Jul 292010

Wow, I’ve been a bad little blogger lately, haven’t I?  In some ways, a brief hiatus has been nice, because I’ve had a productive couple of weeks around here.  Also, I’m still working on finding a job (though some possibilities have just opened up, so keep fingers crossed!), so the time has gotten a little scarce.  Nevertheless, I’m back in business full-time, so check in each Monday night for a new entry.  Also, if you click on an individual post, you can now subscribe to an RSS feed of the blog or share entries on social networking sites.

Last week, I made hamburger buns.  As you know, I’m big on making things from scratch rather than buying them, especially if I can avoid all the nasty packaging and food preservatives.  I got to looking at bags of buns in the grocery store the other day and thought, “I can make those!”  A look at the ingredients in a bag of hamburger buns confirmed it – there is no need for high-fructose corn syrup to be in my buns!

So, I found this recipe on Food Network and followed it.  The results were excellent, and they really weren’t hard to make. If you can make bread in a bread machine, you can make these buns.  Benefits: no preservatives, better taste, and garbage-free!  (Hamburger bun bags are, by the way, technically recyclable, but still – one less plastic bag is not a bad thing).  Here’s what I did:

1. Gather ingredients.  Everything is packaged in recyclable or compostable paper or plastic. 

2. Make the dough.  It needs to rise, twice. 

3. Divide dough into equally sized balls.  The recipe calls for 10, but I think I could have gotten 12 buns out of it.

4. Cut each dough ball in half.

5. Pinch 2 halves back together.  Don’t pinch too hard, just enough to make the top stay put.  Otherwise, you’ll pinch the halves back into one piece of dough.  Once the buns are baked, they should pull apart nicely.

6. Sprinkle with onion or sesame seeds, then let rise for half hour.  Right before baking, brush with melted butter.

7. Enjoy!

If you have leftovers, they only keep for three or four days.  Otherwise, stick them in the freezer and they’ll keep until you’re ready to use again.

Jul 222010

From the beginning, the Green Garbage Project has been our response to a world where trash is everywhere, even in the most pristine wilderness places.  I don’t want to see a world where the oceans are dead, suffocated under a floating blanket of plastic.  I don’t want to see the great apes and whales and countless other species go extinct.  I want us to treat the planet and its resources like the gift it truly is. 

I can think of no better way to celebrate the end of our trash-free year then with a trip to the wilderness, to enjoy those wild spaces we are working to save.  Adam and I just spent a week backpacking and hiking through Olympic National Park in northwest Washington.  What a week we had!  Just in terms of wildlife, we hit the mother lode: sea otters, a mated pair of bald eagles, bears, coyote, elk, deer, and tidepools teeming with sea critters. 

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We visisted the western-most tip of the continental United States, taking an easy hike to a gorgeous lookout called Cape Flattery. 


We saw this weird fish sculpture in Seiku, a small fishing village we passed through.  Her name is Rosie, apparently. 


We hiked for miles on some well-used trails and on some deserted ones.  The most memorable moments from the trip came during the time we spent hiking along the Olympic coastline.  To reach much of the coastline, you literally have to hike in – there are no access roads.  

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We visisted Forks, famous now due to the Twilight series and teeming with teen girls.  

In case you can't read it ... this is the Vampire Threat Level sign.

In case you can't read it ... this is the Vampire Threat Level sign.


We ended our trip in the Hoh Rainforest. 


And yet, while we were trekking through the wilderness, we still encountered … garbage.  And lots of it.  Even when we were the only people around, outnumbered by eagles 10 to 1, we still found human trash everywhere.  Tires, buoys, bits of plastic.  We even found this plastic bag lodged inside a tidepool. 

garbage in the sea 

I guess there’s still work to be done, which is why we continue to live trash-free.

Jul 072010

While I have rarely grown weary of our project, I never really stopped to think how I would feel on week 52, 365 days after we started the Green Garbage Project.  Well, time passed as time does, and we’ve reached a landmark.  I won’t say we’ve reached the end, because now that we’re on a roll, there’s no way we’re stopping.  That said, the original project was designed to take place over the course of the year.  We’ve said all along we’d consider ourselves successful if, at the end of the year, we could fit all our trash in a standard shoebox or a standard plastic grocery sack. 

Our trash for one year - pictured here with a women's 7.5 shoe, for scale.

Our trash for one year - pictured here with a women's 7.5 shoe, for scale.

We did it.  With our (first) year officially over, the amount of trash we’ve produced between the two of us weighs in at about 3 pounds.  Considering that the average American creates 4.6 pounds of trash A DAY (about 3 pounds of that ends up in a landfill, the remaining 1.6 pounds is recyclable), we consider this quite the feat. 

Today, I’m not going to talk about what we’ve learned or what comes next.  Those are posts for another day.  Instead, I will tell you the story of our year – in trash.

Our trash can be separated into categories, and maybe here is the best place to start. 

Object trash – trash created from household items breaking or wearing out.

Object trash

Object trash

  • Broken dog squeaky toy: One of our very first pieces of trash, this frog squeaky toy met an early end thanks to a lawn mower.
  • Severed bungee cords: Result of someone letting our dog out of our yard.  Thankfully everything turned out okay.
  • Lightbulb: Burnt-out bulb that had to be replaced.  If you recall, we moved last September and had several bulbs burn out on us.  Some I’ve saved for craft projects, but a bulb like this I can’t do anything with.  It was replaced with a CFL.
  • Broken Christmas ornament: Knocked off the tree by our cat and shattered.
  • Ear plugs: Resulting from a mandatory field trip to a lumber mill.  We toured the local mill in the small town where I worked.
  • 2 pens and a highlighter: A good, productive year as a teacher is bound to result in some worn-out writing utensils.  To avoid in the future, I will use a fountain pen or colored pencils.

Bathroom trash: By far the hardest to avoid.  Even a year later, I don’t have any new ways to avoid some of this stuff.

8 razor blades and 2 toothbrush heads.

8 razor blades and 2 toothbrush heads.

A small mound of the rest of our bathroom trash.

A small mound of the rest of our bathroom trash.

  • 8 razor blades: For financial reasons I did not invest in an electric razor (like Adam uses) or a safety razor.  Instead, I opted for these, which are way better than the full disposable razors.  I was (and still am!) unwilling to give up shaving entirely, though I used a natural wax called Moom whenever I could.
  • 2 toothbrush heads: All in all, neither of us were in love with the Preserve brand toothbrushes.  The producers should be commended for making a recycled, recyclable product and for being responsible enough to deal with the product after its usefulness has expired.  Still, the bristles weren’t firm enough, and after using an electric toothbrush, my teeth never felt clean enough with Preserve. 
  • Birth control pill packaging: 12 plastic wrappers, 12 plastic cases, and 12 plastic-foil pill packs. 
  • Flea medicine: In the spring and summer months, the pets get fleas and so far, this is the only thing that works.
  • Hospital bracelet: Plastic, from the time I was admitted earlier in the year.
  • 2 Theraflu pouches: If you recall, both Adam and I got a nasty flu last winter.  We felt so bad that we couldn’t care less about creating garbage.  One reader correctly pointed out that, because it’s inevitable that you get sick, it’s necessary to do the research and have garbage-free alternatives on hand ahead of time.  That, and using herbal remedies are both things I plan to research in the future.
  • Insect sting relief pad: From a visiting child over the summer.
  • Various pill blister packs: Many medicines come packaged in plastic blister packs and covered with foil.  We could often, but not always, recycle the plastic.
  • Seals from contact lens blister packs


Sometimes, gifts we received contained trash.

Sometimes, gifts we received contained trash.

  • Styrofoam cup: From teacher appreciation week, when the student council brough us coffee.
  • Popped balloons: From a night out at the Old Spaghetti Factory restaurant.  The Portland location has a balloon man who makes balloon animals for kids.  He wears big, crazy Dr. Seuss-style balloon hats, and at the end of the night, he gives the hat to one lucky diner.  I was that person.
  • Wrapping paper: Refer to our Christmas posts to see how we made it through the Christmas season with only two pieces of trash.  Our families went above and beyond, wrapping our gifts in towels, fabric, and baskets.  Only one family wrapped our gifts in non-recyclable/reusable packaging.
  • Cut flower preservative powder: Adam brought me flowers for our anniversary last week, and they were wrapped in tissue paper!  Unfortunately, this little packet of powder came with the flowers.

Trash we regret

Would have, could have, should have avoided it....

Would have, could have, should have avoided it....

  • Plastic tag from mesh produce bags: Oh, this makes me mad!  See this post for full rationale, but basically I fell victim to greenwashing.  The bags themselves are useful, but I wish I had purchased a different brand.
  • Two pairs of latex gloves: From our beach cleanup last spring.  Had we thought ahead, we would have brought our own. 
  • 2 Crackerjack liners: Again, I swear these didn’t used to come with a plastic-foil pouch inside.  Well, regardless, they do now.

Food or medicine seals

Food or medicine seals.

Food or medicine seals.

  • 14 seals: Some of these fall into the category of regrettable (or avoidable) trash.  But, since living garbage-free is so easy, it wasn’t always at the forefront of our minds when we were replacing a condiment or medicine. 

Miscellaneous  and packaging trash



  • Big ball of plastic and tape: I’m really at a loss as to where this came from.  The only trash from our move, perhaps?
  • Plastic mailer: I might be able to fuse this, but for now, it’s trash.
  • Flat packing foam: Again, we can also probably reuse this for mailing our own packages in the future.
  • Miscellaneous: Some odds and ends plastic – tags from clothing, a plastic tag from a bundle of radishes, two suction cups from the bottom of our bath mat.

And there you have it.  A year’s worth of trash.  Oddly enough, this has become enough of a talking piece that we’re unlikely to ever throw this stuff away. 

One last look inside the box.

One last look inside the box.

To our faithful readers ~ we hope you know we couldn’t have done this without you.  Thank you for your support, advice, and ideas.  We would have created much more trash if it wasn’t for the excellent, resourceful reader network this site has developed.  Please continue to check back in often (at least once a week), because the Green Garbage Project doesn’t end here.

Jul 032010

Oops, I missed a day of updating!  Yesterday was our fourth wedding anniversary, and we went out to eat at a nice local restaurant and didn’t get home until a bit late in the evening.

Nevertheless, I’d like to invite you to join me tomorrow at 10 a.m.  I’ll be speaking at the Salem Saturday Market in the Friends of the Salem Saturday Market booth!  I’m pretty darn excited about this opportunity.  The Salem Saturday Market has recently committed to going Zero Waste – just like us.  Obviously, we find this an admirable goal and are happy to help in any way possible.   

I’ll be speaking about the Green Garbage Project some, but the real focus of the workshop will be helping other market-goers learn to be trash-free themselves.  I’ll have handouts avaliable for those who are interested in learning how to drastically reduce their own trash.  I’ll also have a few giveaways, so if you’re in the area, stop by!

Jul 012010

Okay, as a cook, I’ll admit it’s sometimes been hard to give up: foil, cling wrap, waxed paper, and parchment paper.  I mean, sometimes, it’s just nice to have something other than Tupperware to cover food.  This stuff, then, has been a lifesaver for me. 

Check it out – silicone coated parchment baking paper.  I use it when I’m out of Tupperware to wrap things like sandwiches in, though this is rare.  It’s really nice to have for baking,especially sticky cookies or the like. 

And, lucky you, I have one extra roll to giveaway.  The packaging is 100% recyclable cardboard, the paper itself is unbleached, and silicone is derived from sand or quartz, so it is essentially natural, too.  The paper is oven or microwave safe.  When you’re done with it, the paper can be tossed in the compost pile. 

So, all you need to do is leave me a comment telling me how you are eliminating those three substances from your kitchen – cling wrap, foil, and waxed paper.  For example, I no longer use waxed paper to cover dishes I reheat in the microwave – I just use another plate. 

If you think of something I’m not doing, I’ll enter you twice.  Good luck!

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