Jan 21, 2013

2 Simple Steps for Reducing Waste in the Home

Cutway model of a typical compost bin. (Bruce McAdam)
Have you heard about the "Zero Waste Home?" Well, that's not my house. (Something I'm glad for, since the zero waste home seems a bit obsessive-compulsive to me.) But over the past few years, we've definitely cut down on the amount of trash we send to the landfill. And not only is it not hard - it saves us money.

Compost

The first important step to reducing household waste is to compost. It's also a must if you have any type of a garden; compost is expensive to purchase and so easy to make.

I keep a small, attractive container on the kitchen counter and empty it nearly every day. Into this container goes:

* fruit and vegetable scraps
* empty toilet paper and paper towel rolls
* paper towels (don't compost any that have cleaning chemicals on them)
* scratch paper my children have drawn on or that I've made lists on
* waxed paper, including the kind butter is wrapped in
* parchment paper(after reusing it several times)
* coffee grounds and filters
* tea bags (only the kind without staples in them)
* egg shells
* "old maids" (popcorn that didn't pop)

My favorite composter.
In addition, we put the following in our composter:

* grass clippings (unless I use them as garden mulch or give them to the chickens)
* clippings from the garden (unless my hubby chips them and I use them as garden mulch)
* cardboard boxes (unless I use them as garden mulch)
* tissue paper
* wrapping paper
* rotten produce from the fridge (no matter how careful I am, we always end up with some)
* weeds that haven't gone to seed
* chicken manure (I have one composter just for manure so I can be sure it's well aged before I use it in the garden)

So, you can see this takes care of pretty much all paper products, garden waste, and some of the kitchen waste. (Learn more about what can be composted over at TLC and Compost Instructions.)

To learn more about how to start your own composting pile(s), read my post here. But it really couldn't be easier; simply pile organic material and let it decompose. If you want it to decompose faster, you can be mindful of what you put in and how often you turn the pile. I've also found things compost faster in well ventilated, rotating compost bins made from black plastic - but even just a pile in a corner of your yard will eventually turn to beautiful compost that enriches the earth. I sometimes also use the old fashioned method of trenching: Just dig a hole somewhere in your yard, put compostable material in it, and cover it up.

Kitchen and garden scraps.
Chickens

The second easy way we've reduced household waste is to have chickens. Yes, pigs have a reputation for being wonderful "garbage" eaters, but really, chickens are just as good and take up a lot less room. A bonus: the more "garbage" you feed them, the less you'll spend in chicken feed. To the chickens go:

* weeds I don't compost
* garden clippings I don't compost or chip (don't give hens tomato plants, though)
* any leftover food that can't be composted, including
  • meat (yes, chicken, too)
  • meat fats and gristle
  • cheese
  • soured milk
  • pasta
  • bread
  • any veggies or fruit scraps I don't compost (avoid onions and fruit peels in quantity because they make eggs taste "off" and avoid potato peelings because they can poison chickens.)
In my experience chickens don't turn their noses up at any food - and many foods you might think they couldn't or wouldn't eat (like sour, curdled milk), they actually adore.

Other Things We Don't Throw Out

* leaves (rake them where you want them, then let them decompose - they are great for the soil; if you prefer, compost them)
* glass jars (save them for storing dried goods or non-food items like pins or nails in)
* certain plastic containers that once held food (also for storing dried goods; don't use jars that didn't contain food)

We rarely recycle - primarily because recycling uses up a lot of fuel and energy. Besides, why send it off somewhere if we can use it somewhere on our "homestead?"

How do you reduce waste in your household? 


This post featured on Homestead Abundance.

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