Waste management (or lack thereof)

Most of you who know me know that I am a compulsive recycler. I describe it as an addiction because I literally can’t stop myself from picking up recyclables whatever and wherever they are in hopes I’ll be able to reclaim what little value they have left in the post-use waste stream (along with helping to make the planet a little more picturesque and critter-friendly).

My husband used to pretend that he didn’t know me when I’d pick up fast food trash on the side of the road, and my brother-in-law just about killed me when I encouraged his son to pick up smashed cans with his little bare hands from grimy Pittsburgh sidewalks. No trash was beneath me!!

I worked to set-up recycling at the office (in addition to insisting on biodegradable paper plates for monthly birthday lunches), and I managed to accumulate a closetful of styrofoam bits and pieces over the years because I couldn’t bear to send the non-biodegradable items to the landfill when there was no recycling capabilities available for this cursed material. (Here’s one idea I had for re-using styrofoam.) I’d save all my newspaper, junk mail, and cracker boxes in overflowing bins and take them to the collection site at the library so they could make an extra buck on bulk recycling. I’d stash random bits of monofilament fishing line to take to the waterfront depository once every three years. I’d collect broken dishes in hopes the shards could be used in an artful mosaic sometime in the near future. I’d tear off the front of our Christmas cards and give the paper bundles to the Very Special Arts program for craft projects. I believed, and still do, that EVERYTHING can find a second – or third, or fourth – life if we just take the time and make the effort to handle our so-called waste products more responsibly (starting by reducing).

Well, as you may have read in previous posts, moving helped me to see that I was somewhat crippled by my propensity for saving ‘useless’ items and damaged goods. I had a significant amount of square-footage tied up in storage for these perceived waste products, and that created major stress issues when it was time to clean out and pack. I looked forward to having a blank slate in NM where I wouldn’t be inundated with unnecessary garbage from Chinese takeout, and debilitated with decisions about how to appropriately dispose of the trash we accumulate everyday.

We had very little bona fide ‘trash’ to put out at the curb in Florida anyway because we composted all our kitchen scraps, used cloth bags (or none at all) when shopping, and even made trips to the scrap yard. Should be easy to transition these activities to the mountains, yes?!

Nope! Here in Cuba, things are not so ‘neat.’ There is no apparent community-wide recycling program with pretty color-coded receptacles. (Okay, recycling exists, but it’s definitely going to be a labor of love once we can coordinate the schedule to make the drops ourselves.) We don’t have curbside rubbish removal at our place, so we were counting on a public dumpster in town to dispose of any non-recyclables when we make our intermittent trips. No unlocked dumpsters to be found. Again, another trip to the dump to schedule (and pay for – 50 cents a garbage bag). Composting? Sure, but we need to remain vigilant to keep from attracting bears and other critters to the smelly food scraps.

Rubbish is just maddening!! I thought we’d have a lot less trash than we do here, but we’re buying a lot of packaged foods from the grocery until we can build storage and raise up a garden to can/preserve, and we still have cardboard boxes coming out of our ears from the move. We’re not yet ready to set up our own brewery/distillery, so bottles and cans holding precious liquids are a necessary evil. I keep trying to imagine the future when we won’t have the disposable waste we have now, but we really need to figure out how to sensibly and responsibly lock down the garbage we have today.

all american sun oven

The All American Sun Oven

No energy costs or pollution, just fresh, moist food. SUN OVEN® cooking is easy, fun, natural, and nutritious.

Save $50 on the Purchase of a All American Sun Oven® with the Discount Code: SahaleeOffGridASO

So until we can heat up our new compost pile and coordinate trips to the dump, a good hot fire is the best we can do. :/ And, hey, if you are on FB, go give our new page a like…

Freshly made compost pile ready to get cooking!

Can you tell we’re having the time of our life here, because we really are!! ;D

10 thoughts on “Waste management (or lack thereof)

  1. Wow!! What an amazing story, Deb!! You are such an inspiration, and always so positive! 😀 I’ve heard of the French method, and it sounds so easy and practical. Our soil here is very hard with clay and hard to dig, but we really need to start working towards a good garden bed for next year. Thinking an auger like this might work to break through and let us start on turning the soil. http://amzn.to/2ajHpuO We’ll have to look for some little wormies here, but I remember digging night crawlers when I was a little girl in CO. 😉 This is all good stuff, and we hope to hear from you again soon!! Xoxoxoxo

  2. We’re so happy you are reading, Andrea!! ;D Life is good here, and we hope to share more good and bad as time goes on. Lots of love to you in the tropics!! <3

  3. Hi there! I’m enjoying catching up with your adventures. I can definitely identify with trying to squeeze out every last inch of usability from stuff.

    You two are really roughing it. Wow.

    Reading this post brought to mind a time in my life when I had very little garbage. I was running an organic veggie biz in the Keys that I called Veg Out. I drove to Miami once a week, visited the organic farms and csa’s and brought back loads of veggies to my customers in the Keys.

    As a single mom with a 2 year old, that’s how I supported us for a couple years. Didn’t make much money. But we ate well, and I brought my toddler to work with me, saving hundreds of dollars a month on day care, while hanging out with my favorite little person.

    Anyway, we ate all the leftovers. I made soup with most of the veggies. We just plain ate the fruit. And pretty much all of my trash was compost. Bananas come in their own wrappers, as do most fruits and veggies. And I was preparing my soil for the garden.

    My French neighbor taught me French composting, which is so simple, I still do it, just on a much smaller scale now. You just dig a little hole where next year’s garden will be planted, and every day you toss in your scraps and cover it with a layer of dirt to keep the critters from smelling it, which comes from a new hole that gets a little deeper every day, right next to the current hole. I had a dedicated hand shovel. Get some worms and stick them in there too. They can find their way to the new hole when the time comes. Might be tough in the winter up there tho.

    Have you considered a service like this, just until you get your garden going? https://www.farmboxdirect.com/ you’ll get a new cardboard box every week, but besides that, no trash.

  4. I’m loving and am in awe of your new life. Keep the stories coming. Love you guys.

  5. I have tried for years to make a conscious effort to reuse items ..some of you have been victims of receiving my recycled projects. I love that furniture is being repurposed , that packing is being designed to be minimal and that recycling is concerned the right thing to do .

  6. Ha!! Good luck with the reprogramming, Candice, and thanks for the tip on the no-roll TP!! ;D We’re ready to re-stock, so I’ll look out for the Scott. Thank you so much for reading and commenting about this topic. It’s really amazing how much trash we generate in an average day with all the packaging and disposable items coming through our hands. I use hankies instead of tissue and cloth napkins/rags/hand towels instead of paper, but the foodstuff is overwhelming!! Shopping is becoming more of a ‘mission impossible’ when you stop to consider costs, nutrition labeling, and now packaging. I’ll be so happy to see our garden and smokehouse next year!! ;D
    Miss you bunches!!!! Xoxoxo

  7. I just saw a commercial for Scott brand tp that is cardboard-roll free! While my recycling efforts are no match for yours I am increasingly conscience of what I bring into my home and the subsequent impact on our local landfills. When I’m shopping now I purposely don’t purchase items if I feel the packaging is too large and unnecessary. Still trying to convince my 11-year old we don’t need to buy new school supplies because we still have so many from last year that are gently used (backpacks, crayons, rulers, scissors, etc) but unfortunately I’ve made the mistake of teaching both my kids that fresh starts with shiny new things are the way to go. Hopefully I can reprogram them before it’s too late!

    Miss you guys!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

3 + 6 =