Jars at the deli counter are the current challenge

We went out for groceries last night. Had to get some things at Target before Whole Foods this time.

Here's what we'll end up throwing away from this trip, Target first.

  • Cat food bag and bags from kitty treats
    We'd like to find a way to get edibles for the cats that are worthy of being called "treat" but don't involve paper, foiled, or plastic pouches, bags, or bottles. Also, though the Merc in Lawrence did have dry cat food in a bulk bin, we're at least conscious of what we're feeding our kitties and don't want to give them something we don't know the ingredients of.
  • Sprayer lid from the pet stain remover bottle.
    I'm a little less optimistic about this but we would also like to find some sort of homemade pet stain remover. Until then, we'll be using this. I did just realize that the refill bottle, which is exactly twice the amount as a new spray bottle, at least doesn't have the sprayer lid. As such, I suppose it'd be the less wasteful option. Trouble is, it's also fifty cents more expensive than buying two bottles with sprayer lids.
We also got some tomato soup and enchilada sauce at Target, but we at least get to recycle tin cans, so for the moment I"m ok with that. Now on to Whole Foods.
  • Milk bottle caps.
    I don't know if I've mentioned it but I asked Shatto if there were any other options for lids for them to use. There are not, though they have looked into it.
  • Hand soap refill bag.
    The bag brags about being made from recycled plastic, but the trouble is we can't recycle this bag. It gives the lame idea to cut off the top of the bag and use it as a vase for some flowers, but, like I said, that's a bit lame.
  • Saran wrap from a couple blocks of cheddar.
    We're not sure what to do about cheese from the deli. There's the theoretical possibility of putting it directly into our jars, but ultimately there doesn't seem to be much cheese at Whole Foods that isn't wrapped in plastic at some point, so I'm not sure the result wouldn't just be they'd uunwrap it and drop it in our jars.
  • The lid and protective plastic wrapper around the lid of a bottle of Annie's Caesar dressing.
    Someone help me convince my wife that my homemade Caesar dressing is the way to go. That's one homemade item that predated any of this no-waste stuff.
We got a bunch of other stuff at Whole Foods, but the rest is at the worst recyclable.

Yet again we're not sure what to do about paper used by the butcher. There were two sheets of waxed paper wasted this time, like last time. The first to weigh our beef on and the second because the guy grabbed a new sheet before I managed to tell him we could very easily just fold the sticker in half and didn't need a piece of paper to stick it to.

Why not put the beef directly in the jar? We found out from the girl at the deli counter just moments before getting the beef that their scales don't seem to be able to remove a tare weight greater than one pound. Our 1 L jars are 1.4 pounds. At the deli counter the girl was friendly and helpful and we came to a compromise of using a sheet of un-waxed paper that she said they could compost. After the relatively delightful deli experience, we moved on to the butcher counter, where the guys there didn't seem to have any sort of knowledge that the store contained un-waxed paper.

What can we do better?

Since we seem to be getting the same bread for spaghetti each time, we're going to come up with a somewhat durable place to stick one bread UPC to use on multiple trips. We'll be able to use the same board or whatever to stick our beef or ham stickers to, and just build up a layer of them. Eventually they are trash, but if we can't just give the cashier a PLU, it's the best we've got. The irony is if we could do the PLU method, the cashier can handle any tare weight we give them.

I'm also wondering if there would be the option of using a half liter jar for deli and beef. The half liter jars are right at one pound, so they'd work on the scales. I'm just not sure a pound of beef would fit in one of those. The other thought I've had is to bring something like a Silpat to weigh things on before transferring to the jar. Then we can roll up the mat to wash when we get home.


Groceries don't normally involve a trip to Lawrence

Generally it is our goal to visit as few places as necessary when we make our weekly grocery trip. Our current plan of action for a Saturday involves three places:

  1. The Overland Park farmers' market in downtown OP, but only while it's open--only one more week.
  2. Whole Foods either at 91st or 119th and Metcalf.
  3. Target at 119th and Metcalf, but only if necessary.
Today was a little different. Jess's sister Lacey was going to make a trip to Lawrence for a Handmade Market thing involving some nearby Etsy artists. We decided to join her and see what the farmers' market is like in Lawrence. The Etsy thing happened to be in a restaurant in the same parking lot as Lawrence's Saturday farmers' market.

We got there just a couple minutes before noon, only to remember that their market closes at noon near the end of the season. We managed to run up and down a couple of the aisles and spend $21 before they shut down on us. We got a couple sweet potatoes for baking chips, Jess wanted some grape jelly, and we've been needing some honey for pizza dough. The great thing about the honey is that it came in a Mason jar. When it's empty we plan on just taking it to Whole Foods to refill with honey from their bulk aisle.

After the Handmade Market, we went over to The Merc, which appears to be the equivalent of Whole Foods in Lawrence. The general idea was to eat lunch in their cafeteria area and then for Jess and me to wander around and see how cool the place is. The sandwiches we had were great, and the only trash we ended up with was four sandwich toothpicks and a couple napkins. Otherwise, we got a giant glass bottle of tea and we figure we'll take that to Whole Foods and use it as our olive oil storage bottle.

The plan may have been to just look around but it turns out they too have bulk Zum soap and since we were going to start trying to use that instead of body wash, we decided to get a little bit to avoid making two Whole Foods trips when we got back home; remember, only the one at 91st has bulk Zum soap. We also found that the Merc has a better bulk section when it comes to things like herbs and spices and loose leaf tea. And they have baking soda in bulk! We couldn't get any and we've got enough to last us a little longer anyway, but that's pretty cool to find.

The biggest find at the Merc was the whole wheat elbow pasta. That's right, they've got macaroni in bulk. We had to get a pound and a half. Now we just need to figure out how to make mac and cheese without powdered cheese. Just melting cheddar in it didn't quite do the trick last time.

So it looks like the Merc has a couple things we may have to use them for in the future. Luckily they're things we won't be needing weekly, so we may be able to time our trips to coincide with Topeka trips. Maybe we can grab some baking soda on our way out next Saturday.

After Lawrence we came back home to our normal grocery business, skipping the farmers' market both because we'd done that already but also because it was 17:00 already and ours was closed too.

I won't bore you with the details of what we purchased. I was more interested, this trip, in paying attention to not only the trash we'll end up with but the trash generated at the store.

First, what will we throw away? Lids from milk bottles and plastic packages from Charmin wet wipes. And the lid from the salsa and spaghetti sauce. I also couldn't resist a coffee sample at Whole Foods, and a cheese sample so there was a little un-waxed paper cup and a toothpick.

It's the things that were thrown away because of us that bothered me most today.
  • A printed label for the loaves of bread we got. We ignored the sign that said we should print one per loaf and just told the cashier there were two and all was well. But why do we have to print it at all? Know how you print them? You type in the PLU on the scale and it prints it for you. Why print a sticker with a barcode when that sticker was generated by way of the PLU that could be used at the register? We should ask them about that.
  • Oh, I almost forgot we got a loaf of sandwich bread on Friday. The lady that sliced the bread for me either didn't hear or ignored me the three times I told her I didn't need a plastic bag, so she put it in one anyway. I removed it and left the bag out on some other bagged breads. Still trash that's my fault, I suppose, but the customer service issue is their problem.
  • Piece of tissue paper at the deli counter. The guy couldn't figure out how to tare the scale with my jar on it, so he did his normal tissue paper thing. He didn't have a problem with putting our ham in the jar though, but he did have to throw away our tissue. And of course, another sticker.
  • That obnoxious bottle deposit return slip. I imagine Whole Foods probably recycles those but I still don't get why they use them in the first place.
Not a terribly wasteful trip in the end, if you would kindly ignore the couple gallons of gas spent getting to Lawrence and back. We'll call that family relationship building. You know, since we hung out with Jess's sister, mom, and our niece Aurora. And we even picked out a good looking vegetable soup mix in the bulk aisle at Whole Foods.


First time trying out the jars

We got some jars!

On Saturday we got up at a respectable hour so we could make it to the Overland Park farmers' market for once. We got a few things there and then went to two Whole Foods and a SuperTarget. We made it out of there with relatively little that will eventually become trash. Details below this picture of all the awesome things we got.

Farmers' market:
  • Strawberries, in a recyclable box. The guy tried to convince us to take them in a plastic bag, even though we clearly had our own bag to carry them in.
  • Apples, which we dumped from their cardboard box into our bag so the box could be reused by the farmer.
  • Jalapenos.
  • Green beans, also dumped into our bag from the box so we could leave the box behind.
  • Garlic, which looks so much better than I ever see at the store.
After the farmers' market we went to Whole Foods but they didn't have everything we needed, so we had to go to the other one on the way to Target.
  • Peanut butter, in one of our new 0.5L jars.
  • English breakfast tea for iced tea, in a tin from Teavana. The 91st and Metcalf store is the only one that has loose-leaf tea in bulk.
  • Chocolate Stampede (dark, milk, and white chocolate plus unsalted peanuts, cashews, almonds, and walnuts) in a 1L jar. They don't have this in bulk at the one on 91st, one of the reasons we had to go to the other one.
  • Yogurt-covered pretzels in a 1L jar.
  • Shatto milk, 1%.
  • One pound of 95% lean beef, in a 1L jar.
  • Some rolled oats in a hemp bulk bag.
  • Half dozen brown eggs (turns out the color of eggs is linked to the color of the hen's earlobes and that's all).
  • A bag of corn flour, because they don't have that in bulk bins.
  • A hatch pepper to add a little variety to the salsa we plan to make.
  • A lime, because they didn't have any at the farmers' market.
  • More marshmallows!
And finally, because they don't have it at Whole Foods and because of my particularities in pizzas, we went to Target and got 5 jars of pizza sauce to avoid having to go as often. We also got a little soap dish for the tub at Target. When we run out of body wash we're going to attempt to use the same soap we use for laundry.

So yeah, there'll be a little trash here. We've got the sticker from the beef, the lids from the pizza sauce spread out over several weeks, the bag from the corn flour, and the lid from the marshmallows. Oh, and those milk bottle lids. By the way, Shatto says they've investigated alternatives to plastic lids but there's only one maker of those bottles and they won't change. Maybe we should bug them about it.


When it goes straight in the bin, we didn't really need it

For a long time we've been getting "convenience" checks from Chase for our one remaining credit card. The card has a zero balance, but we haven't decided whether we want to cancel it outright. Maybe because of the zero balance, maybe because they just want to make it as easy as possible to use the thing, they've been sending us more and more of these checks. I haven't paid close attention to it but I'm fairly certain we've gotten four batches in the last month or so.

Turns out there are a lot of things we acquire that get thrown directly in the paper recycle bin. It's not all ads or convenience checks or newsletters. There are even things we get in the mail that we can't recycle simply because we feel like it's too close to "personal" information that we should probably shred it. And by shred I mean take to the office shred bin, which I'm relatively certain gets incinerated.

A week ago I started attempting to send some emails to request less mail we perceive to be junk. To me, very close to 100% of the mail we receive is junk. We don't want ads, we can find coupons we actually want some other way, we aren't looking for a new church or Chinese restaurant, and I really don't care to see something from Blue Cross if all they're doing is telling me they paid my claim. Or worse yet have received the claim and are processing it.

So far I've managed to stop a few, though at this point it's hard to tell just by looking at the mailbox.

Here's what I've asked for and the responses I've gotten--this may get boring.

  • We get Topeka Zoo newsletters because we gifted a FOTZ membership to Jess's parents. I asked them to stop the newsletter but never got a response. And today we got a newsletter. Try, try again.
  • We inexplicably get tons of mail from State Farm, though neither of us has ever had insurance from them. I asked them to stop and they told me to call tech support. I replied to that email explaining that it's not exactly a tech support issue but a customer service one. They did not respond, though the email I received didn't mention not replying. I may have to send a new request.
  • Every so often CACU will send us postcards and newslettery sorts of things. The worst one ever just came the other day. They sent us a paper map of all their branch locations with a listing of all their ATMs on the back. It was a neat concept because it folded up nicely into a credit-card-sized packet. But, oh yeah, the Internet! Oh, and they just made a big deal out of their iPhone app which has a branch and ATM locator. Anyway, I asked them to stop sending us ads and whatnot and they said they took us off the list for that sort of thing. I like my credit union.
  • As mentioned, Chase sends us convenience checks all the time. They've said they'll stop sending those and ads to us.
  • Surprisingly I did not get a response from my actual insurance agent. JB where are you man? All we want is to stop getting mail that says that our account will be charged this amount on this date and we should therefore not send a payment because this isn't a bill. If it's not a bill, why am I getting it?
  • Now that I was thinking about it, I've just sent a message to Blue Cross asking if we can stop getting paper copies of the stupid stuff they send us. I generally assume that if I do not receive a large bill from my doctor, the insurance probably held up their end of the deal and paid for my services. And it's typically a safe bet that if the doctor's office doesn't call and say the insurance didn't accept the claim, they are probably processing the claim.
  • We got a random card from Associated Audiologists, so I sent them an email asking how we got on a mailing list and to please stop. They basically said to go sign up for dmachoice.org and that would take care of this sort of thing. So I've just done that and we'll see how effective it is.
  • We periodically got catalogs and newsletters from Samaritan's Purse because we participated in Operation: Christmas Child last year. I don't think we ever really read any of them. I've asked them to stop as well; though I appreciate their mission, I don't need the wasted paper every month. They haven't responded yet.
  • And the first one I did was our King Arthur Flour catalogs. We got them for the last almost-year because Jess got me this awesome dough whisk, which I use to make breads. But seriously, if we're going to buy something from them we will shop the catalog online and purchase online.
There are some more to take care of at some point, but we've made a decent start. I think the tricky one will probably be the ValPak and the Red Plum ads.


The search for storage

As part of our quest, we need to find a new storage solution for our kitchen consumables. We've got some plastic canisters for flour and sugar currently, but we'd like to have a little consistency with newer purchases. We would also like to switch to glass to avoid any pitfalls of plastics like BPAs, foreign flavors, and staining from things like oils.

Many, many times on that Zero Waste Home blog we've seen the author Bea mention the jars she uses, made by a French company Le Parfait. They're a bit expensive but they look cool and could do double-duty should we decide to attempt canning of some sort. They come in several sizes, so to me the biggest issue in considering buying some is how many and which sizes to get. I have this fear of having a bunch of the wrong size and not having anything to put in them while having a bunch of other stuff that I don't have an adequate size to use for.

These are some of the things we'd be using them for. Maybe this will help us figure out how to plan sizes and numbers.

  • Whole wheat flour could probably use one of the 3 L jars. That's probably close to equivalent with what we've got for flour already. If we continue to make most of our bread (and pizza!), maybe two would be good if only because it would significantly aid in rotating our stock of flour.
  • Wheat gluten could probably stand to be in the .5 L size. I'll only end up using a tablespoon or two per batch of dough, so we can get away with keeping less on hand.
  • Cornmeal and flax seed meal might work best in the 1 L size. I go through enough cornmeal as non-stick material on the pizza stone that we need plenty, but I don't use quite so much that I want to let it go bad because we have too much. We're starting to use flax in the breads I'll make, plus we dump some in things like oatmeal and yogurt so I think we'll get through it quickly enough.
  • Corn flour might be best in the 3 L as well. That is assuming we find it to be a worthwhile and pleasurable enough experience to make our own tortilla chips.
  • We're hoping to find a somewhat coarse salt in the bulk aisle, and when we do, we could surely make a 1 L jar last quite a while. I'd be worried a smaller jar of salt would just mean we'd have to refill it too much. Baking soda, too, perhaps. These will work even if we have to end up buying the salt in boxes anyway.
  • We could use a 2 L for oats, maybe 3 L. I'm not sure how big a standard cylinder of Quaker oats is, volume-wise, but we should be able to get through it quickly enough between breads and oatmeal.
  • For butter, I think next time we make some we can either just use a Pyrex bowl again or try to shape it into a stick and continue to use our butter dish.
  • At some point we'll need more rice, but .5 L of rice would probably last quite a while.
  • Same for any various other grains or legumes; perhaps two to four additional .5 L jars for various uses would be fine.
  • For meat and cheese, I've seen the suggestion that 1 L jars work well, so perhaps one of each for those purposes although there might be a need for more if we got multiple kinds of cheeses.
We're also going to try to find bulk cereals we like, but Jess was thinking of a different style jar for those sorts of things. I'd guess we'd want two to four of that sort of jar at first.

So looks like a decent start might be something like three 3 L jars, six .5 L, and maybe six 1 L jars. The problem there, as I mentioned, is that these are expensive. Just these few jars from Amazon (only place I've seen to buy these kind of jars) would cost us $220. For 15 jars.

Perhaps we should look at alternatives for now, maybe some different jars for normal purposes and only get cannable jars if we actually do some canning.

We're going to World Market in a bit to see what options they have, might come home with some cloth napkins for when our paper ones run out.


A surprisingly successful Whole Foods visit

We got bulk flour for the first time this evening at the Whole Foods at 91st and Metcalf. They don’t seem to have corn flour in the bulk aisle, but we’re going to check the other Whole Foods at 119th next time. If not, I guess we’ll decide if making corn chips is worth the possibly-recyclable bag we’d have to buy the corn flour in.

Related to the bulk flour, we’re going to see how well it works to make our sandwich bread. I've tried this before but I got lazy after two or three weeks last time. Oh, and fresh warm bread is extremely tempting so it never lasted long. So it’s Friday and I’ve prepared the dough. I’ll put it in the fridge and make the bread either tomorrow or Sunday. The gluten we recently got to make making bread with whole wheat flour a bit easier seems to do the trick. The dough ends up a lot more elastic.

We also got some blocks of cheese to shred. They’re still wrapped in plastic because we don’t have any sort of other container to get them in, but I think the amount of plastic wrap is significantly less wasteful than the amount of plastic in one of the resealable bags. Plus, no starch or whatever they put in bags of shredded cheese to keep it from clumping.

Instead of getting the blue box, we got some cardboard-only not-really-elbow noodles. They’re sort of tubular, but not bent. Anyway, to avoid the trash of the cheese packet, we’ll just shred some cheddar into it and add a little milk. I might consider putting the cheese in the mini prep with a tiny bit of flour to make my own powder. Might be stringier than we’re used to but it should be pretty tasty.

We managed to get our spaghetti bread into one of our bags, but we didn’t get our explanation out in time that we didn’t want to print a whole sticker to scan. We need to try a bit harder next time to ask if we can just give them the PLU for our bread.

This doesn’t necessarily count for much but we got our beef--the leanest they had was 95%--at the counter. Eventually when we get some sort of jars for such things this will mean something. But for now we at least got it fresh.

Butter and bulk

I've caught up to where I started making my Google doc, so I can be a bit more specific about time frames now.

Starting sometime last month (real specific, eh?) we decided we'd give fresh-ground unsalted peanut butter a shot from Whole Foods. We ended up discovering that it's cheaper per ounce to get it this way than it is to get our standard Skippy Natural. And we don't really miss the salt. Or oil. Or sugar.

Last Saturday Jess had a jewelry party at our place. I played the part of obedient servent. Her sister Lacey was here and offered to help us by whipping up some whipped cream to dip some berries in. Lacey's got a nearly-one-year-old girl and by the time she returned to the cream from changing Aurora, it turned out we had some butter on our hands. We counted it as serendipitous, because once we're done with the sticks of butter we have now, we've decided we'll start getting Shatto cream and making our own butter. Should be fresher, and I'm much happier with the cow growing and treatment practices at Shatto than at who-knows-where that our Market Pantry or Hy-Vee butter came from.

On Wednesday Jess put the last of our current package of paper napkins in the holder. By the time these are gone, we're going to get some cloth napkins so we can avoid throwing away at least two napkins a day. 

On Thursday we came up with this great idea that we should be able to avoid buying tortillas and possibly even corn chips now. I mean, I can make pizza dough, how hard could it be? Not hard, it turns out. I gave it a go and it turned out pretty decent. All we need to do is make sure we get them a bit thinner. And get some corn flour to try making some chips. Oh, for now we're going to use up our remaining white flour for tortillas. After that's gone, it's gone. No more white flour will be allowed in the house. Whole wheat tortillas are tastier anyway.

And now we're all caught up! No promises here but if I can manage to keep up with this, it'll be helpful for me at least to see what we've done and in what order as we go. And of course there's always the hope that anyone that happens to be reading might be inspired to make a few changes here and there as well. I for one am actually beginning to cringe at the idea of how much trash is thrown out as the result of one fast food trip.

Regents Center

We moved from Avignon to Regents Center in the fall of 2010. We were moving to a bigger apartment, but we decided to actively start caring about the junk we brought to our new home. We had too much of it. We had boxes at Avignon that we had never unpacked. Most of that ended up being paper that we were at least able to recycle.

In an effort to reduce the amount of Stuff we owned, we went on a little diet. We collected a bunch of things we hadn't used in ages and schlepped it all over to Mom and Dad's for a little garage sale. We ended up making probably around $200, which was the biggest haul from a garage sale I'd ever seen. Not only did it help tidy up the apartment, it meant we had a lot less to pack. And once we arrived in our new home, we boxed up even more stuff to sell. We moved to a bigger place but ended up with less stuff to fill it. I like it.

Here at Regents Center we began to be more aware of our environmental impact and that's where this story really begins. We made several changes pretty early on at this apartment and I don't know exactly when they all happened.

First, we started making our own laundry and dishwasher detergents. This was largely spawned after reading posts on BoingBoing about the no 'poo movement and things of that nature. While the no 'poo thing didn't last long for me--I made it about a month--a few things did change as a result. We went on a small-scale homemade items spree and ended up with two major accomplishments and a minor one (to me).
  • We make our laundry soap. It's 1:1:1 of borax, washing soda (sodium carbonate), and bar of soap (we use Zum's frankincense and myrrh). One tablespoon per load.
  • We make our dishwasher detergent. It's 2:2:1:1 of borax, washing soda, kosher salt, and citric acid (one pound bags can be had at a homebrew shop; I get mine in Olathe). I use one tablespoon loose in the machine and one more in the little thingy that pops open during the second wash cycle. Oh, and if it would work I would also put some vinegar in the Jet-Dry thing.
  • We made some foot spray, the goal of which, I understand, is to refresh your feets after a long day in shoes. Or something. I don't remember exactly how we made this one but it involved mostly vodka and a little bit of tea tree oil. And we added some sort of scented oil to make it smell all pretty.
A couple other achievements we've unlocked since moving here include acquiring nooks to replace paper book purchases, buying only Shatto milk that comes in glass that can be returned, growing some basil we've used once so far, and adding reusable produce and hemp bulk bags to our repertoire.

This is about the point where I can get more specific, date-wise.


Now, recycling we didn't begin until we moved to Avignon. Avignon was a fancy place that we paid way too much for, but it was nice and we liked being able to walk to Spin.

Shortly after we moved to Avignon we stopped by Home Depot and grabbed some recycle bins. Unfortunately, living in an apartment has its downsides and one of them is that you don't get much of a choice in your recycling options. Avignon was cool enough, I guess, to have a paper recycling Dumpster next to the trash compactor. But we'd still have to go to the Olathe Walmart to take care of the rest. Because of Olathe's sorting requirements, we ended up with four recycle bins: paper; cardboard; glass; and plastic, tin, and aluminum.

During our time at Avignon we mostly stuck to recycling- and resource-related improvements. The introduction of recycling made a surprising difference in the amount of trash we generated. Had we not done it, we'd have nearly twice as much trash; a bottle of milk takes up quite a bit of space in a trash can.

However, many of our changes were primary financially motivated.

  • We started saving and reusing gift bags and the like.
  • We made an attempt to keep the AC set to 76-78 and the heat to 66-68, though apparently a second-floor apartment ruins much of your capability to maintain a comfortable -temperature for cheap.
  • We started paying a bit more attention to the number of water bottles we went through and began to use reusable bottles a bit more.

Being cheap was, I would say, the main concern here but I don't want to not take any credit. We did want to be environmentally friendly--we were recycling and using less electricity whenever we could. The bottled water thing though, I just always hated the whole concept of paying for water when the tap was free.

Another thing we changed at Avignon was that I began to make pizza again. This is something I hadn't done since the Fellowship Of the Ring came out on DVD, when we had a big watch party at my parents' house and, being too young for wine, we had the option of both "white" or red Mountain Dew along with the pizza. Let's just say that back then my pizza kind of sucked. I've learned a few tricks since then.

So recycling, energy mindfulness, bottled-water consumption, and pizza-making were about the extent of our active pursuits of environmental awesomeness at Avignon. Oh, we grew some catnip on the balcony but we had to live vicariously through Sibby to gain any benefit from that.

The next big change came as we were planning our move to Regents Center.

Millcreek Woods

When I moved out of my parents' house, I moved to a tiny apartment at Millcreek Woods in Olathe. Jess lived at an apartment in Holton, KS, a bit north of Topeka. We weren't married yet. And we didn't seem to worry too much about being wasteful. I don't mean we would purposely print out emails or throw soda cans on the ground. Just that we had our trash cans and maybe we'd have to empty them weekly. It's hard to tell how much trash we were responsible for, actually, because we ate out a bit more often than I would think of as healthy.

We may not have worried so much about what went into our trash cans, but at least we used CFLs. These weren't the dark ages, after all. And who really wants to have a collection of Walmart sacks? Yeah, they're useful for scooping the cat box but I was never happy about them.

Anyway, CFLs and reusable shopping bags seem like such piddly little things at this point, if only because they were easy enough that we didn't really think about them as changes. That's the sort of small changes we were working on in the 2008-2009 range.

In fact, they might be so piddly that at this point I might consider them not even steps at all but sort of our baseline. Of course we used CFLs! Who wouldn't reuse shopping bags?

I might even, to a minor extent, think of people who don't use CFLs and reusable bags wherever possible in almost the same category as those who don't wash their hands after they use the bathroom.

But that's about where it ends at this time. No recycling to speak of, I was proud of myself for dumping cable after only a couple months of paying for something I didn't end up using all that much. My environmental awareness, you might say, was a bit drowsy.

Again, I'm not a big fan of multi-page posts. Let's move on to Avignon...

We want to make less trash

Partially inspired by some previous research on homemade cleaning products--we make our laundry and dish detergent--and even more inspired by the Zero Waste Home blog, Jess and I have made a decision to begin reducing the amount of waste we generate in our lives. We haven't done a whole lot so far, but even the simple step of beginning to recycle what we can has significantly reduced the number of trips to the dumpster we make.

I began to write a Google doc to chronicle our progress but after I got some of the history down, I decided I wanted to be able to date things a little more accurately in the future.

Now, I'm prone to typing and typing without realizing how long it's getting (insert joke here), so I'll stop here and post a couple more small topical posts that will serve as summaries up to this point.