Permaculture Principle 6: Produce No Waste

In 2012 we participated in the Three Actions Project. We choose three lifestyle changes that would make our household more sustainable. We had ambitious goals:

  • Eliminate all waste
  • Live within our solar budget
  • Eliminate food waste (my goal)
  • Live within our water budget (my husband’s goal)

We thought we were ready for the “no waste” challenge. We weren’t.

Food packaging was our undoing. It is nearly impossible to buy groceries without packaging! We brought our own jars and bags to the co-op but … I think it’s just not possible to get away from packaging waste if you buy food in the American food system.

Organic Waste

The compost bin that finally worked

The compost bin that finally worked

We had more success with the goal of composting all our food waste. We no longer “throw away” food. Our city composts organic food waste but most of our scraps go to our compost bin or our worm bin. Even in the winter we feed the bins. Sometimes a little animal will get into the outdoor compost bin to find a warm home. That’s okay. They need to survive too and I’m happier if they do it outside rather than in our house.

We no longer bag our fall leaves to give to the city garbage haulers. Now I put it into my fenced garden and let it start to decompose. In the spring, we rake it up and put it on top of the winter food scraps and we watch the magic of composting begin. Our compost bins have hit temperatures of 165 degrees Fahrenheit! We love to see it steaming in the morning.

We also don’t bag our weeds. We practice “in place” composting for some of it, leaving it on the ground to dry up and feed the soil. Others we put into the compost bin. And some nuisance ones we put in a special bin for longer-term composting.

Garden Plastic

That doesn’t mean we don’t have waste from our yard. The most problematic waste is plastic plant containers from our newly purchased plants. These are not accepted at the Hennepin County recycling facility. It’s a long way to drive, but Lowes garden centers in West St. Paul and Shakopee accept black plastic garden pots.

I’m always looking for more information on zero waste. Here are a few websites I’ve learned from:

About thinkofitasanadventure

We are a 50-something couple living in the Longfellow neighborhood of Minneapolis. We attended a sustainability conference at our local high school in November 2010, with keynote speaker Richard Heinberg from the Post Carbon Institute. What we heard shocked us deeply. We finally understood the need to transition away from fossil fuels as quickly as possible. We immediately began to change the way we live. We joined together with other folks in our neighborhood to learn more, to do more and to have fun doing it! We're part of Transition Longfellow. We're choosing to change now and to "think of it as an adventure." If you are on this journey too, we'd love to hear from you.
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