Archive | 2011

Antipasti

I brought my ‘no trash gear’ with me to visit with my parents over the holidays. While out shopping for food, I put appetizers from their local grocery store’s antipasti bar straight into my stainless steel container. My dad and I share a taste for olives, especially Sicilian Castelvetrano olives (the dark green ones). I’ve found it’s been pretty easy to practice trash-free shopping and eating while traveling as long as I remember to bring a couple containers and bags. I don’t mind asking store employees if their policy will allow me to use my own. Even if initially there is some confusion over the request, I find that most of the time people are willing to accommodate me.

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Giving

So far this holiday season, gift-giving hasn’t been the completely trash-free picture I envisioned several months ago. But this year my family and I managed to make less waste than we’ve made in years past.

The tradition of giving gifts on Christmas, birthdays, mother’s and father’s day runs deep in my family. When we were kids, my parents gave me and my siblings toys in big boxes that spilled out from under the Christmas tree. My mom refers to those years as our pink plastic Christmases, as my sister and I would often receive dolls and doll accessories packaged in pink cardboard boxes with cellophane windows. As we grew older the spectacular gift display under the tree diminished and my siblings and I assumed the duty of giving back to our parents and to each other. Now that we’ve become adults with our own many financial responsibilities, the pressure to give several things has dissipated. This year we all pooled our money to get each person one thing that they wanted. I was in charge of coordinating my mom’s gift–a pair of English leather boots that she can wear hiking in the woods near my parents’ house. I felt good giving this particular gift because I know that if she takes care of them, she’ll have the boots for the rest of her life.

For many years now I’ve been wrapping gifts in unbleached craft paper from rolls I’ve bought at art supply stores. This was in part an effort to save money on gift-wrapping, but also to use a material that was less taxing on the environment than glossy wrapping paper. I also prefer the look to most patterned papers. This year I had grand plans to wrap all my gifts in fabric with different furoshiki techniques. But I ran out of time and decided to use a large piece of craft paper that my friend Kara had used to wrap the beautiful gift (two ceramic hanging planters) she made for me this year. The piece was just large enough to wrap my mom’s boots in, but because it had been used to wrap the planters, it was creased in many places. So I decided to give the paper a more deliberate, even texture and I crinkled it all over. I used paper tape in a few select places instead of plastic scotch tape. I finished it with a white ribbon from my ribbon stash–a jar full of fabric ribbons I’ve collected and re-used over the years.

Stockings are also a part of our tradition, but this year I didn’t give any stuffers. Mindful of my No Trash Project, my mom didn’t fill my stocking with packaged goods. Instead she gave me the wool running socks I had asked for and an olivewood spoon for my kitchen.

I’ve been making hemp cloths for friends, which I will give without any wrapping when I see them. I have many loved ones with birthdays coming up in January. I plan to give homemade and home cooked gifts. Homemade granola in glass jars wrapped in furoshiki cloth is what I’m imagining. I also love the idea of giving an experience as a gift–particularly surprise experiences, which I’ve been doing lately, even though some of my squirmy kidnapped friends find the trip to an unknown destination torturous. The looks on their faces when we arrive at a special place or event is totally worth it.

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Plastic

I have been avoiding the topic of manufacturing and recycling plastic goods and packaging. There is a part of me that would rather focus on the wonderful things we can do to take ourselves out of the plastic consumption equation. But of course the problems with plastic are a driving force behind this project, so I think it’s important to address this complicated and messy issue.

There are those who will argue that processing plastic food packaging is better for the environment than processing metals or glass. As a lightweight material, less fuel is needed in the shipment of plastic goods than those made out of metal and glass. Because it can so easily be molded and manipulated, while still possessing great strength and durability characteristics, plastic holds extraordinary potential from a design and engineering perspective. But while there may be many conveniences in manufacturing and using plastic, the environmental and heath impacts of our reliance on plastics can’t be ignored. Though the technology exists to recycle most plastics, many recycling challenges remain. Plastic recycling requires a greater amount of processing than glass and metal recycling. Plastic products cannot be returned to their original state, so they are downcycled. Bottles are turned into plastic lumber, carpeting, synthetic clothing, and furniture stuffing. Eventually those products end up in a landfill where they may take decades or even centuries to biodegrade.

Growing evidence has revealed that petroleum based products can be harmful to our health. Chemicals such as bisphenol A (BPA), styrene, and Diethylhexyl Phthalate(DEHP) can leach out of plastic containers into our food and beverages, and as we consume these contaminated foods we are taking the chemicals into our bodies. The health risks posed by exposure to these leached chemicals are all over the anatomical map. Most are carcinogenic and have been shown to adversely affect the endocrine system. Some may impact the behavior of cardiac cells.

I think it’s important to know how the things we use are made. This project has led me to spend a lot of time looking at the objects I encounter with new curiosity about their life from the earth to the factory and eventually back to the earth. I recently stumbled into an online video vortex that inspired me to search for videos on the processing of plastic bottles. Made from Polyethylene terephthalate (PET) #1 plastics are pushed as a safer food grade plastic. But recent studies show that PET may leach phthalate–a plasticizer shown to be an endocrine disruptor. Above are two well-made videos–each under five minutes. The Discovery Channel produced the first video–it illustrates the process of manufacturing new plastic bottles. The second is made by a plastics recycling company to demonstrate the process of recycling used bottles. After watching both clips together, I am left bewildered by the amount of energy and resources required to bring consumers single-serving beverages.

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Farmacy Herbs

The No Trash Project has rather naturally led me to a territory previously unknown to me–medicinal herbs. How can I treat illness, heal injuries, or relieve pain and discomfort without making trash? This past weekend I finally visited Farmacy Herbs in their Providence shop. I mentioned the business in an earlier post about trash-free medicine, at which point I had only ever seen their products at my local farmers markets. The shop is in a small one-room building across from North Burial Ground Cemetery. Mary Blue (Farmacy’s founder) helped me find the herbs I was looking for on the shelves and gave me some recommendations for herbs that may help relieve menstrual cramping. At the self-service table setup next to the wall of dried herbs, I scooped my selections into my own glass jars and weighed them. I was surprised to find that my purchase of nettle leaf, raspberry leaf, cramp bark and ginger root (3oz or about 85 grams total) only cost me $6.00. In the half hour I spent in the shop, many customers came and went. I was excited to catch a glimpse of what seems to be a community of people taking advantage of this wonderful resource. I spoke briefly with a woman named Suzie who is enrolled in Farmacy’s Herbal Education and Training Program. She was helping to tend the store as a part of a work-study arrangement. She told me that classes take place in the shop. On their website you can see a list of topics covered from herbal terminology to wild fermentation techniques. Browsing these topics motivates me to learn about growing, harvesting, preparing, and using medicinal herbs.

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Home heating

So far the weather this season has been mild. But with temperatures dipping down close to 10˚F last night, I have home heating on the brain. In September I moved into a beautiful apartment in the back of a late 18th century brick house. The brick certainly seems to act as a better insulator than clapboard–I noticed that it kept the apartment cool while the weather was still warm–but when temperatures plummet outside, this old house can get pretty chilly.

For the fist time since I’ve lived in Providence I have steam radiators, which I greatly prefer to stinky, inefficient baseboard heating. I also have a wonderful cast iron stove in the living room of my apartment. It emits a lot of heat and helps to take the edge off when the steam radiators aren’t blasting. As per my mom’s suggestion, I’ve been putting a big pot of water (sometimes with added herbs and spices) on the stovetop to humidify the room–the heat from burning wood can be really drying. To avoid buying firewood, my boyfriend and I have been gathering it in the woods and collecting discarded scraps from around the city. It’s a nice incentive to be outside in the cold weather. I’m learning how to choose dry pieces based on their weight and the sound the wood makes when you tap it on a surface. The pile of 4-log plastic shrink wrapped bundles outside the grocery store is a bizarre sight.

I’ve wondered about the environmental effects of wood burning so I did some research. With regard to carbon, the same amount is released from a burning log as would be if that log were to decompose on the forest floor. But of course the carbon from a burning log is released in an hour or less, as opposed to the several months or even years it may take for a log to rot. Oil and gas are used to harvest and transport wood, making the carbon impact greater. The particulate matter released into the air from wood burning is also a concern. I found out that my newer Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) certified stove heats more efficiently and produces less fine particulate emissions at about 2-7 grams/hour compared to old-fashioned wood stoves that can produce 15-30 grams/hour. Conventional fireplaces without inserts or closed combustion chambers may release as much as 50 grams/hour. Burning properly dried wood will minimize the particulate output and creosote buildup. From what I’ve read, it seems that an advanced wood burning appliance can be a reasonable addition to a home energy system. Wood burning is certainly my favorite source of heat. It is beautiful and comforting on raw days and bitter nights.

Weatherizing a home is the number one way to save energy required to regulate temperature in both cold and hot seasons. Luckily the original windows in my apartment have snug fitting storms and so far this season I haven’t thought about covering any in plastic. I would certainly consider insulating fabric window dressings before turning to plastic in the context of this project. I am however thinking about key places where caulk (which I’ve only ever found in plastic packaging) can be applied to stop air leaks–around the windows and where the floor meets the baseboard. Meanwhile, I also invested in some high quality silk and wool long underwear.

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No trash kitchen

More food storage. Purchased in bulk without packaging, plus a couple home grown foods, and some spices with labels that were purchased before starting the project.

From the left: carob chips, flour, rice, fennel seed, cumin seed, sugar, granola, nutritional yeast, raisins, camomile tea, flax seeds, cannellini beans, bay leaves, cinnamon sticks, chili peppers (grown), rolled oats, dried apricots, stevia powder (grown), cocoa powder, almond butter, millet, green tea, yerba maté (grown), balsamic vinegar, sesame oil, canola oil, salt, pepper

All of the spices on my shelf are available in bulk at the co-op. I’ve been thinking about how long mine have been sitting, and as time goes by, their freshness fades. I may end up giving some away if I don’t find the inspiration to use them. I like the idea of buying smaller amounts of each spice at a given time so that they are more potent.

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Bulk time lapse

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One month of trash-free bulk foods on my countertop.

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Running rubbish

This morning I went for a run in the woods. The sun was shining but the ground was still saturated from all the rain we got over the past two days, so the smell of decomposing leaves was heavy in the air. I prefer trail running to road running because it calls for more focus and coordination, and because there isn’t much traffic out on a wooded path. My run is usually my favorite part of a day. I always say that if I could bottle the post-run feeling and sip it all day long, I’d never have a care in the world. I like that it’s a form of exercise that requires little gear. I can throw on my running clothes and be out the door. But the most important piece of equipment that a runner has (the one that takes the most pounding) also makes the most trash.

Carbon rubber, polyurethane, ethylene vinyl acetate, nylon, polyester, and thermoplastic urethane are some of the materials used to make modern running shoes. Most spent pairs go straight to a landfill.When I got home today and kicked mine off, I noticed they’re really starting to fall apart. I’ve worn through the foam on the heel of the insoles and the treads on the soles have flattened out since I bought them almost three years ago. I do own another pair that I love–a ‘minimal’ running shoe I picked up this past spring when I became intrigued by the argument that barefoot running is beneficial for joints, but couldn’t imagine sacrificing the soles of me feet. My minimal shoes are not completely sealed on the outsoles, so water creeps in when the ground is wet. I don’t mind damp feet in warmer weather, but it can be unbearable in the cold.

So the time has come to do some more research. I’d like to find a shoe that is made from minimal material, but can stand up to winter in New England. I realize this is a tall order. I’ve started looking into it and while I haven’t yet found a pair that meets my criteria, I have found some information about the recent efforts of some athletic shoe companies to reduce waste in a toxic industry.

Puma and Brooks seem to be taking the lead. Both have redesigned their shoe packaging so that customers walk out with less trash around their new footwear. In 2008, Brooks released a shoe with a midsole that supposedly biodegrades 50 times faster than conventional midsoles. In November, Puma announced that they are working to develop the first completely compostable running shoes. And I came across these leather and canvas biodegradable, blooming sneakers.

I will keep looking for shoes that are right for me. When it is finally time to get rid of my old ones I think I’m going to bring them to the Reuse-A-Shoe drop-off location about 10 miles away from where I live. Meanwhile I daydream about taking up yoga–a truly barefoot form of exercise, but I don’t think I could ever completely kick my running habit.

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Pattern play

Experimenting with different patterns for dishwashing cloths. I’m curious to see if one holds soap better than the others.

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Prep

Getting ready for a trip to the co-op. Empty 16 oz glass peanut butter jars make great containers for loose tea, dried bulk goods, nut butters, baking soda, and even bulk moisturizing lotion.

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Dish cloth

A new tool put to use.

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Scrubs

My search for the elusive package-free natural loofah sponge has come to an end. For a while I was hung up on the idea of finding a no trash source for this amazing little dried fruit. I had hoped to use it as a dish scrubber and a shower sponge. But, from bath and beauty stores to natural food stores and even online, every loofah product I’ve come across has been wrapped in some kind of plastic. I was using Twist sponges for a while but most of their products are no longer available without a plastic wrapper. I emailed the company and was told that the initial attempt to package their sponges in a simple paper sleeve had failed because the sponges shrank as they dried on store shelves, causing them to fall out of the sleeves. What a shame to have to put a biodegradable, environmentally friendly product inside packaging that ends up in a landfill. So, the time has come to rethink the kitchen sink.

What about hemp? A friend of mine suggested knitting my own washcloths from hemp yarn. I thought this was a nice idea. I figured I could knit some small dish scrubbers while I was at it. I visited my local yarn shop and discovered that they do not carry it. I found some suppliers online but the yarn is more expensive than I had imagined and it’s all imported. Oh, that’s right–isn’t there some kind of movement to legalize industrial hemp in the United States? I started to do some research. I’ve learned a little about why so many are looking at hemp as an alternative sustainable resource, and why it’s a touchy subject in our country.

Because of its long fiber and strength characteristics, hemp is a versatile material that can be used to make paper, rope, fabric, and building materials (particle board). It is a 120-day crop that grows well with little more than rainwater in a variety of climates, and its root system actually improves soil quality. New growth tree farms harvest wood on 20-35 year cycles, depending on the tree species. Hemp pulp is naturally whiter than wood pulp and requires less chemical processing to turn it into paper. Unfortunately, because it is a non-intoxicating variety of cannabis sativa (the same species of plant that marijuana comes from), it has been illegal to grow it in the USA without a special Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) permit since 1970. So far, it is still extremely difficult to acquire this permit. ‘Hempsters’ from coast to coast are working to change that. Progress is slow.

After much deliberation, I finally decided to order some hemp yarn from an online supplier. I bought 900 yards of fair trade, organically grown, unbleached yarn that is imported from Romania. The knit square pictured above is meant for dishwashing. The fiber is naturally mildew resistant and can be thrown in the washing machine. I’m hoping that when paired a stainless steel mesh sponge, the hemp scrubbers will make dishwashing a synthetic fiber-free cinch. Slightly larger knit squares will replace the cotton washcloths I have been using in the shower. Though it’s only a small square, I find that the cotton cloth is cumbersome when saturated with water and it’s not the most effective exfoliant. Time will test the durability of my cannabis cloths.

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Bumps in the road

Last night the temperature outside was a balmy 60˚F. I packed a clean jar, a couple reusable produce bags, and a stainless steel container in a backpack and set out on my bike to Whole Foods. At the store I filled my jar with almond butter and one of my mesh bags with Brazil nuts. I went to the fish counter and got a piece of hake in my container, but the fish man was a little confused by my request for no packaging and he used a piece of tissue paper to weigh my hake. I should have been more specific. By now I know many local grocery store and farmers market employees, so most of the time I’m able to ask for help from someone who is familiar with my reusable container routine. But sometimes on the occasions that I shop outside of my usual hours, I’m met with the puzzled faces of strangers who aren’t sure why I’m trying to hand them my own container. I’ve learned that there are a few things I can do to help make this interaction go smoothly. Generally I try to avoid approaching the counter when there’s a long line of people. Instead I’ll shop for the rest of my groceries and return when the counter is quiet, especially if someone I’ve never met is working there. That way, there is time and space for my special request. I explain my goal before ordering. I start by saying that I’m trying to avoid making any trash. I ask if it’s possible to weigh the container first to get the tare, and then put the food directly into the container while it’s on the scale. I’ve found it helpful to explain that it’s not just that I don’t want to take any packaging with me, but that I don’t want any paper (besides the price sticker) used to process my order. Most of the time people are very friendly and accommodating, and sometimes they even encourage the no trash effort.

After I got my fish, I went to pick out a starch for my meal and decided I had a hankering for potatoes. I found the bins of loose potatoes and noticed that they were all conventionally grown. The organic potatoes were located on other side of the bins, all packaged and stacked in plastic bags. Foiled! It’s not the first time that packaging has affected my dinner plans since I’ve made buying organic a priority. For reasons I don’t understand, I often see organic produce options in packaging at the grocery store. Buying a whole bag of apples, avocados, bell peppers, mushrooms, or onions, now seems like a strange way to shop for food. I enjoy choosing individual fruits and vegetables–turning them over in my hands, scanning for nicks and bruises, feeling the weight of the food, and even smelling some produce to check for ripeness. I like to select a handful of items that are ready to eat now or in the next couple of days. Stocking up on large amounts of food that can spoil doesn’t make much sense anymore. The bags of potatoes in front of me last night became more incentive to lean on farmers markets and co-ops whenever possible as a source for fruits and vegetables. Meanwhile I remain flexible and open minded about the other trash-free, organic ingredients that are available to me. And I will continue to vote with my dollar.

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Yerba Maté

This morning I harvested the leaves of my yerba maté (Ilex paraguariensis) plant. Actually the truth is I shocked the little shrub by bringing it indoors for the winter and it let go of all its leaves. So I collected the fallen and the falling, and put them into a glass jar to dry. Once they’re dehydrated I will grind them up to make tea. I think the plant will bounce back and start pushing out new leaves soon.

It’s difficult to express how much I enjoy growing my own food. I don’t have any ground to plant in, so my garden is potted. In the summer I grow fruit, vegetables, and herbs. In the winter I bring everything indoors. Some plants go dormant in the basement (my fig trees for instance), others tough it out on the windowsills in my apartment. Having the green inside my home helps me through the grey winters in Providence.

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The perfect thing

A big part of the No Trash Project has been learning to plan ahead. I’ve had to train myself to always carry a reusable bag with me, even if I’m not headed directly to the store. If I know I need to shop for food, I will pack smaller produce bags and at least one reusable container. As I’ve mentioned before, I am now in the habit of carrying lunch and dinner with me to work and on the road. When I first began this project I was carrying around plastic tupperware. I soon found that the plastic stained easily, held food odors, and it was difficult to remove meat counter price stickers from the worn, scratched lids. I transitioned over to glass Frigoverre storage containers for a while. While they were far easier to clean (oils don’t stick to glass the way they stick to plastic) they were heavier and more cumbersome than my already donated plastic containers. After breaking one glass container on the pavement, and another on a concrete floor at work, it was clear that I needed to find another solution. I had seen a stainless steel lunchbox at Whole Foods, but it was shrink wrapped in two layers of plastic.

My friend told me about a company called Life Without Plastic. Their website has become an important resource for me. Whenever possible I try to find what I need locally to avoid using shipping materials and fuel, but sometimes I strike out. I have turned to this company for products unavailable nearby or without unnecessary packaging, which have become an important part of my routine. Life Without Plastic makes an effort to pack their shipments in reused, recycled, and recyclable materials.

The stainless steel containers above are a few of my favorite things. They are lightweight, even more durable than plastic, and they have a tighter seal (a silicone ring for watertight storage) than either the plastic or the glass containers. I give one to The Local Catch to hold my weekly fish order. The steel never stinks the way the plastic used to. I bring my dinner to work in one almost everyday. I’m never worried that the contents will spill into my bag as I bike or walk from home.

This past weekend I drove down to New York City with some friends. We packed some quinoa, farmers market brussels sprouts, squash, apples, granola, and almond butter in the stainless steel containers. We filled our large swing top glass bottles with water and packed some bowls, forks, knives, and cloth napkins. It was a delicious trash-free picnic that sustained us through a night at the ballet. The leftovers went into the refrigerator at our generous host’s house. The food was still delicious for breakfast the next morning!

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Metal Mountain

The other day, while I was headed out of town I drove by the Sims Metal Management site on Eddy Street. Lit by the setting sun, the towering pile of metal scraps was quite a sight to behold. Apparently Sims is the world’s largest scrap metals and electronics recycling company. They just moved into the nine-acre Providence waterfront property in October, replacing Promet Marine Services Corporation. The export terminal includes a 600 ft pier with rail services and two deep-water berths. I am curious about the process. It seems that some sorting and compressing is being done here in Providence, but I wonder if they are also melting and molding metals on-site. Where is the recycled metal sent once it has been processed? I’m looking into getting a tour…

Tomorrow is America Recycles Day. I heard that my local Whole Foods Markets are teaming up with Green Penguin for an electronics waste recycling drive. I contacted Green Penguin for more information and they directed me to a poster on their Facebook page, which lists all the accepted e-waste materials. I will be dropping off some non-functioning electronics that I have been storing while I looked for a way to properly dispose of them. The e-waste blight is a rapidly growing problem.

I’ve been thinking about the ways in which my electronic devices impact my health and the environment as I continue my effort to “go paperless.” I try to limit the use of my cell phone and I’m determined to take excellent care of my laptop so that it will serve me for many years to come. I’ve learned to keep all my chargers, cables, and headphones out of the reach of my cat, as she loves to chew on them. I no longer own a TV or any decks. I watch movies and shows on my computer. When I want to see something projected large, I go to work or to the cinema. Pairing down my electronic devices to the few that are essential to my current lifestyle has made caring for those few items more manageable. 

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Details

Since I began this project my kitchen has slowly become a more efficient workspace. Food moves from the grocery tote to the plate through a well-organized system. At this point, I’m not producing any spoiled food. Everything edible in the kitchen is consumed and the only things going into the compost are peels, shells, skins and tough stems. I went through all the tools in the kitchen and donated every item that was not essential. It’s amazing how the drawers, cabinets, and shelves of a room will fill up over time. I found that I had many multiples of the same tool (three cheese graters for example) and many pots, pans, dishes, and utensils that were never used but for some reason traveled with me through multiple home moves.  Eliminating the clutter has been great. Prepping, cooking, and cleaning routines are simpler. Unloading the bulk of the kitchen items I had been storing for so long has allowed me to focus on finding the right tool for each job. I find a lot of enjoyment in scavenging high quality items made from sustainable materials and I’m slowly weeding out the poorly made, the dysfunctional, and the plastic. Incorporating objects that meet my personal standards of form and functionality has made daily practices more satisfying. Filled with wood, steel, and glass, the dish drying rack has become very photogenic.

Last week I checked another item off the No Trash Project wish list–an immersion blender. My tabletop blender quit several months ago while I was making hummus (it went out with a loud groan and some smoke), so I had been looking for the immersion variety for a while. I hemmed and hawed over what brand to buy and how much to spend. I regularly checked craigslist to see if anyone nearby was selling one used. No such luck. So, I finally took the plunge and bought one new. I decided to go with a high-end product that could stand up to heavy use. In addition to all the foods I’ll be mincing and blending, I’ll also be using it to make recycled paper at home, so I needed to find one with lot of power. I’ve now used mine to make soup and I love it. Because I don’t have to transfer batches to and from a tabletop blender, fewer dishes are dirtied, and less water is used to clean up. I look forward to making a wider range of dishes than I was able to produce in the days of the hand mashing, blender hiatus. Both of the trash-free, puréed soups pictured above were made without set measurements, but I’ve written up a basic recipe for each.

Butternut Squash Soup

1 large butternut squash peeled, seeded, and chopped into 1-inch pieces

4 cups homemade vegetable broth

My most recent batch was made with water, carrots, celery, onion, fennel seeds, and cracked red pepper (combined, boiled, and strained)

1 medium yellow onion finely chopped

1 clove of garlic minced

2 Tbs. canola of oil

1 Tbs. curry powder

1 tsp freshly ground cinnamon

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Heat canola oil in a large pot.

Sauté the onion until translucent (about 5-7 minutes).

Add squash and garlic and cook for two more minutes.

Add broth. Bring to a simmer and cover.

Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for until the squash is tender (about 20 minutes).

Blend soup.

Serve with a drizzle of olive oil, cracked black pepper, and fresh thyme (or sage) leaves. Salt if desired.

Cauliflower Apple Soup

1 large head of cauliflower chopped into 1-inch pieces

1 to 2 tart apples chopped (6 cups)

2 tablespoons canola oil

1 medium yellow onion finely chopped

1 clove of garlic minced

1 tablespoon curry powder

4 cups homemade vegetable broth

1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar

1 teaspoon honey

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Heat canola oil in a large pot.

Sauté the onion until translucent (about 5-7 minutes).

Stir in the apple, curry, garlic and cook for 2 more minutes.

Add the cauliflower and broth. Bring to a simmer and cover.

Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for until the cauliflower is tender (about 20 minutes).

Blend soup.

Stir in the honey and vinegar.

Serve with a drizzle of olive oil and cracked pepper. Salt if desired.

Because these recipes are so basic, they are both very adaptable. I used spices are stocked on my shelves (I love curry) but there are many substitutes. Trash-free cooking often calls for creativity. I’m learning to be resourceful while shopping and flexible while putting together a meal.

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7 billion

 

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Medicine

Many people have asked me how I deal with medicine in the No Trash Project, and as cold and flu season descends on New England, the issue becomes more pertinent. The truth is that there are no ‘quick tip’ solutions to filling medicinal needs without making trash. Over-the-counter drugs come packaged in number two plastic bottles or in plastic and aluminum foil blister packs inside paper boxes. Though I’ve looked, I have not been able to find a single glass bottle on a drugstore shelf. Orange tinted prescription bottles are made from number five plastic and you can’t refill your refills in bottles that have been used (however, many pharmacies will take your bottles back to be recycled-not reused). Of course there are strict health codes at work here. Recently, while visiting a friend in the hospital, I was struck by how much trash is made in the effort toward maintaining a sterile environment and toward making caregiving more efficient.

I want to be careful in the discussion of this particular topic because I realize people require many different kinds treatment to fight ailments and diseases of varying severity. I understand that there are instances in which producing trash cannot be avoided to meet individual healthcare needs. I feel that the best way to address this issue is to present my own personal experience regarding health and wellness in the context of the project. I don’t want to suggest that mine is a system that should be adopted by others, but rather share some of the questions and discoveries I’ve come across.

A reoccurring theme of these posts is my goal of simplifying my lifestyle to become more efficient. As with all other aspects of this project, the search for trash-free medicine has led me to reevaluate my needs. By now we’re all familiar with the idea that fortifying our bodies with a healthy diet and regular exercise is a fundamental form of preventative medicine. Growing up, I was relatively active and my parents raised my siblings and me on well-balanced meals. In the summer we ate vegetables from our garden. As an adult I have continued to focus on taking care of myself. But since I was very young, I have used prescribed and over-the-counter medication for both the prevention and treatment of illness. I could not name all the different antibiotics I’ve taken in my life if I tried. And there was a time when I would not hesitate to take a pain reliever to ease even mild discomfort. I feel now that those tendencies were largely based in habit. The idea of straying from systems that work reasonably well can be unsettling especially when it comes to healthcare.

The project has led me to become more interested in ‘alternative’ medicine. I’m drawn to naturopathy, which is centered on the belief that the body has an innate ability to heal itself. The idea of using diet, exercise, lifestyle change, and natural therapies/remedies to enhance the body’s ability to ward off disease makes a lot of sense to me on an intuitive level. I’ve been trying to incorporate more natural healthcare practices into my life. 

The no trash effort naturally supports eating a healthy diet of whole foods (I imagine it would be challenging to get junk food and processed food without some kind of packaging). I’m very sensitive to the way that the foods I ingest make me feel. I eat a mostly plant-based diet supplemented with some seafood and poultry. I have been experimenting with all the whole grains in the bulk section. My meals are colorful and delicious and I am never left wanting. I run almost every day. I sometimes notice the mental health benefits of running even more than the physical. It’s the best way I’ve found to manage my own stress.

I haven’t filled a prescription in nearly seven months. I stopped using oral contraceptives as a means of regulating my cycle, and have begun to look at herbal remedies to relieve cramps, treat colds, ease headaches, settle an upset stomach, etc… Chamomile tea for instance, can be used not only as a mild sedative, but also to relieve stomach and intestinal cramps, menstrual cramps, and headaches. I purchase it loose in bulk at the co-op. I’d like to learn the medicinal uses of all the fragrant herbs and teas stocked on the shelves. It wasn’t until starting the No Trash Project that I took notice of another wonderful resource in Providence called Farmacy Herbs. They come to the local farmers markets but they also have a store location here in town that I’ve been meaning to visit.

My medicine cabinet still contains ibuprofen, acetaminophen, some over–the–counter cold and flu medicine, and an inhaler-all of which were acquired before starting down the no trash path. I’m hanging onto it for ‘just in case’ reasons, especially because I tend to get sick more in the fall and winter than in the spring and summer. It’s a schedule that seems to be directly related to working at a university. I have not sworn off western medicine, and I don’t intend to put myself through any unnecessary suffering in an effort to avoid using over–the–counter and prescription drugs. But I am interested in learning about many different healing practices and I hope to be able to lean on those that are more environmentally healthy when I am faced with illness.

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Progress

The first few posts have mostly been about the already established systems of the No Trash Project, but every new day offers potential to further the effort. This week I finally got a bike. I had been looking for one that would fit me for quite some time. I needed a frame with a shorter stand over height and length.  This past summer I checked out a number of bikes through craigslist but couldn’t find any that were appropriate for my proportions. Finally I decided to seek help to build one up.  A friend of mine who works on bikes happened to have a smaller frame set aside. He put the bike together with mostly used and a few new parts. I am now the proud owner of this tangerine beauty. I recently moved into an apartment that is only four blocks from my office. I’ve been enjoying walking to and from work and to nearby businesses. Though it’s late in the New England biking season, I look forward to using my new ride to further cut down on driving.

On the day I went to pick it up, while Tom was helping another customer in the shop, I perused the parts and accessories hanging on the walls. I noticed there are a wide variety of material choices to consider when putting a bike together. Tom and I spoke about some of the things that can be done to reduce the waste involved in keeping a bike.

There are some fundamental common sense measures that can be taken to lengthen a bike’s life. Luckily I have the space to keep mine inside while at home and at work, and both spaces have reasonably dry air. I once kept a bike in the basement of a Providence house thinking it would winter over well, but the moisture in the basement caused the frame and the chain to rust. Of course I’ll need to consider the way in which I lock it outside to safeguard the parts and the bike itself. It seems obvious I know, but it’s easy to get careless. My friend Kory recently made instructional booklets on how to properly lock a bike, which can be seen here. I will certainly think of these tips every time I lock mine up.

Beyond the basic care of the bike, I’m also interested in the range of sustainability of materials used to make bike parts. Mine was cobbled together from available used parts and some of the components are on the not so environmentally friendly end of the spectrum. The seat (saddle) for instance is foam and vinyl. The derailleur has some plastic components and the handlebar tape is foam with an adhesive backing. The tires are probably the least sustainable part on the bike, but as far as I know, there really aren’t many options here. Some saddles, handlebar grips, and pedal straps are made of genuine leather. Cotton cloth grip tape is also an option. Some of the plastic parts on my bike are also available in different kinds of metals, but may weigh more.

In general, I think I’ve always been interested in how things are made and how they work. The No Trash Project seems to have heightened my curiosity. I find myself looking at objects, breaking down their parts in my mind, wondering about the life of a thing before I came in contact with it and the life it will have beyond me.

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Hygiene

It’s no secret that maintaining cleanliness supports health. Being clean is considered virtuous–cleanliness is the tenth of Benjamin Franklin’s thirteen virtues to live by. Hygienic standards and practices vary across cultures and have changed throughout history. The Romans had their bathhouses and scented oils. Soapmaking became a popular trade in Spain and Italy during the Dark Ages. The toothbrush as we know it today was invented in China in the late 1400s. Before that, chewing the twigs and leaves of plants thought to have antiseptic properties was common practice.

Contagion and germ theories led us to the notion that we have more to worry about than visible filth. In 1854 John Snow discovered that cholera was transmitted through contaminated water. His findings led to the widespread development of sewage systems. In the twentieth century, industries sprang up to deliver products that would serve us on our quest for cleaner countertops and whiter toilet bowls. Advertisements goad us to buy products that support health and that will spare us the judgment of others about armpit odor.

The continually increasing attention to hygiene has meant an increase in pressure on the natural environment. Today we’re starting to see a push away from the use of harsh chemical cleaning agents because of growing evidence of their threat to our health and the planet. “Green” cleaning agent production is becoming big business.

I’m interested in finding ways of maintaining personal and domestic hygiene without making trash and without using any chemicals in/on my body, or on the surfaces in my home. We all have a different standard of cleanliness, so the system I’ve mapped out so far is of course personal. This zone has been slightly more complicated than the food zone, but the approach to tackling the problems is the same. I ask myself what I need. What do I need to sufficiently clean my dishes, my laundry, and my floors? What do I need to feel clean, smell good, and stay healthy?

As I mentioned in the last post, the discovery of the Alternative Food Co-op in Wakefield has helped me enormously in the No Trash Project. They encourage membership but it is not required in order to shop there. Not only is the store stocked with a wonderful bulk food selection, but they also supply many cleaning and body products in bulk dispensing systems. Below is some information about the non-food products that I buy in bulk and their important roles in no trash hygienic practice.

Baking Soda–not just for baking!

Currently, baking soda, also known as sodium bicarbonate, has numerous uses in my home. Because it is weakly alkaline and acts to neutralize acid, baking soda has long been used for many first aid applications. It also has mild antiseptic properties. A simple paste made from baking soda and cold water can be applied to burns, bug bites, bee stings, and poison ivy. It can be diluted in water and used as an antacid.  As a mild, gentle abrasive, it can be used in place of toothpaste or as an exfoliating skin cleanser. A friend of mine recently explained how she mixes it with a bit of conditioner and uses it in place of shampoo.

For the same reasons it works to cleanse the body, baking soda is an effective household cleaner. Its fine, gritty texture works as an abrasive agent and is safe to use on most surfaces. It can be added to the washing machine to help remove stains, neutralize odor, and acts as a fabric softener for laundry.

Castile Soap

I’ve been using liquid castile soap (Dr. Bronner’s)–an olive oil based soap that is a mild but effective cleanser. I use it in place of dish soap, as a body wash, and occasionally as a surface cleaner. It’s available to me in bulk dispensers.  I fill it up in jars at the co-op and once I’m home I pour it into glass oil cruets (like the one pictured above). The soap pours easily from the metal dispenser.

Powdered laundry detergent, bleach powder, moisturizing lotions, shampoo and conditioner are also available in bulk at the co-op.

There is another natural household cleaner that I’m attached to, which I have not been able to find without packaging. White distilled vinegar is effective in killing mold, and bacteria. I find it neutralizes odors well and clears drains when combined with baking soda. I have resorted to buying it in a glass bottle. I’m careful to use vinegar sparingly and dilute it with water to make the supply last longer. Again, the system is not perfect. The vinegar bottle becomes a part of the recyclable waste I make. And I haven’t forgotten that the goods we buy in bulk are delivered to the grocery store and co-op in packaging/containers (more on this soon).

Hygiene accessories are an important part of this discussion. Many cleaning and grooming tools are made of plastic and are meant to be disposable. I’ve tried to focus on choosing tools that are made of more sustainable materials that will stand up to the test of time and use, or products that are compostable.  Microfiber cloths have replaced paper towels, plant-based compostable sponges have replaced plastic and cellulose sponges, and a high quality stainless steel safety razor has replaced the disposable plastic version.

While writing this post, I’ve been thinking about the number of plastic bottles, jugs, aerosol cans, plastic spray nozzles and pumps, sponges, and paper towels that before starting this project, I threw into the trash and recycling on a regular basis. Though I’ve only been working toward no trash for six months, today my old routines seem to be rather unnatural. It’s bizarre to package goods that may be used in one hour, day, week, or month in containers that will be on this earth for hundreds of years after they’re emptied. Stranger still is the fact that we are consistently encouraged and even pressured to take part in this unsustainable system.

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It started in the kitchen…

A lot of time passed between the point at which I decided to create a blog about the No Trash Project and the point that I finally got it started. I’ve been thinking (probably too much) about how to organize it. Of course a blog is a wonderful platform for documentation, and I know that as time goes by, it will become a sort of album and journal. Ideally, I would like the content to be useful to others as well.  I’ve decided to try to outline the ‘big picture’ ideas motivating the project and also describe the details of the daily problem solving involved.

I think it’s important to talk about the reevaluation of both need and habit that has been necessary for me to make any kind of progress.  As cliché as it may sound, we are ‘programmed’ to participate in trash-making routines.  It’s easy to accept that the products we see on television, billboards, and store shelves will enhance the quality of our lives. I was very much in the habit of buying and using things that just seemed necessary to function in a productive way. Now, the question I repeat over and over everyday is, “Do I need this?” Do I really need a different cleaning product for each and every surface in my house? Do I need dryer sheets to keep my laundry fresh and static free? Do I need plastic wrap to keep my food from spoiling? After several months of making these continuous checks, I’ve found ways around the trash to get what I need to be happy and healthy. Eventually I came to the question, “Do I still need my trashcan?”

I want to stress that at the beginning of this project I decided that the venture must always be about feeling good. I wanted to be very careful not to make this process about deprivation, especially because I would be working on it with another person whose wants and needs vary from my own. The system is not perfect. There are many stubborn problems still to solve. A small amount of recyclables still go out to the curb every week. There’s always room for progress and I love watching the project grow.

Okay, now for some specifics. To start down the no trash road, I needed a plan of attack. I had to organize the steps required to establish working systems in my home and the rest of my life. I looked at the different ‘zones’ in which I make trash. In the broadest sense, I categorize my trash production into three zones that exist both in and outside of my home.

Zone 1: Food–before I began this project, the majority of the trash in my can was from food products

Zone 2: Hygiene–both personal and household

Zone 3: Work–for me this zone applies to both the practices of my artist studio, and my university film department job

For the rest of this post I’m going to talk about the food zone, as it’s the area that is working most efficiently today. Here is a breakdown of the food zone subcategories.

Shopping: As I mentioned in my first post, bulk grocery shopping was a catalyst for the project. I buy all my food in bulk and I try to limit my produce and animal product shopping to farmer’s market as much as possible. A local fishing company has agreed to take my container home and return it at the next market day, filled with a fresh caught fish of their choosing. When I do go to the grocery store I shop the perimeter. I purchase all my fruits and vegetables without packaging of course and I have someone at the meat and fish counter put my purchases directly into a container I’ve brought from home.  They place the empty container on the scale to get the tare weight, and then place the meat directly into the container. No paper for the cat to pull out of the trashcan at home.  I fill up peanut butter and almond butter from the grinder machines into my own jar. The tare weight is subtracted at the checkout register. While there are great selections of bulk dry goods at my local markets, discovering a nearby co-op helped me to take the project to the next level. There I can fill tea, spices, oil, vinegar, and many non-food products into my own containers. It’s wonderful. Finally, choosing responsible distributers at the markets and buying organic has become an important part of the overall no trash effort.

Food Storage: Once the food gets home, the dried goods are poured into glass jars of all shapes and sizes, greens are placed into cups of water, and meat is kept in airtight containers in the refrigerator. The humidifier drawer is helpful in keeping vegetables longer. Carrots and radishes will stay crunchy for a surprising amount of time if stored submerged in water in the fridge. With regard to perishables, I’ve found that it’s imperative to only buy what I know I’m going to consume in the next couple of days. This way I can altogether avoid throwing out spoiled food. My refrigerator is not cluttered with forgotten groceries like it used to be. It has become a very efficient space that is constantly being emptied and restocked with colorful foods. I’ve established a collection of storage containers that play a daily part in this cycle. Luckily I live in a place that’s within close proximity to many grocery stores and farmers markets.

Food Scraps: Compost, compost, compost. After years of talking about it, I finally built a compost bin. It sits in the small yard behind my city apartment—my landlady was nice enough to allow it. All the scraps from the kitchen (except for citrus) go into the pile, and the compost fertilizes my plants. The local farmer’s markets also have a compost service.

Make Your Own: There are many products that cannot be purchased in bulk or without some kind of packaging.  Of those, most I’ve found are very easy for me to live without. I’ve learned to make some of the foods I still crave at home, from ingredients purchased without trash—like hummus or kombucha for instance.

Eating Out: Here is another area where it is important to choose responsibly. Supporting businesses that buy locally, serve no processed food, and plate reasonable portion sizes is important to me. A reusable container from home can replace the need for a doggie bag. Also, a container can be brought to a restaurant for takeout service or to the window of a food truck. I make a lot of meals at home to carry with me to work or on a day trip.

So there it is—a scratch at the surface. A bit of the macro and the micro.

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The Stuff Show


I work on an experimental film series called The Magic Lantern Cinema. Last week we put on a show that I curated–largely inspired by the No Trash Project. In an attempt to streamline the waste reduction effort, I’ve been working to dramatically reduce my possessions to what I consider essentials–according to functional, sentimental, and even aesthetic value. This process has prompted me to reevaluate my own wants and needs for STUFF.  I’ve noticed my own tastes evolving as my lifestyle changes, and as I work through a careful consideration of my belongings, I’m struck by this newfound or heightened stewardship, and love of the things I deem worthy of keeping–like my trusty all-purpose wooden spatula, for instance. And my hand-me-down kitchen table that I recently noticed has beautifully joined legs, even if they’re a bit scarred at the ends where a teething puppy chewed them nearly eighteen years ago. So, I’ve been thinking a lot about stuff and I tried to put together a program that deals with some of these ideas. Below are the write-up and films synopses. A few of the titles can be screened online or rented/borrowed on DVD.

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Whether by design, circumstance, or accident, stuff sticks to us. In form and function, our belongings are descriptors in our personal narratives. What rules do we use to curate the objects we keep? Do our possessions–and the systems of organization we use to govern their arrangement–reveal more about us than our most intimate conversations? Magic Lantern Cinema’s “The Stuff Show” is a collection of short films about gleaning, coveting, producing, and purging. Stuff by its many names–essentials, art, waste–is scattered throughout scenes of a manufacturing company warehouse, a Pop artist’s sculpture studio, and a Japanese beachside dump. Commonplace objects stray from their everyday roles to haunt, fornicate, and dance across the screen. Here is a program to prompt a reconsideration, reassemblage, or repurposing of our stuff–much of which will long outlive us.

FEATURING: G.W. “Billy” Bitzer, “Westinghouse Work: Panorama view aisle B” (1904); Hans Richter, “Ghosts Before Breakfast” (1928); Michael Snow, “A to Z” (1956); Willard Maas, “The Mechanics of Love” (1955); Takahiko Iimura, “Kuzu (Junk)” (1962); Ed Emshwiller, “George Dumpson’s Place” (1965); Charles and Ray Eames, “Goods” (1982) and “Tops” (1969); Mallory Slate, “Claes Oldenburg” (1966)

 

“Westinghouse Works: Panorama view aisle B,” G.W. “Billy” Bitzer, 1904, 16mm on video, b&w, silent, 2 min.

In April and May of 1904, The American Mutoscope Biograph Company made 29 films at the Westinghouse Electric Company production facilities. Billy Bitzer–who would later become the cinematographer for D.W. Griffith’s Birth of a Nation–was hired to shoot the films. In Panorama view aisle B, a crane-mounted camera tracks high above the factory floor. Piles of metal forms lie below amid the commotion of workers cutting, welding, assembling, polishing and painting machine parts. 


“Ghosts Before Breakfast,” Hans Richter, 1928, 16mm, b&w, silent, 9 min.

“Objects are also people and [they] follow their own laws”-“the rhythm of the clock.” (H.R.). According to the clock in Ghosts Before Breakfast is 11:55 am. Only five minutes remain for bowler’s hats, teacups, a fire hose, revolvers, and a bow tie to run amuck in the world. At the stroke of noon they obediently return to a functional state. A title card at the start of the film reads: “The Nazis destroyed the sound version of this film as ‘degenerate art’. It shows that even objects revolt against regimentation.”


“A to Z,” Michael Snow, 1956, 16mm, b&w, silent, 7 min. 

Michael Snow’s first film (his only animation) illustrates the nighttime activities of dinning furniture. A vase, bowl, teacup and saucer dance merrily around a table. A chair stands still to the side. The teacup leads the chair to meet a friend–another chair. After a very brief romance, the two chairs consummate their love.

 

“The Mechanics of Love,” Willard Maas, 1955, 16mm, b&w, sound, 7 min. 

A couple’s act of lovemaking is described in still life images of suggestive household items and through the motion of ordinary tasks. “Daring and ingenious … daring because of its ‘forbidden’ subject matter; ingenious because commonplace objects are uncommonly related to build an action without actors, the effect of which is vivid, witty and downright bold.” – Lewis Jacobs 

 

“Claes Oldenburg,” Mallory Slate, 1966, 16mm, b&w, sound, 30 min. 

In a 1966 visit to his massive Lower East Side live/work loft, Claes Oldenburg takes us through the process of creating his mammoth, grotesque soft sculptures of everyday objects. He describes his pieces as idealized, magnified representations of the ‘sculptures of the home.’ Claes and his wife Pat develop patterns, prototypes, and finished works for various exhibitions. Slouching toilets and droopy electric mixers draw scores of art lovers into New York galleries.

 

“Tops,” Charles and Ray Eames, 1969, color, 35mm on video, sound, 8 min. 

From the simplest wooden dreidel to the hypnotizing Tedco toy gyroscope, tops of all shapes, colors, and sizes spin to the music of Elmer Bernstein. Operators across cultures and generations wind, crank, zip, twirl, and toss this classic toy in delightfully dizzying close-up compositions.

 

“Goods,” Charles & Ray Eames, 1982, slides on video, color, sound, 6.25 min. 

An excerpt from a lecture on poetry (given at Harvard in 1970-71) is paired with a three-screen slide show. A story about the break-in of his wife Ray’s car, and the items which the burglar chose to leave behind, leads into a discussion of what Charles Eames calls the ‘new covetables.’ 

 

“George Dumpson’s Place,” Ed Emshwiller, 1965, 16mm, color, sound, 8 min. 

A camera leads us over a stream and trough the woods to a dilapidated, overstuffed cabin. Its contents spill out amongst the surrounding flora. As we scan the piles of scavenged objects, careful arrangements begin to stand out. Broken action figures crouch between piles of stones. A tiny ceramic bust stands watch atop the end of a broomstick. In regard to his desire to make this film, Ed Emshwiller explained that George Dumpson “epitomized the soul of the artist.” 

 

“Kuzu (Junk),” Takahiko Iimura, 1962, 16mm, b&w, sound, 10 min. 

 “The beach of Tokyo Bay was a dumpsite for all the city’s human, animal and industrial wastes when I shot “Junk” there in the early 60s – today this is no longer the case. I was interested in the way my commitment could revive the junk and dead animals. At times the objects are animated, which could be seen as surreal, yet they are real at the same time. The concept coincides with the Neo-Dada in art, in which junk is assembled and incorporated into artwork. Yet today’s point of view, the film certainly shows concern with the ecology and may be regarded as an early attempt to deal with the destruction of our environment.” – T.I.

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Introduction

For the past six months I’ve been focused on an undertaking that I’ve been calling the No Trash Project. The goal: avoid purchasing anything in packaging and eliminate personal trash production. As this is my first blog entry, I’d like to explain the inspirations for this endeavor. When I think back, I can pinpoint a few key discoveries that led me to the big ‘all or nothing’ push.

First, many years ago I came to the realization that Rhode Island only recycles numbers 1 and 2 plastics and that all the other numbers I had been putting in my recycling bin had ended up in a landfill. I began to notice how many different kinds of plastics are used to package goods and was amazed by the volume of my routinely purchased products that were packaged with numbers 3 through 7 plastics. For the first time I really took notice of how many plastic components surrounding and encasing the goods that I purchased, that were not meant to be recycled at all. I was making far more trash than what I was carrying out in a trash bag every week.

Then came the all-important discovery of bulk grocery shopping. For years I had passed by the bulk sections in my local markets to shop the middle aisles, buying my cereal, grains, nuts, beans, flour, sugar, etc… in plastic bags and cardboard boxes. Once in a while I turned to bulk to get a particular dried fruit that wasn’t on the shelf, or some trail mix that looked appetizing. I’d fill up the available plastic bags or the number 5 containers provided by the bins. Because of the guilt I felt over tossing out the containers, I began washing them at home and bringing them back to the store to refill. This was a real aha moment. Much like my reusable bag, here was a system that (if I remembered to bring my containers to the store) cut out a piece of trash. Soon I began to view the bulk section as a more prominent source for my dry grocery needs. Somewhat surprisingly, I discovered that bulk shopping even had an aesthetic appeal. With my food stored in clear containers on the countertop, rather than behind labels and packaging–tucked away in cabinets, ingredients looked more appetizing and inspired more cooking. Eventually I found myself wishing that more goods–even beyond the kitchen, were available to me in bulk.

A year ago, I attended an Action Speaks radio conference at AS220 about the 1987 roaming Mobro Garbage Barge. Three panelists spoke about the problem of where to put all the garbage we make, and whether or not recycling as we know it today, can even begin to curb the crisis. I remember being particularly struck by the comments of a young woman from the audience who had emigrated from Eastern Europe. She described growing up in a post-communist economy where out of necessity, everyone was “obsessed with recycling”. Glass milk, beer, and juice bottles were returned to the store to be used again. The conference prompted me to think a lot about the monetary cost of convenience.

Finally, in April I saw a news video online about a family of four (plus one dog) from Northern California, who after six months had just a handful of garbage to show for the waste in produced in their home. I was floored when I saw this story. The Johnsons have developed systems by which they consume food, hygiene, clothing, and other goods without carrying home the by-products that become garbage. After a glimpse of the Johnsons’ success, decided that I needed to go further.

Since April, I have been overhauling my lifestyle, implementing new shopping, cooking, and cleaning systems to produce as little trash as possible. Today, I can’t imagine ever turning back.

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