I’ve slowly been reducing the amount of garbage we produce over the past several months, including going styro-free, bringing my own bags and containers to places like the Bulk Barn and Grassroots where I buy our bulk cleaning grade vinegar and baking soda, as well as package free soap (although I’m looking into a cheaper route for this) and bulk liquid hand soap. And although (I shamefully admit) we never actually tried No Trash Week, we do constantly watch what we bring into the home.
It helps that we compost, that Toronto has the green bin program, that we bring our tiffin boxes for take-out food, and that we’re cleaning and stashing our plastic bags (mostly milk and pita bags, as my husband bakes our bread) to be recycled when that program comes online. Oh, and speaking of recycling, another item that was supposed to be added to our recyclables was styrofoam, but the one company in Ontario that was recycling it just went out of business.
We’ve managed to reduce our garbage down to half a garbage bag every 2 weeks, but I’m hoping to get it down to one grocery bag every two weeks. Thanks to Sarah over at Say No to Trash for being such a great inspiration and giving excellent tips!
Several months ago I saw a documentary called "Go Further" – it wasn’t a brilliant film but the down to earth business people that the main characters met on their trip were compelling. (It made me want to get some worms and start a natural fertilizer farm.) One other thing that stuck out in my mind was this conversation that Woody Harrelson had with another guy on the trip about milk and how, thanks to Monsanto, it’s full of blood and pus. Being a die hard dairy eater with young children, and knowing that organic milk is nearly twice the price of regular milk here, I wasn’t really dying to look into this issue further (ignorance really IS bliss, isn’t it?) but a little while later my curiosity go the better of me…
National Geographic’s Green Guide describes several problems (update in 2011: this is no longer online) with the genetically engineered hormone rBGH introduced by Monsanto (used to increase milk production) but regarding the pus statement in particular:
"Use of rBGH increases the incidence of udder infections (mastitis) in cows. This can raise the amount of pus and antibiotics in milk, and lead to increased use of antibiotics, which contributes to antibiotic resistance in disease-causing bacteria."
Happily for those of us in Canada and the EU, rBGH was not approved here or overseas, so we don’t have to worry about the particular issues surrounding it. For Americans, the Green Guide has (update in 2011: had) a list of organic and rBGH-free dairies. (Of course if you’re in Canada buying frozen pizza made in the US, that cheese will be rBGH-filled…)
Still, we use a shedload of antibiotics in Canada (although there is a waiting period and testing (update in 2011: this article is no longer online) to make it has completely cleared the cow’s system after antibiotics are administered) and at the very least the runoff from the pesticides used on the feed isn’t helping anyone, so I’ve slowly been making a transition to organic milk. First it was just once in a while, then only when I made it down to the store that has it a buck cheaper than my local shop, but now we buy it all the time, so I can say that I’ve made the change. Done deal. Besides, I can order it with my Front Door Organics produce delivery – I don’t even have to lug it back in the stroller with 60 pounds of toddlers every week!
For the past few months, in an attempt to create less trash and use less plastics, I’ve been slowly working all sources of styrofoam/polystyrene out of our lives. The tiffin boxes for take-out food was a big one, and lately the only other source for us seems to be meat packaging from the supermarket. So I’m buying from the St. Lawrence Market or from one of our local naturally raised beef and poultry butchers (The Chopping Block or Meat on the Beach), and on occasion from the butcher at the supermarket. It’s rather convenient that it’s healthier for us as well.
It’s a small move, but we’re doing baby steps here… one at a time.
Update April 2008: Why no styro? It’s not recyclable here and takes a LONG time to decompose. Toronto was going to start recycling it but the only company in Ontario that recycles it went bankrupt earlier this year.