Dec 29, 2007

Zero Waste - can we do it?

Merl gave me this book for Christmas (Teach yourself Green Parenting by Lynoa Cattanach and BabyGROE). On the whole it's a very good, pragmatic book. It's British, which makes it that fraction more culturally accessible to me than US books, and I agreed with almost everything.

Almost. I have some hesitation about the advice given about birthing choices - a first time Mum could definitely come away from a hospital caesarian feeling like a failure if she took that chapter too much to heart - OK, sure, giving birth in your own home and cleaning up afterwards is more 'natural', but then so is dying in childbirth (which people still occasionally do - even in the superduper West). So personally, give me an Independent Midwife-managed hospital birth any day. But each to her own.

Enough of birth politics, however, because the real reason I'm writing about this book is that it has sparked me off on another journey of discovery. What might Zero Waste look like on a family scale? How low can we go?

So, having assimilated the truth that I can bite off more than I can chew, this will not be a 6 week crash landing into the world of fully biodegradable everythings, this is a slow and steady evaluation of our personal waste stream and a sustained and sustainable effort to reduce it. (not very exciting, but there you go - hopefully interesting, if only to myself!).

What do we currently throw out you ask? How big is our waste problem? The broad brush stroke estimate is that if we buy the small City Council rubbish bags (45L) we use one a week, plus our recycling bin, but if we buy the big ones (65L) we use one every second week (or possibly 3 out of 5 weeks). My half-thought-about mostly pulled out of the air goal is maybe a 45L bag every second week? Can we halve our rubbish output?

Already I've identified some things that will need to go (disposable nappies, synthetic nappy wipes) and some things that bear further investigation (how expensive is a hand-cranked paper shredder and does our Council recycle yoghurt pottles or polystyrene meat trays?). The nappies shouldn't be too big an ask - we already use cloth for most of the time, but I put the baby into a disposable at night to keep her drier, and I generally use one if we're going to be out and about for a while for the same reason.

So. Goal for this week - cloth nappies only during the day. No more trusting to petrochemicals and bizarre absorbant gels to keep her dry while I actually leave the house. No more tripping out the door encumbered only with small-bottomed child, one spare nappy, wipes, toys, food, bib, and all MY essential items. Oh no, from now on it is large-bottomed child, wipes, two spare cloth nappies, one spare overnap, one change of clothes, two plastic bags, toys, food, bib etc etc.

Cloth is good, but the poo can be messier.

Oh, and a change-mat for changing pooey pants on other peoples' floors.

It's not as cumbersome as it sounds. Honest. Most of that stuff can just live in the car in case I need it anyway - i do not need to bring the whole lot inside with me everywhere I go. And I did this all the time with Miss3 - it's only with the baby that I've taken up the cheater's option of disposables while out. But I did so enjoy the freedom :-)

But a little footloose environmentally irresponsible freedom is a small sacrifice. And it will be cheaper too - always a good thing in a one-income family!

Now that's looking on the bright side :-)

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