So, I have a slightly unhealthy obsession with garbage and how our family of 5 (plus a dog and two cats) can produce less and what we can do with the stuff we do produce.  It is an ongoing issue for me and I am always re-evaluating our progress.  See…I told you it was unhealthy!

So I tend to want to know where things stand before rushing in to make changes so of course I had to know how much garbage do we produce.  I wanted to be able to see that our (to be determined) efforts were actually making a difference.  Could we really make a dent in how much garbage we were producing?  Aren’t you curious too? 🙂  Read on to learn how you can find out quickly and easily how much garbage your family produces!!

Let’s Get Tracking!

Again, my kids think I’m a little nuts but that’s nothing new!  They usually give in to my crazy ideas and will participate (with minimal moaning and eye rolling) if I need their help.  Read my post, “How Many Gallons Per Minute Are Going Down Your Drain?” about one of my adventures to be greener and what I subjected my 9 year old daughter to!

In any case, I announced to the family that I thought it would be a good idea if WE all did our part to reduce the amount of garbage we were producing.  This was met with much moaning and eye rolling (they get a lot of practice) by not only  my kids (ages 7, 9 and 11) but also my husband who simply replied, “Okay, honey, sure.”  Very supportive!  🙂

I thought as an added benefit to them I would provide them with a little bit of information about why it was important to produce less garbage.  I bribed them in to paying attention to me with the promise of screen time (just kidding – this time!) and shared what I had learned about landfills – how they work and how they can affect our environment.  You too can be armed with this knowledge!  Read my post, “Where Does My Trash Go?”

Now that we were all on the same page I outlined that we would be keeping track of the amount of garbage we were producing in our house for two weeks.  I explained that each time we were ready to take out a bag of garbage (and before I selected the lucky winner of that chore) we would make a note of it.  Since we were already set up with our three bin recycling collection center I also explained that we would also make note of how much recycling we were taking out as well.  I thought pointing out that we were doing pretty good about keeping things out of landfills too would make them feel good.  🙂

Keeping Track Tips

We used a post-it note just stuck on the cabinet door and hash marks to keep track but  you could go more technical and keep track of it on a mobile device or print out a spreadsheet.  We just recorded the number of bags of trash (or recycling) we had but I think it would have been really cool to actually weigh the garbage.  By the way each person in the US produces an average of 4.6 pounds of garbage per day!  I’d love to see the comparison between our family and the national average!

I have to admit that at first I didn’t take into account the fact that we have a trash can in more rooms than just the kitchen so we didn’t get an accurate picture until Week 2.  I also didn’t realize that we were far less likely to recycle any garbage that was produced in one of the other rooms.  For the purposes of this exercise I didn’t sort any of the other trash cans (which I felt guilty about) and counted whatever was in the trash can as trash. In addition, at the end of Week 2 we took a visual measure of what was currently in the bins if they weren’t full and added that to our totals.

The Results

It turns out that during Week 2 we had three and a half bags of garbage, one and a half bags of plastic, glass and aluminum recycling and one bag of paper recycling.  And there I had the answer to my question – how much garbage do we produce!  It was our baseline data point from which we could only improve!  My family had no idea what they were in for!  🙂