Climate change feels like one of those topics that’s beyond my reach. What can one person do to make a difference for a planet of almost 7 billion? Sure, I recycle and drive a Prius, but we also waste water, buy plenty of produce in plastic and eat our fair share of meat.
Lately, though, I’ve realized that I have unwittingly uncovered a life hack that is not only helping save the planet, it’s also saving us hundreds of dollars a month.
About two years ago, I stumbled across a small booth at my local farmer’s market. I was initially attracted to it because all it seemed to have for sale was a bunch of 5-gallon green buckets. I chatted with the vendor, named Jessica, and learned she’d started a curbside composting service.
“OK, thanks,” I said, mentally dismissing her service. “I already compost so I don’t think I need this.”
I kept walking towards the tomatoes and basil I’d come for when it hit me. I could really do a better job composting. I had a container under the sink, but it filled up fast and I never managed to haul it to the compost pile. I still had to throw away all our meat, because otherwise, we’d attract bears to our backyard. And, we couldn’t compost in the winter because the ground was frozen and wild animals would come and eat anything we threw on top of the ice. We didn’t have a system for composting absolutely everything, so we ended up throwing a lot of food into the trash.
I headed back over to Jessica.
“Tell me more,” I said.
And, that’s how I eventually brought curbside composting to my small town. Jessica needed five families in our area to sign up, so I started marketing the benefits of having a composting service to friends: you can throw away any kind of meat, seafood, shell or leftover into your five-gallon lidded bucket (so no smell), and all you have to do is leave the bucket out by the curb once a week. In return, you’d get a completely clean new bucket for the next week and a bag of compost. All for $20 a month.
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I initially signed up for Curbside Compost for the convenience, but as time went on, I realized that our family was drastically reducing how much trash we created. Instead of taking four or five bags to the dump each week, we were taking one bag every other week. And we could wait a month or more to take our trash because our garbage didn’t stink or leak.
Over time, I realized that this very small thing was having a measurable impact on our family’s contribution to the landfill. And, perhaps not coincidentally, we started paying a lot more attention to our grocery budget. Since we could measure how much food we wasted each week, we began to do a better job of eating all the food in our fridge. In 2017, we spent an average of $950 a month on groceries for our family of four, and this year, we’ve averaged just about $750 a month. That’s a 20 percent decrease.
I may not be a Zero Waster, but I’m taking small steps to decrease the amount of trash my family produces. And, it turns out, that feels good not only for the earth but also for my wallet.
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