August 9, 2009


Toronto recently emerged under piles of garbage after its worst and longest garbage strike. 36 days without a pickup. Thanks to the weather gods (or maybe the trash gods) the weather was tepid and the streets did not stink TOO much.

We managed pretty well and the only problem we had accumulating was 5 weeks of dog poo neatly wrapped in biodegradable bags from Norway.

We compost – a lot. We - what am I talking about? - I also cook from scratch and during the strike my Pups, Junior and Senior, ate mainly a vegetarian menu.

This got me thinking about the people who couldn’t wait to charge the newly opened dump-sites after only one week. What had they possibly accumulated? It also got me thinking about ways to reduce waste. To quote a phrase from Country Living UK, maybe it’s all about "precycling".

I’m interested in knowing what you do about minimizing waste in your house.

Here’s a list of things I do.

I avoid plastic packaging. Those hard plastic boxes that baby spinach comes in repel me. Not because of the $6.00 spinach but those plastic containers aren’t recyclable in our city. The soggy, green, pulpy cartons that strawberries come in are pretty ugly but they can be melted down to nothing in your composter.

The Municipality of Toronto charges 5 cents every time you need a plastic bag. For a while I’ve been using cloth bags or a beautiful French wicker bundle buggy (that I always get compliments on). So not only do I save plastic bags, but I get to look like Rupert Bear’s mother coming back from the market.

I never (hardly ever) buy prepared meals, boxed anything. I bought my son flatbread and hummus in a hard plastic resealable box once for school lunch and felt guilty all day. He has this habit of bringing his lunch garbage home at the end of the day. I guess that’s a good thing. I wash my Ziplock bags – they all get used more than once. I also wash my Swiffers. They work just as well.

When I make a weekday chicken dinner for example, I use boneless chicken and after making the vegetable or pasta all I’m left with is the Styrofoam tray and that weird little pad (we call it something else chez nous) that I’m really at a loss to know what to do with. I could avoid the trash altogether by buying chicken from the Chicken Lady on Roncesvalles but that’s another story.

When we shop for basics, about once every three weeks, we eschew bags and just load up the back of the car using boxes we store in the trunk. This way we get to touch our purchases 6 times before they make it into our cupboards!

When I can, I buy in bulk at the health food store (or bulk shop). Rice is affordable this way and when it comes time for baking this is the only way to shop. You can avoid paying $8.00 for pecans and spices are fresher and cheaper this way too. You can regulate how much you buy and don’t have to find a home for a year’s worth of fenugreek (unless you really like it!)

We reuse. Peanut butter jars are what we use for the kitchen scraps before they make it to the composter. Good jars with proper lids are great for decanting tomato sauce into. Fancy jam jars are great for loose spices.

We make good use of used-clothing pick up organized by the Diabetes Society of the Community Living people.

Basically I think “would I really want that (plastic box, broken dustbuster, holey sock) sitting in a landfill for all time." I’m also working on my son to become vegetarian. That way we will have next to no garbage at all. Now if I could only get the dog to use the toilet…


T. Clear said...

It's amazing to think of everything you ever threw away -- most of it is most likely sitting on the planet somewhere, still.

Nearly all the produce in the grocery stores in Ireland comes prepackaged in semi-hard clear plastic boxes. That's pretty much all we have in our garbage can, as most everything else goes in the compost.

JC said...

That pic of the dog .. so cute !!!

We recycle most things but we don't really compost. Our garbage system has a container for that too.

I will have to look up home composting.

The plastic containers that can't be recyled ... they ought to do something about that.

Just yesterday we were clearing out our garage and took loads of plastic bags to the grocery store recycling center but there lots of bags that can't be recycled.

I try though which is more than some do ... I take my paper products to the Food Bank bin at the grocery store .. which is not close to me. I donate clothes and shoes to the local bin that goes to low income boys and girls.

I like your blog .. glad I found it

Sandra Leigh said...

For cleaning the floor, I've bought one of these:

I've always disliked sponge mops and spaghetti mops, and the Swiffer Wet-Jet, though it works beautifully, is not very eco-friendly, so I was delighted to find the Vileda.

Also, I've amassed a collection of cloth shopping bags from various supermarkets here and the U.S., so when I go grocery shopping I often have a flashback to somewhere I've been on a Turtle journey.

Margaret Gosden said...

I really like that laundry basket with wheels at the top - or is it the bundle buggy? Just what I need! Whenever there is an opportunity to take one's own bag for shopping, that's being encouraged a little here. Street people make a little money picking-up all cans and bottles for recycling. The city provides containers for paper and cardboard. And there are the thrift stores. What is still left on the sidewalk is often a mine of goodies for the
creative artist! There's lots of room for doing better...

dogimo said...

> or a beautiful French wicker bundle buggy (that I always get compliments on).


I can't tell which is cooler, the object itself, or what you call it - a "French wicker bundle buggy"!

That thing is cool on wheels, quite literally.

somedaynewyorker said...

That basket and the toilet water bowl are so cool looking.

nycrun said...

such a cool invention

Brian Miller said...

ha. the pic of the dog is amazing. we buy or pick fresh and compost..and limit the packaging...we hardly ever buy prepped food. and the dump is only a mile away so we carry our own...36

Susan said...

Hi Hazel--

Never having never had a car, I'm quite picky about what I'll drag home & into my walk-up (& therefore down the stairs at some point.)

Sadly, I've not had a garden for many years, so no composting; though, truly I'd have little to add to it anyway. For zee cat, I use a wheat-leftover biodegradable down-the-loo litter.

I'm fortunate to live in a county (on the edge of DC) that has one of the highest percentage of recycling-by-county in the States. The market is down now for the product but it will pick up again. We even have big bins for scrap metal & most plastics you can think of.

Now, if everyone would complain (or keep complaining) to vendors about packaging, we'd all be better off. I've been ordering a lot of items to replace broken/never had stuff (from kitchen to clothing to computer equipment) since early July & am amazed at the amount of sheer junk accompanying these boxes & padded envelopes (which I will reuse). Most of it seems unnecessary even for safe packaging. I forget when contact lens fluid & other personal product manufacturers finally stopped encasing everything in a box. That, to me, was a major advancement & I'm sure it wasn't all the consumer complaints--it was the high cost of buying the materials.

We're definitely on the same bulk-buying page. However, I can't go anywhere for a 3-week stock up--& if I go w/friends, I just don't have the room for most big purchases. But I don't use many paper products, was raised on cloth napkins, so that was never an issue. I cannot believe how many friends still use all of that stuff. They think I'm cheap to rinse of aluminum foil but why waste it?

If I buy chicken & fish from the individual purveyor (I usually do), they have to wrap it in something, though. Newspaper for the fish & I can't remember what for chicken as I've not purchased in a while.

The photo of the dog is adorable & I could really use a new basket on wheels. I do like the one you show very much. I can't fit a large red basket a friend lent me (my old one absolutely fell apart) into my small 1930s closet & it's driving me nuts to see it. I could leave something like yours in the corner & it would look fine.

Thanks for this refresher on pre- & recycling. I think many people have been lulled into "I recycle" when that's great but by careful selection, we can avoid a lot of mess by doing what you do.


Simply Colette said...

Just found your blog. Where have I been? :)

For recycling, when I buy packaged or canned goods, I've been keeping the boxes from cookies, cereal, etc. and use for crafting, they make great cardstock. I save jars and apply magazine photos I like with paper glue and use for bouquets around the house. I also do this with cans. I cover them with pretty paper or paint and use them to organize around the house.
The trash has cut down, and expenses are less for crafting goods!

einbildungskraft said...

BRAVO clever pup!

Now I know there is only myself and my daughter, but I can still fit two FILLED bags (my own) plus of groceries in my basket on the back of my bike! I AVOID taking my car, like the plague!

Ima Wizer said...

You are SO good! I've tried to be, for the last 30 years! Before it was a choice, now it is mandatory (or should be).
Trying to keep afloat with all the changes here.....barely able to keep blogging and reading now, packing daily, etc.

Tina Tarnoff said...

you are what I want to become! I try to recycle as much as I can, I never ever buy prepared meals, always cook from the scratch, both Terry and I are vegetarian. well, he would eat an occasional chicken, and I indulge him. I buy chicken breasts in that awful Styrofoam tray and that weird little pad (what the hell is that?). I try to reuse as much as I can, jars, bags, bottles, bring my own bag, buy in bulk (I love buying in bulk!) but I fear I steel have a long way to go. I studied your post and will try to do more! xoxo

The Clever Pup said...

Tina, It sounds as if we are on the same wavelength. There's still a lot from our household that goes into recycling. Jars, cans etc. If I held on to everything I'd go mad.

Poetikat said...

Watching the news and seeing what was going on in T.O., Kevin and I discussed what we would do in that situation. We don't produce a whole lot of garbage, and not eating meat helps. I would be freezing a lot of stuff in the downstairs fridge until I could get it out.
It's the accumulation of cat waste that would kill us. Four cats generate the majority of our garbage each week. We use biodegradable bags too as well as wood pellets for litter, but eventually it's still stinky!

It was the rats I could not handle. Glad to know you're free of the pile-up and the weather stayed cool for the duration.


Betsy said...

I've enjoyed reading some of your past posts! This one interested me because I just posted about being 'green' and recycling last week. You do far more than me, but I'm getting there! :) You have some great ideas, too!