A little while back my in-laws decided to downsize and sell their house. They got into the early spring market and voila — their house sold in record time at full asking price. Only problem was that everything happened a little too fast, and next thing you know they hadn’t found the right condo to move to. So — they are now living in our house.
There were some obvious adjustments that were made to get used to this new living arrangement. After all, our household went from being just two to four. All adults I might add, that have their own habits and ways of doing things.
Being who I am and considering where I work, our house is a very environmentally conscious one, and obviously one that is very dedicated to the 3Rs. Not just the recycling end of it, but also the reduce and reuse aspects as well.
I use my reusable coffee mug and reusable water bottle everyday, and of course I also have reusable grocery bags in my car at all times. I buy local and organic when I can and consider the packaging of products when I am shopping — simple, easy things that I feel go a long way and are now second nature to me.
So needless to say this has been the biggest, most challenging adjustment for me. The first few weeks go by and suddenly I’m now putting out two Blue Boxes instead of one, and they’re mostly full of plastic water bottles, where before there were none. My kitchen drawer of plastic shopping bags is now over-flowing, where before there were only a handful, and the water usage has now sky-rocketed as a result of my father-in-law washing the deck and driveway at least once a week (I’m not really sure what that’s all about).
As the summer arrives, my sister-in-law and her family come to Canada for a visit. They currently live abroad and have planned to stay for the summer, so add a few more people into the mix and our house is now not only full of new residents, but now there’s a revolving door of regular visitors.
With 7-15 people eating every day, three times a day, the table scraps fill up the GreenCart pretty quickly, especially during this lovely Ontario fruit season.
Two GreenCarts are now being wheeled to the curb to accompany the now three Blue Boxes every week and three garbage bags every other week!
I’ve discovered what a house full of people can do to your waste management situation. The sheer volume of stuff consumed increases, and ultimately so does the amount of waste that needs to be thrown away. This seems obvious enough, but I admit it’s not something I had even thought about before.
How do I persuade my father-in-law to use reusable bags when he runs out to get more bread? Or convince my mother-in-law that you can actually drink water from the tap?
This got me thinking about other large family households in Halton, and the realization that in a house with many people, waste management is really the management and teaching of people, and not the actual waste itself. It involves sharing waste reduction and reuse tips, as well as how to differentiate between the basic recycling, organics and garbage materials of our various waste management programs. I still seem to be reorganizing this material in my bins quite often but that could just be a side effect of my job — or a bit of my OCD.
Some things that I have done to try to tackle this substantial consumption issue are:
- Putting a jug of water on the table with glasses for dinner.
- Bringing any extra desserts to work so they don’t go uneaten and wasted (you would not believe the amount of dessert that shows up!)
- Putting reusable bags in all vehicles — sometimes placing them on the driver’s seat as necessary.
- I don’t use disposable plates and cutlery because I happen to have full place settings for 18 and then some, as well as reusable plastic outdoor patio settings, complete with (much used) wine glasses.
- I also never have to worry about fruit and veggies going to waste with two nephews who can eat their weight in strawberries and a dynamic duo brother-sister team who can make something out of everything in the fridge, which therefore requires little need for menu planning.
- Our newest adventure in the kitchen — preserves! Making your own jam and pickles is not only delicious and healthy, but also an age-old environmentally conscious thing to do because you keep reusing the jars. My Grandma will be proud, but it may be a little too soon to judge.
Are there any large families out there that can provide some more advice and tips on how they reduce their consumption or reduce their waste?