August 2011 – Life Without the Landfill

I decided to start my blog with an environmental challenge; living my life as if I do not have access to a landfill.  I will be recycling materials and composting food waste but for the next thirty days I will not use or purchase things that must be thrown away.  I’ll be limiting myself to one small Ziplock bag of trash that I produce or come across by accident.  I developed the idea for this challenge after reading the book “Let My People Go Surfing” by Yvon Chouinard, the founder and owner of Patagonia.  His vision for Patagonia was for it to be an example and an experiment in sustainable business practices.  Is it possible to be a profitable company with high quality products while still remaining environmentally sustainable?  Their answer at Patagonia was yes however it is a very difficult and lonely road.  It was a great book about the challenges that Patagonia and Chouinard Equipment (which eventually become Black Diamond) faced and I definitely recommend it.  It’s a quick read that’ll help restore some faith in American companies.  It also has some great climbing photos along the way which is always a bonus.

One of the last quotes of the book really struck a cord with me, “Over 90% of what Americans purchase will find it’s way into a landfill within 60-90 days”.  I found this to be staggering, almost nauseating even, and it lead me to wonder how much I am contributing to that statistic.  How much of my daily life ends up in a landfill?  I mean I use Nalgene water bottles (BPA free of course) instead of bottled water like any self-respecting outdoor enthusiast would.  I also recycle at home and at work, but that’s mostly because of how I was brought up in Maine where you get a $5c deposit for cans/bottles and a warm fuzzy feeling for recycling paper.  However, I also use a lot of plastics (utensils, saran-wrap, etc) as well as Styrofoam (lunches at work and take-home from restaurants) that cannot be recycled and thus I throw them away without thinking twice.  In addition, I have never composted a thing in my life.  Normally I just throw extra food away when I can’t eat it or when it goes bad in the fridge.  Again I don’t really think twice about it.

So back to my original question, how much do I contribute to the statistic above?  Well, we’ll find out at the end of this month how well I can manage to avoid the creation of garbage all together.  I am sure it will affect my daily habits and that it will make me more conscious of my purchasing decisions but I am more interested in the less-obvious culprits; all of those little things that I’m not currently aware of which produce trash.  I’m sure there will be experiences that will take me by surprise and that there’ll be mishaps along the way but I’m excited to try out this lifestyle just to see if it’s possible.

Again, my goals are to limit myself to a small ziplock bag filled with trash, to learn about recycling and composting in Boston, and lastly just to see what is possible.

I welcome any tips/hints/best practices about sustainable living that you can offer.  This is both a challenge as well as learning experience that will change my life for the better.  Wish me luck.

– The Young Urban Unprofessional


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One Response to August 2011 – Life Without the Landfill

  1. For those of you who don’t feel like buying the Patagonia book, you can watch most of it from this talk Yvon Chouinard gave at UCLA back in January 2011:

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