Parenting Green: Six Steps Towards Reducing Your Family’s Waste

Reducing the Consumption for a Family of Five

I was putting out the trash this week and it kind of hit me how little our family of 5 (with 3 children under the age of 10) had to throw out. I have to admit I saw it as an opportunity to share just how second nature it is for us to do the handful of extra things that make a big reduction in our weekly waste. My kids were curious why I was taking the pictures, as they always are, and I thought it was a great opportunity to have them take notice too on how little trash we send away and how much we take responsibility for. “It’s because we compost.” I told them, “And because we cloth diaper.” Imagine if all this extra stuff had to go in the barrel to be sent off to the dump?! We’d be filling two barrels!

With landfill issues coming to a head, conservation commissions are scrambling to do assessments of their towns and promote recycling and waste reduction. I have heard that in 2016 Massachusetts will be lifting the ban on incineration, except, they are just going to call it something different. To me, that’s a red flag. There seems to be more reactionary measures than preventative ones to our problems. Why not take a proactive approach? We don’t have to ‘do it all’ whatever that may be. For our family it really boils down to 6 things that we do with a little extra effort to reduce our trash. So I hope that these suggestions come not as a wall of guilt if you’re not already incorporating them, but as seeds of opportunity for change:

  1. We compost. Coffee grinds, leftover pasta, veggie and fruit scraps, egg shells. Pretty much anything except dairy and meat. At the moment our compost pile is frozen, but we keep tossing scraps out there anyway. In the spring we’ll mix up whatever the squirrels and birds didn’t eat.
  2. We wash and reuse plastic storage bags, and Snack TAXIs and use reusable containers for kids lunches.
  3. We cloth diaper. It cuts down on ½ our trash, easy. And we use cloth wipes. For convenience at nighttime we use a compostable disposable diaper which our diaper service takes away to be professionally processed. Dirt in 3 months!
  4. Recently I was tipped off to the fact that you can recycle any plastic bag (packaging included) at the Stop & Shop and other grocers in the bins they provide to recycle plastic grocery bags. That cut down on SO much of our trash. If you’re going to do one thing, do this one. If anything the practice of saving the packaging was a testament to how much I didn’t realize we rely on it. Shopping BULK at the co-op is also a way to reduce the packaging strain.
  5. We get fresh milk right from Side Hill Farm every week through a neighborhood buying club. We order in glass jars so we can send back and re-use them time and again. Our family goes through 3 gallons of milk a week so that’s instead of 156 plastic milk jugs from our family this year!
  6. We recycle our paper, cardboard, plastic bottles, cans, and metal. Seems simple enough. Empty the container, a little rinse, and then sort it into a bin under the sink.

Have any other good tips or extra efforts your family does that you don’t see here? Share them in the comments so we can all benefit!

Angie Gregory settled in the Western MA 6 years ago after many years of traveling the country. She lives in Northampton, MA with her husband and three kids and is an avid gardener and studies herbal medicine. She has worked in the community fostering projects like Grow Food Northampton and started Mother Herb Diaper Service out of her home after the birth of her second child. Her business is now a cooperative venture 
and has relocated to Holyoke, MA under the name of Simple Diaper & Linen.

3 Comments on “Parenting Green: Six Steps Towards Reducing Your Family’s Waste

  1. Great ideas. We use heavy canvas bags for groceries so we can carry them more easily and not have to store or drop off plastic bags.Our grandchild was wearing cloth training pants at age 1year by using EC tecniques starting as soon as she learned to understand words. The new wool and cloth diaper covers with snaps are actually easier to use than disposables during potty training. We also drink water out of our own stainless steel water bottles to save money as well as eliminating extra calories and large numbers of bottles and cans to recycle.

  2. Buying spices, rice, beans, nuts etc. in bulk at a co-op.

  3. The DPW takes old batteries and styrofoam.

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