When we were preparing for baby #3's arrival last October, I assumed he would effortlessly slide right into our lifestyle without making a lot of waves. I mean, let's face it-we'd done this twice before and were feeling rather confident. And I was right: Alexander fit right in. But, his arrival also brought some unexpected surprises.
The arrival of our beautiful baby #3 also heralded:
- Adding at least 20 minutes to our get-out-of-the-house routine,
- Doing a full load of laundry every day,
- Piling up prolific amounts of dirty dishes in the sink,
- And, most surprising, producing profound amounts of garbage every week, overflowing our overworked garbage can.
I've never been terribly earth-conscious. We recycle whatever we can in our big green bin, but reducing and reusing were usually not on my radar. But, seeing week after week of overflowing garbage on my curb inspired me to find ways for our family to be a little kinder to Mother Nature.
We asked ourselves two types questions:
- What is the current "make up" of our garbage? How can we change our current habits or lifestyle to reduce or eliminate the major components of our garbage?
- What things do we purchase that contribute to our waste? In other words, pay attention to packaging and make sure our purchases can be recycled or reused rather than put into our garbage can.
After some soul-searching, and a little bit of rummaging around in our garbage, here's what we decided:
- Sadly, about 50 percent of our garbage was diaper waste. We decided to switch to cloth diapers, which are actually not as gross or difficult to use as most people think! We chose to buy our own, but many people enjoy the ease of using a diaper service. I even stopped using disposable baby wipes and made my own cloth ones by cutting the sleeves off of old t-shirts. Immediately upon making these diaper-related changes, our garbage production was cut in half!
- Once the disposable diaper garbage was out of the way, I realized that the next largest contributor to our garbage was paper and plastic waste: facial tissues, paper towels, paper napkins, disposable cleaning pads and wipes, dryer sheets, and plastic shopping bags. After asking a few friends for suggestions, I decided to switch our house over to cloth products where we once used only paper. We now use cloth facial tissues, cloth "paper" towels, cloth napkins, cloth cleaning dusters, wool dryer balls, and cloth reusable grocery/shopping bags. I've met some outstanding people on my journey to find reusable products, but I honestly didn't spend a lot of money-most of our reusable cloth products are old, cut up t-shirts and baby blankets.
- Finally, I have tried to be more intentional about what I purchase, attempting to buy items that have minimal or recyclable packaging. If I can't avoid purchases with bulkier packaging, I try to figure out ways to reuse items I can't recycle. In addition, we have been making a much more concentrated effort to recycle junk mail, which we seem to get a lot of, rather than just tossing it in the trash.
All of these efforts combined have created a drastic reduction in our garbage output. Even as a family of five, we usually only have one 13-gallon garbage bag in our can each week. It is such an improvement over the mini mountain we used to put out each week! I think Mother Nature would be proud!