Redefining Trash and Moving Away from the Curb

Categories: Community Voices, Redefining Trash, Social Action

Redefining trash and moving away from the curb.  That has been the theme at my house as the years have passed and we put less trash and recycling out for collection. Why?

The amount of waste humans produce is astonishing and not sustainable.

Many communities, my own included, have been aghast at the recent reduction in recycling services. But even the most robust recycling program does not address the underlying issues with a “disposable” society, as a recent Atlantic article so vividly describes. Becoming more thoughtful about what we consume and how we dispose of items has never been more important.

Reducing waste has been important to me for a long time. I am often asked how my family of four, which includes two teenagers, can produce so little trash. We took out the trash three times in 2017 (seven bags in total) and two times in 2018 (six bags in total).  And, no, we don’t have piles of trash in the garage or a small landfill in the backyard. Getting to these low levels did not happen overnight and I have learned much along the way, including that we are overpaying our kids’ allowance. It’s easy money when you have to take the trash out a few times a year and recycling every month or two.

For me, redefining trash is about shifting to a mindset that gives me pause every time I consider putting something into the trash can. Does that dryer lint really need to be thrown away? (Hint – it can be composted). Can I do something with the wrappers from energy bars that my kids eat every week? When it’s time for a new toothbrush, what can I do with the old one? I enjoy buying six-packs of IPAs, but do I now need to contemplate cans over bottles rather than considering Coors Light over Great Lakes? (Just kidding—I’d never choose Coors Light over Great Lakes). These kinds of questions will be explored in upcoming posts.

This blog will share a few tips a month of how you can redefine your own waste. Embracing the “Reduce and Reuse” of the old adage, “Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle,” and thinking more broadly about what/how to “Recycle” are keys to reducing waste.

Some of the methods and outlets that have been helpful in my journey to reduce waste include:

  • Composting – “good” and “bad”
  • Textile recycling
  • Mindful purchasing (e.g. reducing plastic purchases)
  • Terracycle (full disclosure – I am a shareholder)

These methods, along with many more, can answer the question “What do I do with this?”

I look forward to sharing the insights I have garnered that hopefully can help you on your personal journey in creating less waste. For me, the key to success was not to make lots of changes overnight. It was doing a little at a time until each action became part of a routine, and then updating that routine as I embraced the next change.

Not all changes will be for everyone, but any change that even one person makes can have an impact.

I welcome you on the journey.


Andy is a longtime member of Beth El’s Social Action Committee. Read more about the challenges and rewards of recycling at his blog Redefining Trash



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