For the month of March we used only a single mason jar for garbage. Switching to a single jar of garbage for the month was not always easy. In fact, sometimes I was wondering why we even chose such a crazy challenge. But then I remembered that it was because our family wanted to make some changes in our own lives.
The Green UP challenge was worth it for our family and it helped make some long lasting changes. However there are certain challenges that made it really difficult to stick to a single garbage jar. Some of those challenges were up to us to change while others are broader societal issues that could potentially take decades to change if they ever do. Taking the time to reflect on these challenges is one of the reasons I wanted to run the Green UP challenge. If you cannot look within yourself and see what needs to change then you cannot make change outside.
We are planning to run another one in the fall so if you want to stay updated make sure to sign up for our Monthly Inspiration Newsletter!
Eating out was one of our biggest challenges. It often started with me telling the barista, hostess or server that we did not want any napkins or straws. I then would have to reinforce this again to make sure we did not get any napkins or straws. We would also have to sneakily hide any napkin holders from my rambunctious 1 year old. She would relentlessly pull any tissue or toilet paper out of its holder.
A few times I forgot to bring extra reusable wipes while eating out. Sometimes I ended up taking the girls to the washroom and scrubbing their hands and face with my hands. Then, since we were trying to avoid using paper towel, they would have to wipe their hands dry on my pants.
We also had to remember to bring take out containers to bring home any extra food to be eaten or composted. Forgetting the container was less then ideal. It meant that I would be left eating it all myself OR finding a random spot like the diaper wipes container to carry them home to be composted.
I feel like everyone needs to take a Recycling 101 course. We scoured over the pages of our local recycling online information guide and even after doing that we still had unknowns. If I was not sure if something could be recycled I just did not buy the item. While this is probably better for the environment anyways it made it challenging when I had to omit a certain ingredient in a recipe to either find a substitute or just hope that it turned out! But there were some things like tops of beer bottles etc that we were not sure could be recycled, and so we either put them in the kids’ craft box for another day OR our garbage jar!
Planning and Driving
I had to really plan out what I needed because I could not do quick stops at our local grocery store for certain items like dish soap. Smack dab in the middle of our challenge we ran out of dish soap. In an attempt to save myself a trip to a specialty store where I could fill up my dish soap bottle, I tried to make my own soap from scratch. The only problem was that it was incredibly hard to find the correct ingredients. I ended up using a simple recipe for about 2 days before I realized that our homemade solution either had to be better or I needed to go to the specialty shop. I got motivated and in a mad dash took my dish soap container after supper to the store to get filled so that I could be home in time for the girls’ bedtime.
Broader Societal Issue
The Green UP challenge gave our family the opportunity to look at some of the broader societal issues . It is hard to be zero waste when it is completely normal to acquire to much of it everyday. It also quickly became clear that not only does society have a waste problem but we also have a recycling/composting problem. Stores and restaurants first mindset is to offer you waste instead of waiting for the consumer to say they want it.
Packaging makes it challenging for families to reduce their waste. Toys and goods are often over packaged to the point that the packaging is bigger than the product! Whether you can recycle it or not it really is completely unnecessary. There has to be another way to package goods and companies need to think about this BEFORE they develop their products.
Food is also a problem. Take for instance a regular breakfast cereal and I am talking about even some of the organic brands. This cereal can help busy families provide breakfast for their families BUT the plastic that comes with them is often not recyclable.
Straws at restaurants are also a huge problem as well. Restaurants could easily give a glass of water or a drink without a straw. Then, only give a straw to those costumers that ask for one. Straws are not recyclable and just end up in the waste. Just imagine the number of straws each day that enter the waste bin just because we don’t want to touch our lips to a glass.
I absolutely love this one bakery. The food is great and they have made a conscious decision to use take away containers and bags that are all compostable. The only problem is that if you ask for certain dishes to stay they put the piece of bread in a bag on the side. I asked them once if I could not use the bag and they responded “its compostable”. Yes is it compostable which I love. BUT that compostable bag had to be made which requires energy and then has to be composted. This waste could have been avoided.
It is also a problem when we think it is ok to get plastic bags from the grocery store because they are recyclable. This goes for a lot of containers and jars. If we only got those items when it was absolutely necessary then we would avoid the manufacturing and recycling waste.
It was not easy to switch to a single garbage jar but it gave our family a chance to really reflect on the waste that we produce. It also gave me insight into our society. Our society has a take take take and use use use attitude without thinking of the future effects. Our family is not perfect and we are currently on a journey to reduce our waste. While we still don’t have a garbage can in the house, our waste has increased since we ran the challenge. My hope is that if we run these challenges two times a year we will slowly build lasting change in our families lives.
Subscribe to our monthly e-mail to make sure you don’t miss out on the fall Green UP challenge. By subscribing you will receive monthly Green UP tips and outdoor inspiration.