It's not reusing, but of course we recycle - gotta love the single-stream recycling dumpsters in our city! It doesn't get much easier than that. I have two recycling bags that hang on the wall (keeping cat food cans out of the dog's reach) that I've had forever - so long the handles are basically held on with staples. But they work and I can throw them in the washer when they get dirty. It's much easier to carry bags out to the dumpster than a bin, too.
Compost: And we have compost, which is kinda of reusing, just in a different form. I have a can on the counter (no liner) that fills over the course of the week (and sometimes over the course of an hour, depending on what we're making), and a black bin at the far end of the walkway by the garage. Basically it's in a narrow walkway between our garage and the neighbor's privacy fence, on the back edge of our property, by the alley. We put yard waste in the compost, too, except for weeds. If you compost weeds, you end up distributing the seeds at a later date. Then every spring, Eric shovels out the good, finished compost from the bottom of the bin and mixes it with the dirt from the previous summer's potted plants and we reuse that for the new plants.
What I Know of that I Waste
Small sample cups: I work in a grocery store where there are samples. I eat and drink some of those samples pretty much every day I'm there. I wish I'd saved every cup for a week as a baseline, but I didn't. This week I'm going to try to use as few as possible and save any I do use.
Various sheets of paper: I keep a stash of used printer paper and print on the blank side, but I just don't have that much use for scrap note paper, so most of our paper trash (hello, junk mail!) goes straight into recycling. I wonder if I should consider composting more of it?
Shipping boxes: When we get a package, I usually save the packing material if it's bubble wrap and recycle the box. Every once in a while, I reuse the box, but honestly, I just don't want a bunch of cardboard sitting around. I guess my challenge here would be figuring out ways to order fewer things/buy things locally.
And I'm sure there are a gazillion more things I waste over the course of a week, but I can't think of what they might be right now.
Other Things to Think About:
You can also follow J. Money at Budgets are Sexy because he has started experimenting with a "Zero Waste Lifestyle," an idea popularized (kind of?) by Bea at Zero Waste Home.
You can read more about J. Money's progress in this post, which also includes cute pet pigs and the benefits of early rising. :) Bea has a book out, too: Zero Waste Home. I don't have it - yet - but J. Money seems to be enjoying it.
Costs and Savings: One subject that comes to mind reading J. Money's posts is that, at least initially, attempting a zero waste lifestyle can cost some money. Things we have bought include: counter compost bucket (our bin was free from a neighbor), dryer balls, cloth napkins and extra dishrags, the jar I'm keeping my laundry detergent in, recycling bags... and it looks like I narrowly escaped buying a drying rack for plastic baggies. :)
On the other hand, we haven't bought paper towels or napkins in over a decade. Same with dryer sheets. Even with part-time plastic bag washing, we're reusing some of them and avoiding having to repurchase them. So we're saving some money, too.
Of course, it's not all about the money saved or spent. It's also about learning to be less wasteful, distancing myself from society's constant obsession with germs and bacteria, and being a bit more mindful of keeping the earth in good working order. No doubt it makes little difference if I use a paper towel, but over time, those paper towels add up - not just to a lot of waste, but to more packaging being produce both to package and ship them, transportation costs to get them to the store, then to my house from the store - and it all costs money!
Reuse and Minimalism
Just a quick note on one conflict I find myself facing when I'm thinking about whether I can reuse something - keeping things around "just in case" can easily lead to stashes of things, whether they're jars, cardboard boxes, or plastic bags, that become clutter. I guess the answer to this problem lies in the first two R's: Refuse and Reduce. Which I don't think I'm doing a great job with, at least not right now.
Whatever the reason one attempts to move toward a zero-waste lifestyle, I think it will be interesting to look at what I do this week that generates waste, what I can reuse, and what I can't.
Do you try to avoid adding to the trash pile? If you have any tips or ideas, I'd love to hear them!