Taking Out the Trash, For Good

Not too long ago, there was a time when we took out our kitchen trash every single day, and each week our big plastic bin was overflowing by the time pick-up day came. The truth is, I never gave it much thought because it seemed like everyone around us had that problem. But in the last three years we have changed our priorities, although now sometimes our recycling bin can be overflowing we do our best not to use as much trash or recycling and focus on reusing and composting what we can. I will take you room by room, and give you a few ways we are able to reduce that footprint, and maybe they will help you as well. I will also share some ideas that we don’t currently implement that might be right for your family!

Kitchen: This is arguably my favorite place in the world. To cut down on trash in this room we have taken to buying wooden spoons and spatulas, which I find are not only prettier but safer to cook with. We are also in the process of retiring all of our non-stick coated pans which have not only proven to be bad for the world around us, but terrible for our health as well. The big thing that left our kitchen was all disposable dishes, and plastic storage of any kind. While it makes sense to repurpose a plastic tub that once was filled with yogurt, we do not use them in the kitchen. There are great alternatives to disposable plastic baggies on the market today, and we lean towards cloth ones that are washable or paper ones that can be composted. We switched to glass storage with lids and mason jars for storing leftovers in the fridge. We compost all our leftover food, eggs, coffee and tea which keeps it out of the trash bin. One of the hardest changes was the process of what we brought in to the kitchen in terms of groceries. We switched to either buying large bags of our staples (flour, rice, sugar, potatoes) or buying them in the bulk section of our local co-op. We now look for glass containers versus plastic when in the aisles, and are will to pay a little extra to have a new storage container at home versus a plastic, and when there isn’t glass we make sure the plastic is recyclable. We have our own containers from home that we bring to fill with grains, baking ingredients, granola, spices and more so that we don’t have to fill the plastic bags at the store. Your grocery store may even allow you to bring your own containers to fill for cheese and meat. I know that Willy St Co-op allows this. And in addition they have the buffet carts where you could fill your own olives and other assorted foods!

Bathroom: We buy shampoo in large containers so that we have to toss less, and make sure they come in recycle-able plastic. We use low ply, compostable toilet paper that almost instantly dissolves (but could be composted). We buy hand soap in bulk as well, and refill our existing bottles. I use natural body products including tampons that are all earth friendly. I have let go of the blow dryer, for the most part, and let my hair air dry. We take very short showers. But, even with doing these things there is a lot more we could do! We could collect the water while the shower warms up and use it to water house plants, or the garden. We could be checking and making sure we are recycling toilet paper tubes. We could be composting cotton swabs, balls, tissue, hair, loofah sponges, and nail clippings, toilet paper, tampons, as well as our urine(it actually is super helpful to a compost pile). We could be making reusable toilet paper for when it’s just a quick swipe. We could even build our very own earth toilet off the side of our house which turns it all in to compost right under your derrière. We are a work in progress in this room….but probably will never reach “earth toilet” status, and I’m okay with that.

Bedroom: The truth is we don’t’ make much garbage in this space. But, you can pretty much cut all of it out by not purchasing new clothes. Need a black shirt for an event, swing by a few resale shops and peruse before you hit the mall, you just might find what you are looking for and chances are you won’t have to worry about destroying it in the wash the first time! This is an especially great option for kids, since they are hard on clothes, and tend to go through them faster. Both my girls love shopping at Goodwill and St Vincent de Paul, as well as hitting up a garage sale. Have fun with it, and know you are helping the planet as well.

Office/Work Space: Paper build up is something that is unavoidable. We get junk mail, school communication sheets, artwork from kids, etc. Yes, you could just dump all of this in the recycling bin, but there are other options: Opt out dmachoice.org, optoutprescreen,com, yellowpagesoptout.com are all places you can go to stop some of the constant junk mail seeping. Learn how to turn that junk mail into your own beautiful paper, buy a kit, or look online for make your own kits. Put it together and throw some staples in it, or weave thread through to make your own junk note pads for to-do lists. But, even if you do nothing else, making sure that paper ends up in the recycle instead of the trash is a huge help in itself!

The Car: We run a million errands, and live our lives in a world of to-go mugs, plastic cups from the drive through, Styrofoam from our lunch leftovers, and an endless array of little pieces of garbage from here or there. My best weapon is a car kit with your essentials. Stock 2-3 good bags, a few earth friendly baggies, 2-3 glass jars for grocery runs, a coffee mug for filling at the café, a paper or metal straw, and a container for those restaurant leftovers you want to take home. I find it’s good to have a couple of these kits ready so when you take one out full there’s another one hanging by the door ready to go while you clean out the first.

The truth is nowadays there is an earth friendly, trash-less option for almost everything we use and do on a daily basis. Some require a lot more effort than others, but some are easy as (eating) pie to implement. Have you discovered something awesome lately? Let me know in the comments, I’m always looking for something else to try!

Diana has never strayed far from home. After growing up on the east side of Madison, she is now raising her family in Middleton. She is a firm believer in finding humor in the chaos, that anything she sees (anywhere) she can probably DIY, and that good food can cure just about anything. She shares her life with her two wonderful daughters. She embraces their modern mixed family that has grown around them, and all the adventure it brings.


  1. Great post! I just discovered that the Monona Library has Terracycle bins for recycling of old toothbrushes, floss containers, cereal bags, styrofoam, squeeze pouches, energy bar wrappers, cosmetic containers and more!


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