The Zero Waste Household

I’ve been mentioning in this blog and through my classes our efforts to become a zero waste household. I woke up thinking of this on Sunday morning and came up with this visual image…

My apologies if it is a little difficult to read.

Now obviously, not everyone has chickens or dogs and cats. My purpose for this was to incorporate all of the denizens of our own unique space and account for their purpose and presence. We have two dogs, two cats, a heck of a lot of chickens, and fish. I didn’t add the fish to the image yet, because honestly, they are my husband’s, and I just don’t see any particular worth in them (except that he likes them).

The Zero Waste Household in our unique case consists of four main categories: House/Lawn/Vehicles, Humans, Dogs and Cats, and Chickens. Let’s take a look at how each of these categories contributes t0 a Zero Waste household…

House/Lawn/Vehicles

House – We have a programmable thermostat and it is set at 66 in the winter and 80 in the summer – this saves enormously on energy costs. So does having the Attic Box, a cover for the attic fan that helps control the heated or cooled air from escaping our house through the attic when the heater or A/C is on. Dave installed a dual flush adapter on our master toilet which uses 1/2 the water when flushing liquid waste. Overnight we won’t flush the toilet at all, resulting in a potential savings of at least 11 gallons per day in water usage.

That’s all energy conservation. We also hope to re-use water and heat by: installing a greenhouse that would help warm the house in the winter or cool it in the summer, and also using the grey water out of our shower to fill a cistern or rain barrel during the warm months and then use it to water our plants.

Lawn – As we eradicate more and more of the grass, our potential area for growing our own fruits and vegetables increases. This reduces our need for traveling to the grocery store for edibles, it brings us closer to self-sustainability, and builds community through the classes we teach and the neighbors and friends that we inspire. We are also encouraging plenty of nitrogen fixation through the legumes we plant, and in the future, we hope to have a beehive that will provide us with our own honey, bee pollen to combat allergy attacks caused by local pollen offenders, and increase pollination and flowering of all plants in the vicinity of our yard.

By not using chemical fertilizers or pesticides we are also encouraging the local bees currently in our area to come and pollinate our plants. This also means the water table is not receiving contaminants from us, I don’t have to worry about washing my hands compulsively (first to apply the poison and later when the harvest comes in) or that my child might ingest some chemical that will make her sick.

Vehicles – The vehicles can be huge energy wasters if we drive them fast, don’t conserve/combine trips, or otherwise waste the fuel inside. It is also important to maintain as close to perfect running condition as possible, since they are far more fuel efficient this way. So if you see a white Honda Odyssey or white Honda Civic in the slow lane, driving at or below the speed limit (it is a rare occurrence to see my speedometer above 60 mph), get in line and join the crowd. You’ll save a heck of a lot on your fuel expenses.

Humans

Although we are spearheading this whole thing, I have put humans under a different heading. After all, we are responsible for maintaining the house, yard, vehicles, pets, and poultry to make sure this ecosystem we have created survives and thrives.

Along the way we actively practice the three main practices of: Reduce, Recycle and Re-Purpose.

Reduce: As a professional organizer I know that less truly is more. We don’t need a ton of stuff or all of the latest gadgets to make our lives complete. Very little enters the house without significant planning and thought. That means no extra furniture, nor tons of new toys for the little one. We don’t need DVDs when we can rent them (or borrow them for free from the library), and the same goes for books. Unless a shirt is being thrown out (read donated), there really isn’t a need to buy a new one.

Recycle – Dave calls us “aggressive recyclers” and I think it is an accurate term. All of our aluminum cans, tin, glass and plastic are taken to the recycling center at least once a month. For cardboard and other paper, I save most of that and use it when reclaiming more of our yard from grass. I lay down a layer of shredded paper or a flattened piece of cardboard and place mulch on top of it. Eventually it will break down and become soil, but in the meanwhile it stops weeds and grass in its tracks, making it easier to get the preferred plants time to get established.

Re-Purpose – Instead of throwing things away, we try and re-purpose them. Empty toilet paper or paper towel rolls are a good example. Done with used clothing or toys? Donate them or make them into rags or even a scarecrow!

An old bike of my mom’s has become yard art. Give it a few weeks and you will see green popping out of the baskets, which are lined with landscape fabric, filled with dirt and now full of seeds.

Dogs and Cats

There has been a lot of bad press about a dog’s carbon footprint or how cats kill the local bird population. And my voice might be quiet in comparison, but I disagree. Dogs and cats are not artificial constructs, they have a place in the natural world just as much as we do. For over 50,000 years dogs have provided us with security and aided us in hunting. I’ve noticed that our two dogs have each found specific niches for themselves. Dixie barks her head off whenever any person approaches. She cares little about invading animals (other than going nuts and attacking another female dog if it dares to enter our house or yard) and instead focuses on who is at the front door or trying to get into the yard. However, she also loves small children and is incredibly protective of our daughter, as well as any other small child who enters our domain. Kellogg has been known to kill invading opossum and will consume a rabbit if given the opportunity. She knows who belongs and who does not, and any animal that is not under our protection is simply not welcome in our yard or home.

Both dogs consume any waste meat scraps or bone and one of our cats has shown a preference for chicken fat. In the odd time that we use canned tuna, the cats lick up the tuna water juiceĀ  and clean the cans for us before we add them to the recycle bins.

It is nice to know that, even if we forget and let some meat go bad, there is still a use for it. The dogs have stronger stomachs than we do!

Chickens

I’m especially delighted to be able to feed weeds to the chickens. This just tickles me for some strange reason and I make it a daily priority to dig some up and throw it into the coop. Eventually we hope to have a chicken tractor so that we can take the chickens to the weeds, maybe even put them on top of a raised bed to do our work for us. And if the idea of feeding weeds to our chickens wasn’t enough, we will also be feeding bugs, the tomato hornworm and other annoying garden pests to our girls. From what I’ve read, they will find the squash bug especially tasty!

Chickens also eat leftover bread and grain, as well as wilted vegetables. And their poop is full of nitrogen. Once composted thoroughly, it can be added into our soil to aid in raising even more plants for food and animal feed!

 

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