Some clarification

We’ve been getting a little criticism lately and I just wanted to set a few things straight. Firstly, this is a project we are doing for ourselves. Over the course of the project we have learned a lot and made this blog to share some of our new found knowledge. We are not trying to be revolutionaries. We are not trying to make other people feel bad. We do not think we are superior. We are just doing the best we can.

On that note, I’d like to talk a bit about my life philosophy (come on, don’t yawn). I don’t believe that if you can’t do something perfectly, you shouldn’t do it at all. Very simply put, I know there are a lot of bad things about this world and it can seem overwhelming, but I always try to remember two points

1. There are also a lot of good things about this world

2. Every little effort counts

I often think of the story of a boy and his sister walking on the beach and looking at all the starfish washed up on the sand. (*I apologize in advance to my vegan readers because this is cheesy, but good). The boy asks “what will happen to all these star fish” and the girl, still walking says, “they will dry up and die.” At that point, the boy reaches down and throws one of the star fish in the water. The girl says sadly, “There are so many. You can’t possibly make a difference.” to which to boy replies, “It made a difference for that one”.

I totally agree with the moral of the story. I can’t change the world. Maybe I can’t totally eliminate garbage in my life, but I can still make an attempt to change myself. I can do the best I can, and for me that’s enough. I would rather do something than nothing. So, yes when we buy in bulk, there was some garbage somewhere down the line- the things we bought came in some kind of packaging to get to the store, but we saved at least 2 plastic bags, probably more.

We don’t eat out often. We do realize that even if we don’t have the garbage ourselves, garbage was made to prepare our meal, but at least we spared the napkins, the take out containers etc. I really think every little bit counts.

Secondly, the idea of this project is not to pass on our garbage to other people. “Happy birthday! Here’s some Styrofoam and a rotten apple!”. The main idea of the project was to not generate any garbage for 31 days consecutively. This took over two years to achieve. We tried to turn our failures (garbage we got while trying not to) into something new. The cards we make out of collage materials, windowed envelopes etc., are something we are really proud of and people tell us they really like them. I am going to post pictures of them hopefully tomorrow. We haven’t been using fruit stickers on the cards because we found out that it is possible and not that difficult to just pick fruit that doesn’t have a sticker. The idea with our cards and paintings is to try and give the garbage a new life- to make it into something beautiful or useful. Without tooting my own horn, I think the cards are successful in doing so. I admit some of my paintings are not. They still look like trash. Once again, I’m doing the best I can.

Yesterday I called Toronto Waste Management to confirm that bottle caps could not be recycled. They can’t. I also learned that a machine picks out the plastic (from diapers and bags) and it goes to landfill. It can’t tell the difference between a regular plastic bag and a biodegradable one and nothing breaks down very well in a landfill. I was thinking about it though and I still think the biodegradable ones are a better option because at least they have a chance of someday breaking down.

That’s all for now. Thanks everyone for all your support and suggestions.

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6 Comments

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6 responses to “Some clarification

  1. J

    I think what you have been doing is great – and clarifying your cause is helpful to everyone new reading this blog too.
    There is certainly a part of me that wonder though, how bad can guilt be for all of us?! For example, I was thinking of ordering take-out tonight. But I know that the restaraunt uses all styrofoam. Thinking about disposing of that styrofoam afterwards makes me feel guility. So, I have changed my mind. I am instead, calling them to first see if I can use my own containers and if not, ask them if they will discontinue the use of styrofoam. Guilt is not always a bad thing. Maybe if some people thought more about their actions and the consequences of them, the world would be changed…each person at a time.
    Also, I agree: every little bit counts (if everyone is doing their bit!).

  2. Tim

    I think it is very commendable what you are doing. It is people like you that continue to inspire people to make slight changes in their lives. You have particularly inspired me to change the way I buy products. While at college and after finishing up the dishes, I realized that we were out of dish soap. I was going to throw the bottles in the recycling and then remembered what you had written about buying bulk shampoo at grassroots. Instead of buying new bottles I am going to head down to grassroots, with my empty bottles, and see if they have bulk detergent that I can buy! I’m crossing my fingers!

    You mentioned that you learned that a machine picks out the plastic (from diapers and bags) and it goes to landfill. Are you talking about the stuff going into the green bin?

    Here is what I found on the city of Toronto website

    “A hydropulper (similar to a large blender) is used to spin the organics into a liquid pulp. Unwanted materials such as plastic, glass and metal are removed from this pulp through two processes – screening and settling.”

    http://www.toronto.ca/greenbin/opf.htm

    My question is what percentage of the total volume sent in our green bins is destined for landfill. The plastic bags, metal and glass must account for a somewhat significant portion of landfillable material.

    On another note, have you ever considered worm composting? My parents bought me a worm composting bin for Christmas and its been AMAZING. Instead of putting your organics in the green bin which is then shipped to a processing plant, using a truck that produces pollutants etc…You deal with your organic waste in your own home. It doesn’t smell at all!! I think the green bin is a great program but if we can deal with the organic waste we produce in our own spaces.…we can really make significant difference.

    KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK!

  3. Thanks guys! J, that’s awesome about your take-out efforts. Let me know if you find a restaurant that is supportive and I will post it in the Trashless Toronto section.Tim, you are in luck. Grass Roots has bulk dish soap, laundry detergent and all your other household needs! We haven’t tried worm composting- we actually have a backyard composter that we use for pretty much everything except kitty litter and egg shells. I agree with you that dealing with your waste at home is way better than shipping it out and we love our backyard composter (except when we get rats). I was asking the green bin questions out of curiosity and because other people had asked me:)

  4. J

    I’m not in Toronto so I am not sure you want to post in this your Trashless Toronoto section…but Viet Thai in Regina allowed me (with no hassles, besides having to wait a bit longer) to bring tupperware containers to get my take-out. My next step may be to ask them to get rid of styrofoam all together (I plan to compose a letter, with suggestions of companies who provide alternatives). Speaking of which, I found a great site:http://www.torontoist.com/archives/environment/
    It has a section about styrofoam – with a link to another great site: http://www.naturopack.org/getittogogreenmain.html

    P.s. keep posting. your blog is my favorite!
    Thanks,
    Jen

  5. J

    I think that the comment I tried to post did not post 😦
    1. My take-out efforts were successful. But I am not sure you want to post this in your Trashless T.O. section, since I am from Regina. But, At Viet Thai I was given no hassle in regards to getting my take-out in tupperware. I just had to take the containers in beforehand and wait a little longer. But it was worth it – i swear that dinner tasted better for it.
    2. Great websites I found that you might not know of? http://www.naturopack.org/
    getittogogreenmain.html ( I like this site because there is petition for banning styrofoam in Toronto!!! I wish there were one for Regina. I think I may contact the Regina Eco-Living to get one started).

    AND one really specifically to Toronto Environmental issues:

    http://www.torontoist.com/archives
    /environment/

  6. Bottle caps may not be recyclable if you go through municipal channels, but many manufacturing businesses have bins for scrap steel. Look for a welding/fabrication shop, machine shop, or other such industry, and they’ll likely have a scrap steel bin that you could (with permission) recycle your bottle caps in. I have two rusted cookie sheets, a dull circular saw blade, and a number of other steel items that I plan on having recycled at some point – I just have to remember to take them to work.

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