Lately I have found myself pondering the realities of the carbon footprint my own family is leaving on the world. It is unbelievable what a consumer culture we live in today (thanks for the reminder, Spider42 and for the push that motivated me to write on this topic (I have been thinking about it for a while).
It is a bit crazy how much waste my own family of four generates on a daily basis (let alone the weekly pile up). Between plastic bottles, sandwich bags, yogurt containers, shampoo bottles, and milk cartons (to name only a few) we are personally well on our way to creating a mountain of toxic mess. Then I start to account for our electronic waste and the list continues to grow…. old computers, rotten batteries, random plugs that go to electronics that no longer function, old cellphones, etc. What are we to do with all of these things? As long as we are purchasing them, does it matter that we try to be responsible with their disposal? (We do recycle plastic bottles, placing them in bins daily).
I do not have any answers here, and my family is definitely not the type to lead a crusade of radical lifestyle changes….. I just wonder if it is time to be more aware. Do we need to really look at what we are consuming and the effects that our personal choices have on the environment? I think we do need this awareness. Therefore, this is what I am thinking…. that I will dedicate one week (June 10th to June 16th) of my blog to looking at the carbon footprint my family is currently leaving on the world. For that one week, I will list and photograph every non-biodegradable item we are throwing away. As we empty our garbage two to three times a day, I do not really fully understand our weekly pile-up – I think it is time to come to terms with it. Perhaps I will find out that we are not as bad as we thought?
Is anyone out there in cyberspace interested in joining me? Will you dedicate your blog to understanding the carbon footprint we are leaving on this earth? Will you record the waste your family produces in that one week in June? Together we can learn.
Today, 267 days ’til 40, I am keenly aware of the fact that my choices have an impact on the environment around me. While I cannot promise to change my habits, I believe that awareness is a critical step in personal growth. Our children will inherit earth from us – what condition will we leave it in for them???
May 30, 2012 at 00:37
May 30, 2012 at 23:34
Darn it, and I thought you would be the first person to sign up!!! 😉
May 30, 2012 at 00:39
I sometimes wonder what can we do to not create so much litter … I recycle, reuse etc but still I have a lot of waste and feel bad about it
May 30, 2012 at 14:50
May 30, 2012 at 03:47
good ? i try to recycle and reuse as much as possible, we live in a throw away society, things are so cheap….lol
May 30, 2012 at 14:50
yes, so very true… even electronics are not built to last.
May 30, 2012 at 03:52
I’m happy to you talking about this with all of us – it’s a topic near and dear to me, and as much as we’ve progressed through the years I know my family and I can do yet more.
May 30, 2012 at 23:33
Yes, I think this is an area where we can always challenge ourselves.
May 30, 2012 at 04:53
I’m in. I can’t promise daily posts, but I’ll cover what we do to reduce waste that week. In addition to physical disabilities, at 11 days to 57 (hehe) the memory’s shot :-). Remind me?
May 30, 2012 at 23:33
Great! I will remind you (you will see my daily posts). I do not think you have to post daily, even one post during the week that shows or talks about what you have used that day or during that week would really help promote awareness. 🙂
May 30, 2012 at 05:53
I’ll do it, see how much a single person produces in a week it’s gonna be interesting
May 30, 2012 at 23:32
Excellent – yes it will be very interesting!
May 30, 2012 at 11:01
Great idea – here where I live – we have to separate: food waste goes in special paper bags, soft plastic, hard plastic, clear glass, colored glass, cardboard & tetra pack, newspapers & magazines, batteries, bulbs and metal – anything else we have to leave at the recycling plant yourself. Even at places like McDonald do we have to separate our waste when clearing the trays and it has been like that for 25 years.
May 30, 2012 at 11:07
Forgotten that we return all glass & plastic bottles, softdrink/beer cans to our supermarket – and we have special machines where we put them through that gives us money back on a receipt that we pay our shopping with. By law in Sweden does the manufacture of those products have to take back the packaging, but the shops returns. The most brilliant thing – because the kids pick up tins and bottles – even adults – because it’s pure money. So no more broken glass in the nature.
May 30, 2012 at 23:31
Wow, it is great how much you do.
May 30, 2012 at 23:31
I wish more people separated world-wide.
May 31, 2012 at 10:41
I know …. Canada has done for over 20 years too – Scandinavian countries are doing well and Germany. Most of EU don’t so much as they could do.
May 30, 2012 at 13:51
You’re most welcome and may I just say that you’ve really taken a good, strong stand on this. Kudos.
Well to be honest, the fact that I’d actually need to empty my garbage bins maybe once a week on average at home – except for the bio-waste in the kitchen and such which smells if left – I doubt I could do much to show here. I’ve been a careful person for ages and actually don’t generate much waste on a daily basis beyond cooking remains as all meals are fresh cooked and that leaves the odd bit of paper and maybe coffee/tea remains or such at work. Even my office I’ve been pushing and my CEO has approved and we are heading to reduce paper drastically so…
Anyway, not bragging there, sorry if it comes off that way – just that I have very little that I can photograph or such so participating in your challenge would be harder. I’m trying to reduce electricity usage and petrol but can’t really show that much. Sorry.
I wil say that you deserve applause for realising that it’s not about crusading to change the world and living like a hippie or something – it’s about being aware and minimising waste and excess. Things you mention like “plastic bottles, sandwich bags, yogurt containers, shampoo bottles, and milk cartons” – these mean pretty much nothing to me because we don’t use them here. For kids, they have a snack/lunch-box that is reused everyday and we don’t put cling-film or such as its not needed, yogurt is largely made at home in most homes everyday – just enough for that day with a little leftover to make more for the day after. I’ve even phased out plastic bottles and now we have glass bottles (old alcohol ones I’ve *ahem* emptied in times past) and for carrying around you have a refillable thermos/canteen and such. Saves on money buying bottles and though it’s a little more effort to carry it around, it’s worthwhile.
I hope you find a big difference by making small changes like that and see how many small things there are in which we never even realise the extent of wastage and silliness of it all.
And teaching your kids to be aware and not be foolishly sheep-like and mindless about consumerism and doing it “just because” and actually thinking about consequences – well I think it is good as an environmental thing but will also serve them well in life.
May 30, 2012 at 23:31
Wow, you are doing much better than my family! I think I am going to be embarrassed by our tally week… as I said, I am not even sure we will change our habits afterwards, but awareness is definitely the first step!
June 1, 2012 at 11:42
Don’t feel bad about it – seriously. It’s just a matter of lifestyle and culture and it’s one of the difference between the ‘1st world’ and the rest. Actually I think its a big part of the angst between them all.
Most of my habits and limited waste and such, there are many around me who are really bad about it but largely being from a developing place and expense and scarcity tends to give you more careful habits. Something we are also retaining less and less of as we develop and consumer culture and mass-production and such become staples.
Way I see it, soon we’ll be the messy polluters and wasters (largely) and the west will (assuming the continue to remain a step ahead developmentally) move to a more sustainable and efficient status quo. But of course this is just me speculating.
June 1, 2012 at 23:08
I hope you are right… in the sense that someone starts moving towards a more sustainable future…. we need it!
June 2, 2012 at 09:52
I’m a terribly cynic a lot of the time, but I’m also eternally optimistic (which confounds most folks I know) but I do believe that hope does indeed float eternal – because whatever you believe in as the meaning of life (except perhaps nihilism or such), whats the point unless you have hope for something more?
June 2, 2012 at 21:24
Ah, so you are an oxymoron? I can be sometimes too! I do agree with you, hope is such an important factor for all of us as we journey through this crazy life.
June 4, 2012 at 09:26
May 30, 2012 at 13:53
And just so it’s said – you may not think your reduction in waste and carbon will do much, another drop in the bucket if you like. But to my mind, every one bit makes a difference. Everyone who creates less garbage or uses less electricity or whatever, it does help and personally it helps the soul too.
May 30, 2012 at 23:30
May 30, 2012 at 18:33
It is so true …how much waste one family produces…Where we live in Canada …I can’t speak for all provinces…but we recycle quite a bit of the waste..we do plastic bottles..shampoo, soap…plastic wrap and containers, paper (actually we take our newspapers to our vet’s office as they use them for the animal cages) cardboard,bottles,cans, metal we take to scrapyards that recycle some what they can, electronics to a local hardware store etc. So it’s a step in the right direction….Diane
May 30, 2012 at 23:30
Yes, those are amazing steps… where we are we do not have to recycle… bottles are done the most, but we seem to be a bit slow on the uptake.
May 30, 2012 at 21:48
It feels like a constant struggle but I am working at making mt carbon footprint smaller all of the time.
I wanted to let you know that I tagged you in a meme on my blog. Just some questions to help your readers get to know you better.
May 30, 2012 at 23:29
May 31, 2012 at 00:02
Pretty soon we are not going to have a lot of choice. In Japan they recycle just about EVERYTHING. In Tasmania, I recently found out that most of the recyclable items that we put in our recycling get thrown into landfill because there aren’t any buyers for the stuff. Head on over to the Instructables site. There, you will find an INCREDIBLE wealth of ways to reuse, repurpose and recycle items. I found out that you can laminate plastic bags to make thick, usable plastic. You can knit and crochet bread wrappers into useful things. You can make tiny plant pots that stick on your fridge out of old store and credit cards. I personally recycle all of my milk containers through my dog. He does a VERY good job of reducing them to tiny pieces…not so much fun to have to deal with it at the other end but hey…consider it doing my bit! 😉
May 31, 2012 at 09:20
Yes, that is very sad. It is happening in the USA too – there was a show on not long ago that talked about countries like India being paid to take all the “recycled” products from the USA – can you believe it? Shipped to be a part of a landfill in another country? Really not PC!
May 31, 2012 at 23:42
Yeh, we saw something similar here and its tragic… “not in my back yard” seems to be the mentality doesn’t it? Maybe I could ship my dog Earl to India…it might take him a while but I bet he could eat his way through every single plastic PET bottle, milk container and anything else made of plastic (including pool noodles) that is on that mighty mountain. Maybe Earl has “hero” in him yet? The lord only knows he hasn’t exhibited it so far! 😉
June 1, 2012 at 11:41
This made me laugh….. but it really is so sad, isn’t it?
May 31, 2012 at 00:53
I’m lucky where I live (Leeds, UK) as many things can be recyled either by putting it in a bin for home collection (this includes food waste) or taking it to a municap household waste site. There also many, many charity shops (and charities also collect from people’s homes), so it is easy enough to make very little waste as such. I would say my household of myself and my daughter create enough rubbish which we throw away to fill one small plastic bag.
That said, I think the biggest single reason we produce so little waste which will go to landfill is that I shop very little at supermarkets or similar stores, where the food is heavily packages. Instead, I buy vegetables, for example, at our local farm, where they are carried home in brown paper bags, which then go into my compost heap, At the same time, food manufacturers and supermarkets are being encouraged to reduce the amount of packaging – e.g. why do biscuits need to be in a plastic tray and then have an outer plastic wrapping as well? And now the big sellers are in competition with each other to be the more environmentally friendly, not just in terms of packaging but in terms of how much energy they use in their store, transportation etc.
May 31, 2012 at 09:17
Such a great point you make – when we buy from local farms, etc. there is less packaging… sometimes it is scary how much packaging is on things (food, toys, etc.)
May 31, 2012 at 01:39
I’ve marked my calendar for that week. It will be interesting to see. Fortunately we have a recycle truck that comes each week for all our plastic, glass, pop cans, Styrofoam, newspapers/phone books, etc. Just have to set the recycle bucket out Thursday mornings. I figure that’s got to help some. 🙂
May 31, 2012 at 09:16
Thanks so much! I also think it will be very interesting.
May 31, 2012 at 14:06
Great post – we recently (3 years ago) moved from the city to the country. We have to pay for garbage pick up (per bag) and our water now comes from a well on our property. The local hydro electric company has also instituted ‘time of day’ billing…having times when it is much more expensive to use electricity. All this was a big wake up call.
We found that not purchasing processed food items was the biggest way to reduce garbage! We buy fruit & veggies, meat & eggs and cook from scratch…I can’t tell you how small our pile of garbage is now! We recycle all glass and don’t buy products that are over-packaged for no good reason…and compost!
I still don’t know what to do with old electronics – how to reduce that – our technology is changing so quickly that things become obsolete quickly. I try to not purchase just to be trendy. My MACBook is an older one passed on by relatives that purchased up.
Good job – I think just by making people aware of their footprint, you have started the ball rolling in the right direction….if we all do a little something, it is amazing how much we can accomplish.
May 31, 2012 at 20:01
Wow, what a great experience you shared! I agree with you, sometimes even the small efforts, if we all do something, makes a big difference.
May 31, 2012 at 20:21
We are millions and millions of people (actually 6 billion at last count) – if we each save 1 lb of waste or 1 kilowat hour of electricity – it will make a difference. Little steps, right? We don’t have to save the whole world. My mom taught me to take care of my space and the rest would take care of itself – don’t through your garbage on someone else space – I think that is still (or even more so) valid today. 🙂
May 31, 2012 at 20:22
June 1, 2012 at 20:54
I have lived without a car for five years, and have just gotten a job a mile from home. (Eighteen miles on a bike every day was taking its toll.) I recycled my computer last year. But three weeks ago the recycling station at the firehouse less than a mile away was removed permanently, leaving the nearest one several miles away. It’s not easy being green, and until my county thinks they can make a profit off of it, it’s just going to get harder. Good luck, everyone.
June 1, 2012 at 22:59
I agree with you…. and it is sad. It is not easy…. sad that it is easier to waste than to conserve….. it should be opposite.
June 16, 2012 at 01:15
Hi! I took your challenge up and posted about it here:
This was a thought-provoking exercise. Thanks for the prompt!
I also tracked my waste stream for one year here:
June 17, 2012 at 01:13
ow, thank you so much Nathen for this link and how cool that you tracked your waste for a year!!! Very impressive (and not easy to do – you have to be so diligent!)