What the Heck am I Throwing Away? My One-Week Trash Diary

While my husband is gone it’s just me in this house, which means it’s my job to take out the trash and recycling. Fun.

Each week I empty my trash cans from various rooms in the house and plop my one medium bag of trash into the big bin outside, and wheel it to the curb to sit beside my week’s recycling.

One night during this little walk down the driveway, I thought, “Wow. Should I even take the trash to the curb every week? I only have one bag.”

My next thought: “I’m only one person. Why do I have a whole bag of trash and a decent amount of recycling for just me?”

Good question, if I do say so myself.

And being me, I need to answer my own question and then share with you. So, I’ve done a one-week experiment to see just what is filling up my one medium trash bag in only seven days. I compost, I recycle, so what is left?

Well, here you are: one week’s worth of things I threw away (that couldn’t be recycled):

  • two plastic sandwich bags
  • kleenex (unfortunately more sanitary than hankies and not as gross)
  • CVS receipt (Why do these have to be so long?)
  • stale crackers
  • empty candy bag
  • plastic packaging from coffee filters
  • two almond containers
  • two gum wrappers
  • corner of frozen veggie package
  • non-recyclable junk mail (Yes, I’m supposed to be on the Do Not Mail lists. It was a hologram postcard … really? Thanks Shark TV.)
  • floss
  • two band-aids (cut finger. sadness)
  • Crystal Light Pure package
  • 1/2 stale tortilla
  • tortilla packaging
  • cleaning wipes (I do use sparingly)
  • plastic tea bag packaging (Trader Joes – come on!!)
  • new contact lens metallic seals
  • plastic straw (Did you know they make stainless steel straws? They are great!)
  • running shirt tag
  • airplane ticket
  • coconut oil lid seal
  • race bib from my half-marathon
  • stale graham crackers and the packaging they came in (I recycled the box)
  • Hershey bar wrappers (No judging – I made Smore’s cupcakes for a birthday party.)
  • marshmallow fluff lid seal (Again, don’t judge! See above.)
  • dress tags (the part that couldn’t be recycled)
  • almond milk container
  • old rice
  • wine cork
  • a few pieces of tape
  • glossy business cards
  • q-tips
  • vitamin lid seal
  • bottle cap
  • end of a candle (wax and wick)
  • top of tofu packaging
  • Emergen-C packet
  • vinegar cap seal
  • plastic mesh onion bag
  • wax paper
  • shreds of plastic from old dog toys
  • paper towels (though I try to use them sparingly)
  • cupcake sleeves (those Smore’s cupcakes were delish)
  • grocery receipts
  • fruit snack packaging (I shouldn’t go to the grocery hungry)
  • salmon packaging
  • old hot dog bun
  • old noodles

I didn’t track my recycling though in hindsight I should have. It usually includes food boxes, junk mail, magazines, glass beverage bottles, etc. Another post perhaps? This little experiment makes me want to track how much water I’m wasting too. Yet another blog post in the future … maybe.

I learned a lot on this week-long  journey:

  • Technically you can recycle sandwich bags. You cannot, however, where I live (only plastics 1 and 2). If you want to reduce, then wash and dry them and use them again.
  • You can’t recycle cardboard milk containers – they have wax which makes them non-recyclable.
  • You should be able to recycle aluminium foil if it is rinsed. I am not sure if I can in this town so I do it anyway just in case.
  • I still can’t figure out if I can recycle those shiny credit card receipts. Anyone know? I always opt out of getting a copy when I have the choice.
  • I have a pet peeve against wasting food. However, I waste a lot of food.
  • Packaging creates a lot of waste. (In theory I knew this, but it is frustrating when trying not to throw any away.) I’m renewing my resolve to avoid packaging where I can.
  • I would love it if my town could recycle even more (such as all plastics 1 through 7) but at least there is a program–my hometown still does not recycle. This continues to sadden me.
  • This site has a handy list of what you can and can’t recycle.
  • This task was kind of like a food diary – I think much more about what I’m putting in my trashcan when I know I have to write it down and share it.
  • I could become a hoarder if I did this every week. I tried very hard to find ways to not throw things away.

Now here is my challenge to you: Keep your own trash diary just for one day to see what you are throwing away, and during the process think about how you could make your trash bag a little less plump.

And, let me know if you have any good, easy tips for reducing my own bag of trash.

PS: I stumbled across this blog in my research of what I could/couldn’t recycle: Talkin Trash: A practical peek into the Montgomery County, MD, Division of Solid Waste Services.  Very interesting posts on recycling and good advice!

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Craft: The Recycled Jar Lantern

If you are looking for an inexpensive project to add a little light and ambiance to your outdoor space, you can easily create your own hanging lantern. The glass jars that you (hopefully) recycle can be turned into beautiful, rustic lanterns using very few supplies. I created many of these for my wedding reception, and the result was simple and charming!

Recycled Jar Lanterns

Recycled Jar Lanterns

Here’s a little How To so you can make your own hanging jar lantern.

Step 1: Gather the materials. You will need:

  • The glass jar: I love using Classico jars. They are atlas mason jars underneath the label! Lots o’ character. Just use hot water to remove the label.
  • Wire: 20-gauge works well.
  • Needle-nose pliers: I wouldn’t recommend plain old scissors.
supplies for the jar lantern

Supplies Needed to Make a Jar Lantern

Step 2: Loosely wrap the wire twice around the neck of the jar and cut. Do not wrap it tightly at this point. Twist the ends to hold the wire in place around the neck, but again, don’t do this tightly just yet.

Step 3: Measure your hanging wire. To do this, make an arch around from one side of the neck to the other. Consider how you want this lantern to hang. I like the top of my hanging wire to be about five or six inches from the neck. Once you’ve “measured” your arch, double that length, add an extra inch or so of wire to that and then cut!
measureing the arch wire

Measuring the Hanging Wire (arch wire)

Step 4: You doubled the length of the arch wire so it can be bent in half and twisted together. First, make sure the cut ends are even, and then you can begin to twist the two pieces of the wire together. This part can be a little tricky so you just need to find what works for you. I wrap the loop end around my finger and twist that way. If you have a sturdy hook on your wall somewhere, you could place the loop there to twist or braid the wire together.  Just remember to twist the loop section at the end also.
Hanging Wire Loop

Twisting the Hanging Wire (arch wire)

Step 5: Now you are ready to put it all together! Slip each end of the wire you twisted for the arch into the wire wrapped around the neck. You may need to use your pliers to gently make room to slip the arch ends between the neck wire and the jar. After you have about an inch and  half of the arch ends of wire positioned between the jar and the neck wire, bend the ends of the arch back to itself to hold in place.
Finishing the Hanging Wire

Finishing the Hanging Wire

Step 6: Begin to tighten the wire around the neck by twisting the ends together. Make sure this wire sits underneath the entire neck of the jar so it will be held in place by the neck ridges. Be careful here, especially if you are using the pliers to help twist, since the wire can break. Twist the ends together until the wire is taut around the neck and the arch feels secure. You should have excess wire here after you’ve twisted it tightly, so you can curl those pieces for design.
Step 7: Wrap each bent end of the arch around itself to secure. If you have excess wire for the arch ends, you can also curl them to make them part of the design.
Tightened, Curled and Wrapped Wire

Tightened, Curled and Wrapped Wire

Step 8: It’s time to fill your lanterns. I filled mine with sand, but you can also fill with small rocks (if you plan to use candles, make sure your filling is not flammable). Don’t fill these too much since they will be heavy – only about the bottom quarter of the jar should be filled.  Then place tea lights atop the sand or rocks.
Your jar lantern is now ready to hang! I recommend hanging with S-hooks so you can easily take your lanterns down to light or extinguish the tea lights.
The Completed Lantern!

The Completed Lantern!

This project is much more difficult to describe than it is to actually do, so don’t be afraid to try it. You may have to practice once or twice, but soon enough you will be able to make these easily. However, if you have questions, feel free to post in the comments. Enjoy!
The Lantern at Nighttime

The Lantern at Nighttime

Happy Earth Day!

Taken on a hike at Old Rag in Shenandoah National Park

Taken on a hike at Old Rag in Shenandoah National Park

Happy Earth Day, everyone! Seize the day and get outside to enjoy nature. And, perhaps make a few resolutions for nature too. Here are five I think are pretty easy to accomplish:

1) Start recycling, or become better at it. Find out what your area recycles and make sure you follow guidelines.

2) Turn off the tap when you brush your teeth. It saves tons of water.

3) Begin a compost pile. (Here’s how I do it.)

4) Eat locally. Find your nearest farmer’s market and pay it a visit.

5) Consider supporting an environmental organization. My favorite is The Nature Conservancy. (Also, they have an Everyday Environmentalist page that gives more great tips on green living.)

Celebrate Earth Day with me. What are your favorite sustainable ideas?