bags are banned, the better, in my opinion. I am going to knit the ones I have into produce bags for washing greens this summer.

My next step is to find a better alternative to plastic trash bags for the the few things that will have to go to the landfill.


6 thoughts on “Homesteading – Waste

  1. We only throw out garbage every 2 weeks or so. It takes us quite a while to fill a garbage bag -and since we have to buy bags, we make sure they are full. All our food waste goes outside, the barn cats take care of anything meat related.

    I hope they never ban plastic bags. We use so many bags during sweet corn season, it helps to be able to get free ones from the grocery stores. Most people don’t carry bags, or don’t want corn put in them.

    • I had forgotten about that. We are planning to use paper bags at the market, but you are right – some things, like corn and potatoes, fit better in plastic bags. I will solicit extras at church! And I’ve been wondering about recycling old clothes, like cotton shirts and t-shirts, into produce bags.

      • Civilization somehow managed to survive before the advent of the plastic bag, and I think our environment was better for it. I am NOT perfect in this regard, but I’m trying to reuse the few I have and not bring many more in. I’ve been buying the compostable corn resin bags for kitchen trash & my cat litter. Since I have 4 indoor kitties, I go thru a bunch of them. One of my New Years Resolutions was to get serious about composting. So far, I’m a lot better. Not perfect yet. It’s a process. (that’s my story & I’m sticking to it) I like the idea of sewing the necks & sleeves of old t-shirts closed & then using them for bags.

      • I know that some composting landfills don’t want the corn bags, but it seems to be the best solution here for now. As soon as I have some shirts to work with, I’ll see if I can find a creative way to turn them into produce bags. I know some vendors who sell canvas bags printed with their logo, but too often those are made overseas and aren’t good quality. Maybe my market “gimmick” will be a free t-shirt bag. There’s always lots of old t-shirts around.

  2. I too compost all vegetable peelings and coffee grounds, etc. We have the same issue with the grocery store wanting to put everything in plastic bags. Last week I had them unpack all their bags and use mine.

    As for the trash bins needing plastic bags, other than the kitchen trash can, all other bags are emptied right into the town issued waste receptical and the plastic bag is returned to it’s can.

    I stopped buying meat at the grocery store because it comes in styrofoam wrapped with plastic. Instead I go to the butcher. I better quality of meat and they put the items in a plastic wrap and then a butcher paper. The little plastic bag takes up much less room.

    This time of year the biggest waste that we have is the bags from the pellets. I do not have a way to store unbagged pellets where we are. I am still working on that one.

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