Friday, January 14, 2011

A funny thing happened on the way to 2011

In which Truffula muses about just what the new year has brought unto her household...

As he passed through the kitchen moments ago, Mr. Truffula remarked on his trip to the grocery store earlier today.  "You know," he said, "I bought only a bag of bananas and a few bottles of juice."

Little did he know that this was exactly the topic I wanted to share with you today.  Ha!  Validation!  I'm not the only one whose radar is picking up that our "normal" has shifted.  A few months ago, our grocery store list would have covered the entire back of an envelope.  Why an envelope (rescued from the paper recycling)?  Because, of course, it holds the stack coupons to be used on the shopping trip.  The thing is that today's trip required no envelope, and involved no coupons.

In fact, those packets of coupons in the Sunday paper -- the ones which are supposed to save you so much money that they more than pay for the cost of the newspaper -- have become largely irrelevant to us.  The coupons don't apply to things like sacks of over-ripe or singleton bananas, or five-pound bags of carrots.  The potential savings on shampoo, conditioner, and hair dyes are nil when you're a committed no-poo'er and trying to embrace the grey.  And what's a dollar off of the latest antiseptic, ultra, super-duper dirt zapper when generic baking soda and vinegar are the order of the day?  Factor in a Diva and cloth liners, and a whole other coupon category goes pouf!

Our dishwasher has taken on a chronic state: full.  What's filling it up?  Glass jars.  Lots of jars.  That's right, my jar situation has taken on new dimensions.  The refrigerator and freezer are loaded with large jars of broth and soups.  My little lunch bag is populated with smaller jars for transport.  It's a constant dance of filling, emptying, washing, and repeating the process.

What's given me even more pause is... our waste stream.  We dutifully use our recycling bin, but it doesn't see as much love from us as it once did.  Great Scott!  I think the trash can use has been steady, or a hair below.  Like the dishwasher, the bucket next to the sink for to-be-composted items is full all the time.  By weight, I think our amount of waste has actually gone up.  Oh, my stars!  Granted, the relatively heavy compostables get turned back into luscious black gold for the garden, but still... What the cuckoo is going on?!

I think the causes are two-fold: 1) we've been buying increasing amounts of locally-produced food, often direct from the farmer; followed by 2) a significant change in diet.

We've got our milk farmer; our egg farmer; our cheese producer; our dear CSA (which I've quit this year, but that's a (happy) story for another day, and we're still going to volunteer lots of time in their fields); and our nut, seed, and dried fruits source.  Plus, if all goes well, I hope to have a good amount of veggies flowing from our own garden this coming growing season.

The (coconut oil) frosting on the (nut flour) cake is that we've turned the family diet on its head.  We were already moving in a real foods direction.  Now, two of us are GAPSing.  The 25-words-or-less description is that we went grain-, starch-, and sugar-free, with generous portions of fermented goodies for good measure.  Most prepared foods are out the window (along with those coupons for them).  We're cooking loads from scratch, which is what's spiking our food scrap generation.  With less foods coming out of cans and other containers, we have fewer cans, bottles and jars for the blue bin.  When we're the ones jarring up those precious bone broths, soups, and leftovers, we slap on a reusable Tattler lid, and ultimately add to that dishwasher situation I mentioned.

Whether your new year began at the Solstice, on January 1, or is taking a fresh start with the Lunar New Year next month, what differences have you noticed in your own households between 2010 and 2011?  What did you expect to notice?  What was unexpected?  What observations are you happy to trumpet, and which ones (like noting that your recycling has gone down) are less suited for sharing with polite company?  In any case, a Happy New Year to you all!


Anonymous said...

I don't think it's a bad thing that the amount of stuff you recycle has decreased. It's actually a good thing in my opinion! It doesn't mean that you are just throwing out cans and bottles, it means you are buying the alternative product.

There's a reason why 'reduce' comes before 'recycle,' it's the better option!


Anonymous said...

I can relate to so much of your post. Having been down this journey for a couple of years, what surprises me so much is how many of the changes "stick". I've noticed the same difference at the grocery store and in the waste/recycling. I am interested in your CSA story because I just signed up for one for the first time...

Daisy said...

We took the city up on its offer for a smaller garbage can. It does two things; saves us a $5 fee each month and reminds us not to throw away so much. It'll be harder in winter, when the compost bin is full and sometimes frozen, but we can do it.

Dmarie said...

trying to reduce purchased packaging here too; sure has cut into the available coupons. With composting, we're down to one bag of trash per week, for two people, one dog & occasional company. But I know we could do better. Not ready for no poo yet, but the more I keep reading and learning, the more changes I'm willing to make.

Truffula said...

@shortystylee - You are correct. In fact, we may still be coming out ahead on the recycling front. What we're seeing in a shift in the composition of our recycling fraction: less containers and more organics. Coupled with (possibly) less trash, the net effect is an increased recycling rate. The rate is recycling/(recycling + trash). So, in our case, that's (less blue bin stuff + more compostable stuff)/(blue bin items + compostables + trash).

@cre8andrecre8 - hmmm... maybe you've just given me my topic for a future post. :-) We love our CSA, and I view my decision as a "graduation" more than anything else. You're in for a delightful season, with lots of culinary discovery and eating in-season! Enjoy!

@Daisy - Kudos for downsizing your trash can. You're right - that will be a good cue for waste reduction.

@Dmarie - great work on getting down to one bag/week! I'm sure you'll have more successes on the heels of that one.

SustainaMom said...

Oh, the coupons... Well-meaning friends keep inviting me to classes to learn to maximize coupons. A couple of people post pictures to Facebook to show what they buy each week and how much they save/spend. Every time I see the pictures, I am so grateful that I don't buy all those cleaners any more. I wonder how they'd take it if I sent them a book using about vinegar and baking soda?!

I do still buy too many crackers and I can't seem to give up the organic cereal bars....

robbie @ going green mama said...

Me, I think we've done a lot less convenience foods for meals and have kind of neutral-ed out on the lunch factor. While I've given up the frozen lean cuisines in favor of leftovers, it's balanced out by the fact my daughter brings her lunch to school and there are some things we can't win on regarding the lunch front (ie she will eat homemade applesauce at home but has issues with it at school?) Still I think overall we're doing much better.

Green Bean said...

Good for you! I went through something similar like this a few years ago. It is amazing what shopping off the map does to you.


Blog Widget by LinkWithin