Arwen Ek, Nederland. It pays to know your local butcher. I met Todd, the Meat Department Manager at B&F, when I decided to go Zero Waste – but sourcing things like meat and dairy before they get wrapped in plastic and Styrofoam, is not an easy task. I asked Todd for a solution and he gave me fresh cut, right off the chopping block steaks wrapped in compostable butcher’s paper.
Why Zero Waste?
My New Year’s Resolution for 2017 was to go Zero Waste…which means that my household will eventually create no waste that was headed for a landfill, where it would take hundreds of years to decompose, while producing toxic sludge that leaks into the groundwater, poisoning our lakes and oceans, and releasing methane into the atmosphere, one of the main contributors to global warming.
Yeah, landfills really are that bad
Did you know the average American produces 4.5 pounds of trash EVERY DAY. Think about it – how long does it take for your family to fill a 30 gallon bag of trash? 3 days? 5 days? A 30 gallon (large kitchen) trash bag weighs about 30 pounds (since I compared the weight of a full trash bag to how much my 3 year old weighs). So, every 5 days (give or take) we send 30 pounds of trash to the landfill…where, it rots, and releases toxic sludge and methane.
By applying the three easy steps below, I’ve reduced my household waste by 93%. For a family of three, we now produce ONE 30 gallon bag (that’s 30 pounds of trash more or less) per month. That’s approximately 1/3 lb. trash per person per day.
Did I mention our landfills are overflowing? And the fact that we’re literally running out of places on this earth to bury our trash?
Hence, when I decided to go Zero Waste, my first stop was B&F where I get most of my groceries, and got to know “Todd the Butcher” our local meat department manager.
Start with the Easy Stuff
Reducing your household waste by 93% is as easy as 1, 2, 3:
First, RECYCLE as much as you can. At the Nederland and Gilpin County Transfer Stations, you can recycle the following items in the single-stream green boxes: aluminum, glass, plastic, steel, paperboard, and office paper. Corrugated cardboard and scrap metal are also accepted in separate containers. Other items like batteries and electronics MUST be recycled at Eco-Cycle in Boulder or at the Gilpin County Transfer Station for a fee. (It is illegal to landfill these items!) Please do not try to recycle plastic bags in single stream recycling, also glass jars with lids, shredded paper, flattened cans, and hazardous materials like lightbulbs and motor oil. It gums up the sorting machines at the recycling plant, and does more damage than good.
COMPOST: Composting is tricky in the mountains. There is a lot of controversy about making composting bins bear-proof, and items that say they are compostable, but really aren’t. First: I’ve had an outdoor composting bin for almost 2 years now, with NO animal interference. The trick is to keep things like cooked food, fats, oils, and animal products like bones and gristle out of the compost. Coffee grounds and eggshells are GOLD when it comes to creating your own, free, “black gold” for your garden. Second: Eco-Cycle says you can compost any paper product that is not lined with plastic. BEWARE of single-use plastic cups (like the beer cups you get at NedFest) that claim to be compostable, but actually contain plastic, which does not compost. Double-check to make sure your “compostable” plastic cup is BPI certified before you compost. Otherwise, the Nederland Transfer Station accepts compost with the following items: cooked food and animal products like chicken bones, fruits and vegetables, plant trimmings, almost any paper product that is not lined or coated with plastic.
REDUCE: This is the fun part…and where it pays to know your local butcher, deli manager, and baker.
Let’s look at how you can substitute some common items from your shopping list with Zero Waste alternatives at local businesses:
B&F: Go knock on the door to the meat freezer and get to know Todd, Meat Department Manager at B&F. The butcher paper he uses is technically compostable, as it is lined with wax (not plastic). To compost properly, rinse thoroughly and tear into tiny pieces. Unfortunately, the thin sheet of plastic that the meat gets wrapped in is not recyclable or compostable. But it’s a lot better than the Styrofoam and Saran Wrap with those weird foam plastic thingies you normally get in pre-packaged meats. Take my word for it – if you catch Todd while he’s cutting, he’s more than happy to wrap up the best cut for you, and you know it’s fresh.
Other Zero Waste items you can get from B&F: soap, coffee, deli meat (bring your own container), fresh baked bread (get there early with your own bread bag!), fruits and veggies galore!
The Carousel of Happiness: Katrina Harms modeled the new recycling bins at the Carousel that all businesses in the Caribou Village Shopping Center received from the Boulder County PACE program that helps businesses reduce waste. The Carousel also composts paper products.
Blue Owl Books: They keep silverware and reusable mugs on hand for customers who want to hang out and read a book.
Very Nice Brewery: Get a reusable growler here! They have two sizes of high quality aluminum growlers with flip-top lids.
Wild Bear: These guys know how to compost – check out the vermin-compost bin in the back and ask any 10 year old hanging out how they do it. You will be amazed how smart these kids are about composting.
The Mountain People’s Co-Op: This is your one-stop shopping for all things Zero Waste. Just don’t forget your reusable bags and jars, and make sure to get a “tare” weight before you start filling up. Their bulk isle features flour, rice, granola, nuts, trail mix, gluten free flours, popcorn, candy, sugar, bulk dried herbs, teas, cocoa, shampoo, vinegar, peanut butter, honey, soap…it’s a dream come true for going Zero Waste in our tiny mountain village. Bring your own bowl for a hot, delicious, Zero Waste lunch, and don’t forget to stock up on the organic fruits and veggies! Oh, and my favorite new discovery is the local milk, delivered in glass jars (just like the good ‘ol days). You pay a $2 deposit for the glass bottle and it’s about $3.50 for a half-gallon of delicious, local, pasture fed, cows milk with the sweet cream floating on top.
Meet your local farmers: Are you a local producer? Do you have goats, chickens, vegetable and fruit gardens, and other locally made products that are Zero Waste from start to finish? Please let me know! E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org and tell me all about your happy hens, your dandelion wine, your home-spun yarn and I’d love to feature you in my next article on going Zero Waste!