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Avoiding Waste

Many waste streams can be reused on the homestead. Those that can’t should be avoided if possible.

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Integrating waste systems, reusing trash, and avoiding waste in the first place will help limit the amount of trash your household produces. The less you have to throw away, the better your place is doing.

Avoiding waste, otherwise known as conserving, is extremely important for an off-grid homestead. Waste disposal is not always available or preferable.

Waste can be defined as inefficiency in a system. When you have waste, the system is not using 100% of the input resources. So, to make the system more efficient, you look at each aspect and see where the waste is coming from. Some can be recycled or reused; others can’t. That’s where avoiding waste comes in.

When you’re at the supermarket buying stuff, start to consider what will happen to the packaging of that product. Can you use it, will it go to the landfill, or worse? If you can’t use it, don’t buy it if there is a feasible alternative. If it is paper packaging, you can always use it, same for metal and glass, but plastic is a bit more difficult. Yes, some plastic can be reused, but unfortunately, plastic does NOT last forever.

Wait a second, I thought plastic would be around for centuries or millennium? Well, here’s a little test, put a plastic milk jug in the sun for 4 months. What happens? It breaks down, or rather shatters into a hundred pieces. Eventually, this will happen with all plastics, some take longer than others. Some can be very fast. Most plastics can’t stand the UV in the sunlight, and others can’t stand much heat, and then others can’t stand cold. Every plastic has a weakness, and therefore the lifetime of the plastic is limited, and unless it is in a temperature controlled, dark room, it rarely will last more than a year or two. So, when you can, say NO to plastic, not because it isn’t biodegradable, but because it doesn’t last as well as other materials, it is difficult to clean, and it depends on fossil fuels for production.

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But avoiding waste is not just about avoiding products with packaging that can’t be reused. Remember, waste is everywhere; it is inefficiencies poking their little heads out at you. Waste is not turning off the lights when you leave the room, or leaving the water running, or putting the thermostat at 75 instead of 70 in the winter.

Another item that unnecessarily fills our landfills is diapers. It is estimated that a baby will go through an average of 2500 in the first year, and will be in diapers for several years. While cloth and biodegradable diapers help with this problem, they are not the ultimate solution. For an off-grid homestead trying to eliminate their waste, Elimination Control, or EC, is the best way to go.

Waste can also be related to money. It costs money to buy those diapers, or heat the house that extra 5 degrees, or for the plastic packaging you can’t use, or for the garbage company to put it in a landfill. So, avoiding waste can be looked at as a way to save money. Everyone loves saving money, and conserving your resources is the most logical step towards saving that hard-earned cash.

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