4 Steps I Took to Reduce Garbage Guilt!

Written by Dana Stanley – the kind of awesome person you can take mushroom foraging.

I have to be honest, admitting my household waste production feels very personal, and slightly taboo. But after watching videos of whales and seabirds dying from plastic consumption (like the whale found with 30 plastic bags in its stomach!), my partner and I decided we HAD to do something about it. To make it official, we pledged to cut our garbage in half (check out the Summer Fun Challenge to participate).

So in addition to my partner and I, our house is home to one quirky roommate and one adorable 90-lb dog. We live in a municipality of Victoria with curbside garbage, kitchen scraps, and blue-box pickup every two weeks. Although we’re sticklers for recycling and composting, I wanted to reduce the amount of stuff going in our garbage.

Here’s the dirt…

Prior to this challenge, this is how much waste we were producing every two weeks:

  • At least 14 lunch bag-sized containers of raw veggie scraps for our household compost, which becomes dirt for our veggie beds
  • 2 paper lunch bags full of scraps destined for the kitchen scraps bin, which are kept in the freezer to keep the smell and mess down
  • 1 full blue bin of recyclables, with our fair share of one-serving dessert containers
  • 1 mixed paper bag brimming with paper, mostly from food packaging and unwanted flyers/newspapers that end up in our mailbox… oh and pizza boxes
  • 1 nearly-full standard black garbage bag of everything else

To cut our garbage in half, I knew exactly where to start. I had been appalled for some time by how much trash our little household produced, and that meant I kept my eye on things.

My partner was fully on board and although our roommate didn’t commit to anything, he made a few attempts to help throughout the process. The dog contributed her usual efforts of licking clean milk containers that she fished out of the blue bin.

I’ll cut straight to the happy ending here – in just four weeks, we hit and exceeded our goal! The surprising part, I can’t even say that it required much of a lifestyle change. We experienced huge wins just from doing a little research and making a few simple changes.

How we cut our garbage in half!

1. Do your research! We discovered that take-out coffee cups are recyclable in our blue box program. Despite having a cupboard overflowing with reusable travel mugs, multiple take-out cups ended up in the trash every week, and they add up fast!

2. Stay disciplined! We became more diligent about putting things in the proper bins. Food scraps went in the food scrap bin, including tissues and paper napkins. All recyclables went in the blue bin, even things we had been tossing out of laziness (old food containers with an ewwww factor, for instance).

3. Avoid packaging at the grocery store! We stopped buying food with packaging that couldn’t be recycled. This was the biggest challenge of the month because it meant our beloved kettle chips were off limits. For most other things, we found it relatively easy to find recycle-friendly options.

4. Look for alternatives to curbside recycling! Much of the stuff that wasn’t accepted in curbside recycling IS accepted at a mobile recycling depot that comes to our neighbourhood once a month. Who woulda thunk it? Yes, we paid a small fee, but they recycle all kinds of soft plastic (only plastic bags were accepted at our grocery store, so other soft plastics were ending up in the trash). Plus, they take styrofoam, bike tires, and foil packaging, including, you guessed it, chip bags!

And just like that, with a few simple changes, we were down to wayyyyy less garbage. Embarrassingly easy. And now, we can finally feel good about our contribution to ocean health, I think… oh wait, what’s this Zero Waste movement!? Hmmmm…

STAY TUNED for Dana’s next blog on, you guessed it, going Zero Waste!

There’s still time to sign up for the Summer Fun Challenge and your story may be featured on our website! Also, one lucky entry wins the grand prize.