Life Without the Landfill Challenge – Last Day…

Today is August 31st 2011 and it is the last day of my first 30-day life experiment of life without the landfill.  This challenge has been tough but once I broke some previously wasteful habits I settled into a rhythm where it was pretty easy to recycle or compost everything I consumed.  The point of this challenge was not for everyone to do exactly what I did, nor was the point to completely cut yourself off like No Impact Man.  The point was for me to challenge myself  daily; mentally, physically, and emotionally.  It has made me think twice about the throw-away culture that I live in; what can I reduce/reuse/recycle and how can I minimize the amount of garbage I produce every day/week/month/year.

What I am going to do with this final post is to put up a few pictures of some things I didn’t get a chance to post throughout the month and then at the end I’ll empty out my small Ziplock bag of accidental trash to see what’s inside.

I gave blood at work and no surprise, they don't recycle anything. It turns out that all the waste is incinerated by the Red Cross. I suppose my conscious is ok with giving blood even though it broke my no-landfill challenge.

Too bad the only sugary food options after giving blood are wrapped in plastic. I avoided the trash by bringing an apple and a Nalgene of water. Stayed hydrated and kept my sugar levels up without the wasteful snacks.

A Fresh vending machine seems paradoxical to me.

"A" for effort, but definitely not sold on the idea of "fresh" vending machines

Amazon helped me out by having zero plastic in their shipping, just cardboard folded around the books. 10 volumes of "Accidents in North American Mountaineering" good bedside reading for sure.

Inflatable packaging, interesting concept. This company used #4 recyclable plastic and inflated it instead of using packaging peanuts. Air is definitely a better alternative than Polystyrene, good work.

Now for the fun part, here’s my Ziplock bag of accidental trash that I accumulated throughout the entire month and a description of all the pieces:

My Ziplock bag ended up about half full of miscellaneous pieces of garbage.

Then I laid everything out on the kitchen table, which in retrospect was actually pretty unsanitary, sorry roommates, my bad, I sanitized it afterward:

1st piece of trash - a 5 lb bag of Equal Exchange Coffee beans, I bought this in May but finished it in August so I figured I'd count it as trash produced this month.

Unidentifiable plastic packaging from so I wasn't convinced it could be recycled. They offset their shipments with carbon credits but they don't use 100% recyclable packaging?Interesting...

Fig Newton's packaging, again bought before August 1st but finished during August. The sleeve holding the Fig Newtons was recyclable but the outer packaging was not 😦

Waxy butter and cream cheese wrappers from making banana bread during my compost construction. Baking without the landfill is hard to do.

Floss. It turns out that Floss is not recyclable. I used it once and realized that it could only become garbage. Does biodegradable floss exist?

A rubber glove and alcohol wipe from work. I had to modify a few practices to avoid coming in direct contact with bodily fluids at work, long story.

A Gu energy gel I found in my hiking backpack and a packet of soy sauce from my sushi experience at the American Folk Festival

A Popsicle wrapper from the first week of the no-landfill challenge. "Hey it's 100+F outside do you want a popsicle?" "Yeah sure of course... (unwraps it, eats it, loves it) oh wait damn it"

A replacement debit card that I had to chop up and throw away. Later I found out you can recycle them through However, I'm not sure I'm comfortable recycling my debit card info.

A bird's eye view of all the trash I produced this month by accident. Again, the dinner table probably was not the smartest choice for displaying month-old trash.

At first I struggled with the idea of simply throwing this stuff in the garbage.  I thought about perhaps making a piece of art out of the trash to commemorate the experience or even finding alternative uses for all of them.  Then I quickly realized how horrid even a small amount of month-old trash was and I promptly threw everything the garbage and took it outside.  This was only the stench from 30 days and a few ounces of trash, how about 1600lbs of trash (yearly trash produced by the average American), yikes.  I’ve learned so many things about sustainable living this month and much of it is actually very easy if you’re willing to modify a few bad habits.  It really deserves many years of study in order to do it proper justice but every little bit helps.  I have one more blog post in the works to wrap up this month’s “life without the landfill” challenge, however, I don’t believe that I’ll really ever be finished with this challenge.

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One Response to Life Without the Landfill Challenge – Last Day…

  1. Sevs says:

    Awesome job with this challenge. I’ve definitely been taking some pointers from you as the month went on, and at the very least, learned some good stuff about recycling options. What did you get from the Clymb? Oh, and the popsicle thing? I completely understand. I had about 20 that one week where we had a heat wave.

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