The Connection Between Trash and ‘Stash

I’ve noticed a little pattern recently, and I thought it would fit right in with the things we learn about here in Money Mustache School, so I’d like to share the story with you.

Tuesday is garbage day in my neighborhood, and that means everyone will be rolling the enormous 96-gallon bins provided by the city, down to the curb. Most of these will be quite full, with about a quarter of them so full that the hinged lid pokes up at an angle, as if in a big dumb salute to Ultimate Wastefulness.

If you’ve never seen a 96-gallon plastic container, it is quite a sight to behold. You could easily hide the entire MMM family in one of these things, or several hundred pounds of various kinds of waste. If you filled it with water, it would weigh 800 pounds. When I’m in the middle of a construction project, I find that I can fit an entire bathroom’s worth of renovation debris into the thing easily.

Although the sheer size and weight of this container would take two strong people to lift when it is full, my city is able to empty thousands of them per day, thanks to a fleet of very sturdy tractor-trailer trucks with hydraulic robot arms on their curb-facing side. The truck roars up to your house and brakes aggressively to a stop, and the robot arm effortlessly picks up the 200-pound container as if it were made of styrofoam, hoists it 16 feet in the air and dumps it into the top of the truck, then slams it back to the curb. Then the truck’s 400-horsepower turbo diesel engine goes straight to full throttle and accelerates the 30,000 pound load of truck and trash for a few seconds before burning the energy back into the brakes and stopping at your next-door neighbor’s house to repeat the process*. This cycle repeats all day, every day, since it takes seven days to make the rounds of the city, by which time it is time to begin anew.

Other than my occasional guilty habit of generating construction debris by renovating other people’s houses, I find that the 96-gallon container would hold between three and six months worth of our normal household trash. In fact, as a way of saving the 30,000 pound truck some gas, I only put our container out to the curb when it gets full, which is once per season or once per construction project, whichever comes first.

Expressed as weight rather than volume, I’ve measured our total trash at 2-10 pounds per week. The average individual person in the US generates 22 pounds per week, meaning you’d expect our family of three to be rolling 66 lbs to the curb every Tuesday. So when comparing both weight and volume to our neighbors and the EPA website above, we seem to be throwing out about 90% less stuff than normal. What gives?

First of all, Mr. Money Mustache is not a holy zero-trash saint like the No Impact Man. I often get ribbed from my own readers in the comments about leading a relatively decadent life.

On the other hand, it does annoy me every time I have to heave something I bought into that big black bin, and this definitely affects my spending patterns – I try not to buy things if I can foresee any part of them ending up in the trash. Since I feel unhappy when throwing things out, I become happier when I avoid this activity. And thus, it is yet another way buying less stuff ends up building happiness – which luckily happens to be perfectly aligned with becoming financially independent as well!

With that justification, I now present

Mr. Money Mustache’s Top Four Ways to build Stash while Reducing Trash:

  1. Think carefully before making purchases that will end up in the trash. Very carefully. Disposable diapers for your baby? Forget it. Cloth diapers are just as easy, a thousand dollars cheaper per child, and a thousand times better for the environment. Paper or styrofoam cups and plates for that picnic or dinner party? Give me a break, use your real damned dishes and then smile when you wash them instead of crying when you have to throw them out. Packages from products you buy? Maybe for the first year after you buy your first house, but after that, you really don’t need many products, especially since your products will come mostly from Craigslist, where someone else took care of the package for you. Fast food packaging? Stop making me laugh so hard, because it has become difficult for me to aim my fist properly at your face!
  2. Recycle what can be recycled. This isn’t a perfect solution, so you shouldn’t feel great about having a full recycling bin. But at the same time, it is obvious that you will end up with some bottles, jars, and cans from leading a modern and convenient life, and these things must never end up in a trash can, regardless of where you are.And obviously, none of these will be bottled water containers or other frivolous things that could have been obtained without packaging if you thought about it properly, right? Larger chunks of metal like old patio furniture, lawnmowers, appliances, or water heater tanks can either be brought to a local scrap metal company (which may even pay you for them), or donated to the recycled building materials store.
  3. Food Waste Is Not Garbage. As heavy garbage producers read the introduction to this article, they probably thought, “man, I could never let my garbage can sit for 2 months before emptying it.. it would stink to high heaven!”.  But while my own trash is not a pretty sight, it still doesn’t actually stink very much, and that’s because it’s just the little plastic wrappers and lids and chunks of styrofoam that aren’t accepted by the recycling company.Where do my apple cores and banana peels and coffee grounds go? Into the Compost pile, of course! If you live in a house rather than an apartment, you should be composting all of your food, along with your leaves and garden scraps. Look it up – it is literally as simple as choosing a corner of your yard and throwing everything into a pile.My Mum taught me this when I was just a tiny boy, and I have followed the tradition for my entire life. It turns into rich soil very quickly, which you use in your garden. Mrs. Money Mustache just harvested FIVE wheelbarrow loads of Black Gold from our compost pile last week to make more gardens. If you are fancy or have problems with animals snooping in your compost pile, you can upgrade it to a box or barrel.
  4. Messy families like mine benefit from cloth napkins. A few years ago, I noticed that a big portion of our remaining garbage was white paper napkins, used to wipe faces and tables and countertops after various eating and spilling activities. Then I noticed that the local New Orleans-style restaurant just has a little box of rectangular pieces of scrap fabric on each quaint tabletop, instead of paper napkins.Eventually, we put two and one together and cut up a bunch of attractive fabric scraps to make our own napkin supply**.. and since then, we’ve never bought a paper towel or napkin (although I’m still working my way through a roll or two that were left over from that era, for really oily stuff like bacon grease).

On the surface, these may just sound like Trash saving techniques, but I find it’s more powerful than that and there is a positive ‘Stash component as well.

A Mustachian’s wealth comes in equal parts from being an optimistic producer who earns a great income, and from being a stubbornly efficient user of this income who refuses to see it go to waste in such an obvious way as the Big Black Bin.

* I’m actually working on a letter to the head of the sanitation department of my city, since my calculations show if they asked the driver to slow down the peak speed by 4MPH, the fuel savings would be much greater than the extra salary and benefits to pay the worker for more hours. So we’d be saving the city money AND creating more local jobs. The trucks would probably last longer as well, needing fewer brake jobs.

** I think this box of cloth napkins was Mrs. Money Mustache’s birthday present to me for something like my 35th birthday. Best gift ever!

  • Olivia November 21, 2011, 8:42 am

    Can you do a composting post? I’d like to get started but going out into the snow with a shovel to turn a bunch of trash just sounds so unappetizing. We also have dogs that would get into it so if you have any cheap ways to get around that that would be awesome. I just don’t want to buy one of those $100 things they sell just to compost… isn’t there a home grown way to do it? Thanks.

    • Chris November 21, 2011, 9:54 am

      I only turn mine once or twice a year, in the summer. I don’t mess with it at all in the winter (other than to throw compost into it). I do keep an large can of shredded leaves next to it, so I can alternate food waste/leaves through the winter.

      As far as a cheap way to keep the dogs out:
      I found a roll of 48″ wide wire fencing that somebody had left out for the trash, so I grabbed it. I made a couple of round “bins” in the yard, about 3′ in diameter. Keeps out the pets and holds in the compost really well.

      You could also pick up a used 55 gallon food-grade drum (there’s a place in Longmont that sells these for those in Colorado). They are about $15. You can make a nice rotating compost bin or two with them.



    • Ross November 21, 2011, 10:27 am

      Check with your municipality sometimes they have discounted composters to help reduce trash. I got mine for $20.

    • Bakari November 25, 2011, 7:05 pm

      I got $10 worth of Red Wriggler worms.
      All the worms and compost goes in a barrel beneath a thin layer of soil and mulch.
      I just bury new food scraps a few inches under the dirt and mulch (to keep flies out) and let the worms do the work

  • David TK November 21, 2011, 9:04 am

    My trash looks like your trash, in part because I compost my food waste. This is easy for me because I’m a vegetarian and have a garden. I’ve heard that composted meat waste is not safe to use for growing food, as the meat and meat-thriving bacteria don’t break down properly through the composting process. Do you include meat scraps, bones, etc. in your compost? If so, are there steps you take to make it safe?

    Unrelatedly, I hope you’ll post your letter about the garbage trucks here when it’s finished.

    • Sofie November 7, 2013, 10:53 am

      If it’s composted properly, it gets hot enough to kill the bacteria. Check out Humanure for info.

  • Fellow Longmonter November 21, 2011, 9:12 am

    You may not know this, but you can actually downgrade the size of your trash can in Longmont, thereby saving yourself a few bucks each month. I agree with you in principle here, but I do find that my family of six fills the big one about once every two weeks — despite doing lots of what you say. I just thought I’d pass along this tip.

    • MMM November 21, 2011, 8:54 pm

      Yes, the smaller bin is a great idea. I usually use that one, except I went back to large because of my little carpentry/renovations business being on a recent binge (shh, don’t tell the city that I am sneaking broken bits of plaster and old tiles in there :-)).

      • Bakari November 25, 2011, 7:13 pm

        If you only fill it once every 6 months, wouldn’t it be more cost effective to cancel the service completely, and just bring your trash directly to the transfer station a few times a year?

        For renovations, you could always pass the transfer station’s fee on to the customer.

        We have 35 gallon cans, but I still am not able to fill it completely every week – and I work as a hauler!!!! After sorting a dump run, and selling / giving away the still-good-stuff and recycling all the recyclables, more often than not I can fit the remainder into my own trash can, thereby avoiding paying any (additional) dump fee at all for the load.

        As to sneaking in plaster and old tiles – I don’t think you have to keep it secret – you are paying for a certain volume of trash hauling, the city doesn’t get to decide how you use it.

      • Oh Yonghao July 27, 2014, 12:54 am

        We didn’t change ours to a smaller can (20 gal) because of the will-call service (35 gal). For just over $8/mo we get recycling every 2 weeks (96 gal cans), and for under $4 per will-call pick up they take our trash can. We generally run every 2 weeks for this also, although maybe we’ll start composting and be able to go once a month or longer instead.

  • B November 21, 2011, 9:23 am

    It is really amazing how much trash my neighbors have. We are really wasteful compared to the MMM family. We don’t compost and we use though petroleum based butt covers (I’m sorry I am to ashamed to use their name) but we only have two bags a week. It fills up about 1/12 of that crazy trash can. The neighbors all seem like their trash cans are overflowing.

    Have you ever thought of down grading to the 48 gallon trash can? It would save you $3.01 each month (or 36.12/year or 361.20/decade).

    • Craig in Cary November 12, 2014, 12:33 pm

      One of our neighbors have TWO of those giant bins for trash, and yes, they put out both of them for pickup EVERY WEEK. I don’t think there are 25+ people living there, so I can’t imagine what they’re doing to produce so much trash.

      They do also put out their recycling bin every week, too, so MMM definitely needs to visit to dispense some face-punches to them!

  • et November 21, 2011, 9:27 am

    So true. My one person/one dog household generates about 1 quart of garbage a week.

    • Tara July 19, 2016, 6:39 pm

      Same here. I down graded to a spare trash can which is the size most people have in their bathroom. I only fill it about 1/2 full each week. I do have a good amount of recycling and compostable items every other week. My neighbors all haul large 22 gallon trash bags weekly to our large trash container at the end of the block. I want to ask them what it in there!

  • Ross November 21, 2011, 10:25 am

    Great post, we cut our garbage in 1/2 when we got our composter earlier this year. Our municipality actually sells composter barrels at a discounted price (guess they figure that they will save on garbage costs).

    Also, thought I would point out that you can put your paper napkins in your composter. We put all kinds of paper in ours including shredded paper from work. It breaks down really fast and can help neutralize any smells that you might have.

    • Chris November 21, 2011, 11:29 am

      I’ve been considering putting my shredded paper in too… I wonder if there are any concerns with the dyes and inks used? (ie, if they are toxic/dangerous, since I put my compost on my vegetable gardens).

      Slow day at work today…. I’ll check into that. :-)

      • Chris November 21, 2011, 12:08 pm

        The jury is still out, but more conservative gardeners say “no”, the middle of the road ones seems to say “sure, but leave out the shiny paper, and the less conservative say “compost it all”.

        The main issue, it seems, with composting paper is to avoid composting too much of it and throwing off the carbon/nitrogen balance. Paper is primarily carbon, so you may have to counterbalance by adding more nitrogen sources (ie, grass).

        I think I’ll start composting everything but the shiny inserts, etc.

        • Di January 2, 2013, 10:08 am

          That’s what I do and it seems to work fine – anything not plasticised/wax coated will rot down. I only have a tiny garden so no grass, but the balance betweeen food waste, paper and garden waste seems to compost down no problem.

        • David March 31, 2015, 6:26 pm

          Most newspapers use soy based ink so it’s completely nontoxic. The coating on the advertising inserts, magazines and catalogs is mode from clay so it won’t pollute your soil or water. I don’t concern myself with the carbon/nitrogen balance. Everything goes in the bins and gets added to the gardens twice a year. In the spring I add compost to the soil a few weeks before planting so the earthworms have time to finish breaking it down. In the fall I spread compost after a killing frost but before the ground freezes. My gardens are very productive andget lots of compliments.

  • Stashette November 21, 2011, 11:42 am

    My community has a similar program, with 3 different sized toters. Our house came with the largest (96 gallon), and this is the same size of our neighbors. Every week our neighbors’ bins are overflowing with trash, which I cannot understand. Some people actually have multiple toters!

    Anyway, this toter program was the focus of our recent local elections. You may think that people were upset about large toters encouraging wastefulness or the lack of curb-side recycling in our community. But no. Everyone was upset at having to pay for their trash to be picked up! The cheapest toter is only $60 a year, but I’m guessing that these extra large trash producers don’t want to pay for their fair share of the waste generated in the community.

    ALL candidate for office pledged to repeal the toter fees, making trash pickup “free”. Nevermind that the revenues from the fees were to help start curbside recycling and help support our community composting program. Now there is no financial incentive to decrease household waste.

  • Marcia @Frugal Healthy Simple November 21, 2011, 11:50 am

    Great post! We generate 1/2 to 1 tall kitchen garbage bag for our house per week. Probably about the same as you. The biggest change for us was when we started composting. Huge change.

    We use cloth napkins too. Now if only we could switch to handkerchiefs. With cold season and our allergies, there are times we go through a LOT of tissues.

    • joan November 21, 2011, 11:59 am

      I remember my father used handkerchieves. He’d blow his nose vigorously into one, and then fold it up and put it back in his pocket… that disgusting image comes to mind when you mention the possibility of using handkerchieves instead of tissues during cold season, I can’t imagine the germs that would be generated by and transmitted between family members.

      • Mrs. Money Mustache November 21, 2011, 1:34 pm

        Haha! We use our cloth napkins to blow our noses and it’s not a big deal at all. Just try it! Germs spread whether you use cloth or tissues. Just wash your hands.

      • Nerode November 21, 2011, 2:15 pm

        But rather less disgusting than the number of people who toss used tissues on the desk/dining table….maybe here’s a new article for MMM to investigate :-)

        • MMM November 21, 2011, 9:06 pm

          I find the image of a big old farmer dude pulling a handkerchief out of his overalls and blowing a big hay-filled booger into it quite inspiring, rather than disgusting. The amazing thing about using fabric to blow your nose is that all your previous contributions magically disappear by the nest time you use it – and thus it is equivalent to about 100 tissues.

          I lean towards the Honey Badger’s style in all of the issues that have been brought up in today’s comments: composting can be a simple pile in your yard unless you want it to be fancier, you can throw anything you want in there and it will still turn into nice soil (my Mum once composted an entire Opossum that turned up dead in the yard), and I don’t even pay attention to the existence of germs in any form. If the world wants to give your immune system a workout, you should thank it for offering you the challenge!

    • Heidi November 21, 2011, 12:21 pm

      We use handkerchiefs. Amazon sells a 12 pack for about $7.00. I have no idea how that compares to tissues because I have never bought one of those.

      We change these out an alarmingly quick rate so they are clean. Clearly, they add no cost when added to laundry loads.

      Germ worries? The only germ protection comes from washing your hands after blowing your nose.

      • jennypenny November 21, 2011, 1:43 pm

        You can buy soft flannel at the fabric store, cut it up, and make your own handkerchieves. And if you let each family member pick out their own pattern, everyone will know which handkerchief is theirs (thus avoiding the *ew* factor).

      • OWHL August 8, 2012, 6:33 pm

        Look at Walmart now and again. If they put the $12/7 handkerchiefs under the $1 price tag, they have to give that price to you. That is how I ended up with 70 handkerchiefs ($6ish) and no tissue costs for 2+ years.

    • Tara July 19, 2016, 6:43 pm

      I switched to cloth tissues a few years back…its not a bad as you would think. I just keep a pile of flannel cloths and a small trash can in the bathroom. When I do laundry I just dump it in and wash. Pile up the “tissues” and start over again…no big deal.

  • abitha November 21, 2011, 11:56 am

    Ugh, totally agree. I’m from the UK, and while the amount of rubbish produced by my neighbours doesn’t sound quite as obscene as yours, I still find it bizarre that my lodger and I usually put out one bag of rubbish per week (approx 50 litres = 13 US gallons), while there are *counts* four black bin bags and eight carrier bags outside my next door neighbours’ door right now. And that’s despite the fact that my lodger is not particularly Mustachian, and that we’re not composting food waste at the moment (I have a composting wormery, but all the worms died and it got a fly infestation… I’m planning to try again next spring).

  • Chris November 21, 2011, 12:27 pm

    Cloth napkins are a brilliant idea… one that I never even thought of. Going to switch out to those this weekend. Thanks MMM, keep the tips coming! :-)

  • Spork November 21, 2011, 1:19 pm

    if you apply mustachian principles to your rule #2, I suspect you’ll find a heckuva lot of recycling just doesn’t make sense. I know, I know… that’s totally politically incorrect. But the cost of driving that 450 hp Cummins all over town (driving right behind the trash truck) and burning 300 gallons of diesel fuel to recover $8 worth of plastic is just plain silly.

    Generally all that recycle stuff then has to be manually separated (as in, there are guys picking through it). Then, to add insult to injury, all the glut of recycling has cratered the market. Much of it is being shipped overseas or — even worse — dumped back into the landfill after expensive pickup and sorting.

    Aluminum is expensive as hell to manufacture. It probably makes sense to be recycled. Plastic is darn near a recycled material at the start. What used to be a waste product of oil production got made into a container. It’s just not worth much at all in the recycling industry. Paper: that’s a crop. Regardless of what you see in the media, it’s very young “trash trees”, not old forests. And it’s an ag product. If the farmer wasn’t growing paper, he’d grow wheat or soy or corn or … something. Glass: while almost infinitely recyclable, it’s inert in a landfill and probably costs more to recycle than to make from sand.

    • The Reverend November 22, 2011, 11:23 am

      A lot of the recycling is shipped overseas and there it’s just burned to separate the plastics from the metals (in the case of electronics) so we get a HUGE plume of toxic smoke in the air. In a city not far from Longmont, the recycling bins are picked up by the trash guys and heaved right into the same bin as the trash goes into. Nice! And it costs extra!

      • Spork November 22, 2011, 12:16 pm

        That’s actually becoming quite common everywhere. But it’s like a loud fart in church to be one of those Satanist non-recyclers. There is a really good test to see if recycling works: If it pays for itself. In no way should it ever cost extra. The promise was that the material had worth and that the saved landfill space had worth. If that adds up to more than the cost of recycling, then it makes sense. If it costs more to recycle, then it’s just plain dumb.

        • MMM November 22, 2011, 4:22 pm

          Wait a minute there.. it depends on how you’ve factored in the benefit of preventing extra natural resources from being used. If it costs more ENERGY or CO2 or other resources other than labor to recycle, then yeah, it is probably plain dumb. But just because oil is currently cheap and there is no real tax on mining, carbon emissions, and deforestation, doesn’t mean it is better to use more of these overly cheap resources to prevent the effort of recycling things. With that kind of justification, we should all start driving Escalades if they were subsidized to the point of being cheaper than Corollas.

          I’d have to research each material individually to determine whether or not it is worthwhile recycling. Or I could just listen to what the majority of environmental and climate scientists say on the matter, which is “reduce, reuse, recycle”.

          My personal slogan is, “Never try to out-science the scientists, unless you happen to be an even better scientist yourself.”

          And guess what!? Unless you are a 60-year-old with a long grey beard or ponytail reading this from your laboratory and you can see at least one Nobel prize on your wall, you are probably not qualified to out-science the scientists.

          • Spork November 22, 2011, 9:13 pm

            You might be correct… maybe… I can’t say for sure. But you should also examine whether (a) scientists are following the scientific method (many branches of science do not. If it isn’t a provable, repeatable thing – it isn’t really science) and (b) question whether there is any conflict of interest.

            It’s better to have a disinterested 3rd party commenting on the status than folks whose paychecks depend on it. You might check out John Tierney’s old articles. He has no Nobel prize, but has a number of awards for Scientific Journalism. Penn & Teller have a pretty good bit on it on Bullshit! as well.

        • Bakari November 25, 2011, 7:25 pm

          You are paying for the convince of 1 curb side pick up and 2 not having to sort.
          Most materials are cheaper to produce recycled than from virgin ore.
          Aluminum is the most cost effective of all to recycle, followed by cardboard.
          As a hauler, I can get paid to drop off scrap aluminum, steel, cardboard, and mixed paper. So obviously all of these are cost effective to recycle. Glass is less so, because it is already so cheap to make virgin glass. Plastic is more tricky just because there are so many different types of plastic, and they aren’t compatible, therefor someone has to meticulously sort it all out.

          The fact that lazy Americans prefer to pay to have a truck come pick up everything rather than deal with it themselves has no bearing on the effectiveness of recycling.

      • Bakari November 25, 2011, 7:30 pm

        Some companies have one truck with two seperate collection bins, so even if it looks like its all going the same place, it really isn’t.

        Other municipalities sort the garbage from the recycling at the transfer station.
        There is a very substantial amount of people who throw their recycling in with the garbage. There are also many people (like my ex-neighbors) who actually put garbage (old clothes, food waste, everything) into the recycling bin because they run out of room in their garbage cans. Which means the garbage company has to sort it all out anyway. In that case, they may as well just use one truck.
        I suspect they provide separate bins just as a physiological reminder that you are paying to have things recycled, even if you don’t actually see the process happening.
        I spend a lot of time at the dump. They really do sort out the trash there.

    • GuinnessPhish April 21, 2014, 7:27 am

  • Teresa November 21, 2011, 1:22 pm

    Thanks again for the informative, thought provoking post MMM. I also am interested in hearing how you handle meat bones, etc. I have heard they should not be composted. I would think if these sat too long it would be pretty stinky. I am always confused what to do with all the waste (leftover bones, etc) after I make chicken stock and feel really bad for throwing it all away.

    I’ll second the suggestion for an upcoming composting article. Would love to see what and how you compost as you have such a nice methodical way of doing everything.

    Rhonda Jean at Down to Earth has a nice post on composting if anyone is interested:


    • Mrs. Money Mustache November 21, 2011, 1:39 pm

      For the composting article, it would go like this: start chucking food in a spot in your yard. Watch it turn to soil!

      That’s all we did for years. Now we have a bin as the pile was getting large and out of hand, but the reason it was so large is because we had tons of soil hiding at the bottom!

      We put everything in there, including meat. However, the amount of meat is very minimal as we don’t buy meat with bones and we don’t cut off the fat or anything. We just eat it all.

      If you have a dog, you can make an enclosure out of 4 posts and some chicken wire. But, it really is ridiculously easy to compost.

      • MMM November 21, 2011, 9:11 pm

        Another reason the pile got so enormous is that I raked all the leaves from the entire yard into the compost pile last fall, instead of bagging them up on the curb like regular people seem to do.

        This built it up to about the size of a small car, and it took most of the year to shrink back down to become about 500 pounds of wonderful soil.

        • Mike November 22, 2011, 2:58 pm

          When you compost, do you pay any attention at all to this idea of balancing “greens and browns” or “carbons and nitrogens”? Or do you literally just pile it all up and wait?

          Interesting to see some recycling haters in the comment thread. I wonder how many of them also fall into the “Hummers have a smaller environmental impact than Prii” camp. You know, Wal Mart recycles. In fact, I have actually spoken to a Sam’s Club store manager who, in the process of explaining how recycling shipping waste had transformed a cost center into a non-trivial revenue stream for his store, mentioned that they actually had to start securing their “sandwich bales” of cardboard, paper and plastic because people had been stealing them from behind the store.

          • Spork November 22, 2011, 3:39 pm

            When you get to bale-sizes.. you might actually have a point. It’s presorted and weighs a ton (maybe actually, but speaking metaphorically). One truck goes out and picks up many tons of pre-sorted material. Yeah, that probably makes sense.

            The problem with how we do recycling is that one truck drives to every house in the city — maybe once or twice a week. It’s a huge truck that drives 50 ft, stops, runs a hydraulic press, repeats. The amount of material gathered is very little in comparison to the amount of fuel spent gathering it and the man hours spent sorting it.

            Now, if we concentrated on what was actually expensive (say… aluminum) and picked it up every 6 months… that might work. (You can squish a whole lot of cans into a little space.)

            It’s not that I’m a recycling hater… I hate wasting money. The way we’re doing it has religiously been drummed into us that it’s “good.” Find me a community that pays for it’s recycling program and I’ll reconsider. I suspect you’ll find that most charge for the privilege of recycling… banking on guilt for not doing it… and just use that as an additional revenue stream.

            I’ve never lived anywhere where recycling reduced my garbage collection costs.

            • Johonn March 10, 2012, 8:59 pm

              In my hometown (where my parents live) they charge $1 per bag for trash and don’t charge anything for recycling. It’s single stream, too, so we don’t have to sort it.

          • BobTX June 4, 2013, 3:43 pm

            This is a bit old, but for later readers looking in the comments, I thought I’d weigh in as an ecologist. This isn’t my precise area of expertise, but I can at least say this:

            If your concern is reducing wastefulness, the “throw it in a pile” method is perfectly fine. Also, no real problem with some meat.

            If you are going to use the stuff for gardening, yes, many sorts of balancing can be important for making the best possible soil. But they’re not strictly necessary.

            In short, if you are hesitating just starting a pile because it sounds like a pain to do a lot of labor – start a pile: you’re helping the planet, and you probably didn’t care about top notch gardening soil anyway.

            • MooseOutFront November 7, 2013, 11:57 am

              Thanks for the insight bob. Imma start a pile with these leaves falling, start tossing food on it, and just not worry about it.

          • David August 24, 2015, 6:48 pm

            I have been composting and gardening for over 20 years. I never concern myself about green and brown matter. I have three 4x4x4 foot enclosures. Everything goes in including food and garden waste, animal manure, sawdust and wood chips, grass clippings, leaves and animal entrails. When the first bin is full I shovel it into bin #2 to mix everything. After that it goes into bin #3 and #1 goes into #2. Twice a year bin #3 goes into the vegetable garden, around the fruit trees and other plants.

            Years ago I spent a Christmas season bailing cardboard at a large mail order warehouse. The company was paying for trucking the bails to a recycled paper mill. One of the warehouse workers decided to build a house of bailed cardboard. He stacked the bailks like giant bricks, framed window and door openings and covered it with stucco. It is still one of the best recycling projects I know of.

    • Erica / Northwest Edible Life September 25, 2012, 4:19 am

      How do you think they make that excellent garden amendment for root crops, bone meal. :) actually that’s dried and pulverized after its cooked and (most important for your concerns I suspect) sanitized. But I’ve never hesitated to compost bones and shells. They take a long time to break down, which has some advantages, too, actually. The biggest risk with meat and bones in outside compost isnt microbiological but pest-attractant. Rats and racoons will tend to seak out nice fatty meaty bits in a compost bin. What meat bones should NOT be is vermicomposed or put in a worm bin. Composting Worms are happiest eating manure and vegan grub. Happy composting!

  • creed November 21, 2011, 2:00 pm

    Great post as always. I was wondering if you could do a post on ideas for gifts that save people money and help save the environment? For example, the cloth napkins. We love them. They are cheap gift ideas, save money by not having to buy paper napkins, and they benefit the environment. A win-win-win. (And they are way fancier than paper napkins). Some other ideas – we found that if we used paper towels, 90% of the time it was to cover food we were heating up in the microwave. So, we bought a $2.35 plastic splatter cover from Target and now we hardly ever use paper towels (still working on the other 10%). Good for the stash, good for the earth. One more, then I am out of ideas – a olive oil mister was a great replacement for spray cooking oil/butter like Pam. The mister was approx $20 but nothing more to ever buy and we are not buying non-recyclable spray cans. We would love to hear of any more similar, simple, ideas.

    • Debbie M November 21, 2011, 3:03 pm

      So you have an oil mister that doesn’t clog up or anything? What kind?

      I do know some things that can save people money and help save the environment, but I don’t know that they would make good gifts for most people (hankies, bicycling equipment and clothing, the Keeper, Tupperware or other re-usable containers that can take the place of plastic bags, a pitcher with a water filter in it and water bottles (instead of using bottled water), jewelry (more re-usable than make-up), composter, rain barrel, deciduous trees (to shade the house in summer, let the sun through in winter), insulation, LED light bulbs).

      Wait, I might know one: long-lasting multi-use toys like legos and musical instruments.

    • TLV November 21, 2011, 5:50 pm

      One thing to watch out for if you use an oil mister – Pam actually has silicone in the spray in addition to oil. So when you switch to plain oil, things may stick more. It probably isn’t an issue for stovetop cooking (and we use an oil mister for that), but when baking bread the oil mister just doesn’t cut it. Yes, it’s probably better to avoid the extra chemicals in any case, but for the sake of my wife’s sanity we’re using Pam until we figure out a better way to keep bread from sticking.

      • Hanmah November 21, 2011, 7:29 pm

        I make almost all of our bread, and have used just about everything to keep the bread from sticking. I now use palm shortening, but really the best thing to do is just let it sit for a couple minutes after you take it out of the oven. The bread will steam the pan a bit and it then takes no effort at all to get it out. Just don’t forget about it or your bread will get a tad soggy (been there, done that, although even that isn’t really a big deal. Let it dray out on a rack for a few hours and you can’t even tell it happened).

        • Debbie M November 22, 2011, 8:11 am

          Thanks for the hints. I mostly use spray oil for baking and for making omelets (in my teflon pan, which I’m hoping isn’t too scary because I never use high heat).

          • colinp June 5, 2013, 9:14 pm

            I bake all of our bread and cookies and after lots of trial and error I found the best solution for any kind of pan or tray is butter! Just put a bit on your fingers and rub it onto the whole surface. When you pull it out of the oven give it three minutes or so to cool and everything separates easily.

            • Plastic Kiwi September 8, 2015, 10:26 pm

              I’ve found the best way to stop bread sticking is simply a sprinkling of flour, no grease at all. For actual greasing of cake tins etc I save empty butter wrappers (fold up & keep in the fridge) and use those..there’s always enough grease on them.

  • Co November 21, 2011, 2:42 pm

    you can make a cheap composts bin from four pallets and some old wire.

    We put no animal products in ours. We add some leaves in the fall and mix them in. I use no chemicals on the lawn but don’t add grass clippings as my neighbors throw money away on lawn companies and I think some of the chemicals could spread and I don’t want this on my veggies. The pile freezes in the winter and in the spring we start turning it. Each fall I spread it on the gardens.

    I wish we had pay as much trash as you produce. We all pay the same rate, my little can as much as the gigantic bins with bags on the side that don’t fit in.

  • Kathy P. November 21, 2011, 3:39 pm

    Other than the environmental and financial savings of not buying stuff to throw away, I’m not seeing how this saves you money. Do you only get billed when you put trash out? I currently pay almost $90/quarter ($360 per year) and the bill is the same whether I put trash out every week or not. I compost but still manage to pretty much fill a 33 gallon bag. Part of the problem, I know, is I can’t seem to break my paper towel habit although I could cut my use a bit more I think. Among other things, I have an elderly dog that sometimes has accidents and I can’t picture myself cleaning that up with a cloth napkin.

    • Heidi November 21, 2011, 7:48 pm

      Well, there is still a connection even if the actual trash costs don’t change. Often, the items that fill up the trash are money thrown away. So, less Moustachian neighbors may be throwing much more money out the window than you.
      I’m guessing lots of the trash is from packaged food products–frozen dinners, ice cream cartons, juice cans, cereal boxes, etc… Those add up quickly if they are daily staples.

    • MMM November 21, 2011, 9:17 pm

      Yeah, this post is more of an abstract money-saving idea rather than a concrete one.

      The idea is to instill a feeling of PAIN and FEAR about the idea of throwing things out, which feeds back into your purchasing choices, because as soon as you see a product or a package in the store, you immediately imagine how you’re going to handle dealing with it at the end of its life cycle.

      If you’re like me, you will end up not wanting quite a few things that you would otherwise have thought you wanted, just because you can’t bear to imagine yourself throwing it into the trash can. One great everyday example is plastic-packaged convenience foods for kids. You don’t want a bunch of tiny little juice boxes lined with foil and plastic. You want a single cardboard can of juice concentrate that can make about a gallon of nice watered-down-to-be-less-sugary 100% juice for the kid to drink out of a reusable cup. And guess which of these two things costs about 80% less?

      • Kathy P. November 22, 2011, 3:48 am

        I’m trying to figure out how to eliminate most of my trash costs. As I said before, it’s almost $30/month (including a fuel surcharge that appeared in 2008 when gas went to $4+/gallon, but never went away when prices came down). If I cut the paper towel use (or compost all of what I do use), I use very little packaged, processed foods. Most of what I’d have as true trash is plastic from meat packaging. I buy pastured, organic meat and poultry from local farmers and it comes frozen and vacuum-packed. I think if I just rinsed that out, I could accumulate it for 1 – 2 months without much stink. Then if I dropped it off at the county landfill/recycling place, I might pay a small fee – but I don’t think it would cost $30/month, even including the gas to drive it over there. Has anyone tried this?

        • Marcia @Frugal Healthy Simple November 22, 2011, 8:17 am

          We haven’t tried this, in part because we really don’t have a place to store trash for a month. The county landfill is $9 for a carload, so we could save a lot of money this way.

          Our neighbor doesn’t pay for trash service at home. He’s a business owner, so he just takes his personal trash and recycling to his business.

        • Chris November 23, 2011, 9:50 am

          Could you cancel your trash pick up and offer to give your neighbor $10/mo to drop a trashbag in theirs once a month?

    • Erica / Northwest Edible Life September 25, 2012, 4:20 am

      Compost your paper towels. Eventually switch to cloth and then, when they really wear out, compost them. :)

    • AA June 13, 2013, 1:07 pm

      Where I live, there is a $3 a bag for trash service, no charge for recycling.

      And yes, I use bottled water because the local reservoir has failed water quality tests for the last two years. I’ve thought about getting some sort of filtering system instead of the bottles, but haven’t followed through with it yet.

  • Skinnyneo November 21, 2011, 7:04 pm

    I live in an apartment in Japan. The place is not huge and it is in the middle of the city but I can still compost on my balcony. I bought one of these http://www.ecomposter.net/Lang1/Default.aspx at Costco for about $100.00. I put it together in under an hour and then immediately composted the box it came in and all the food scraps we had in our apartment. I also ordered some worms on line and threw them in as well. So far it’s been great! No animals can get in and the lid is very tight so we also don’t smell it. This is very important as we hang our clothes out to dry (driers are not very common here).

    Next spring and summer we will start to plant and harvest a garden and probably it will pay for itself in savings in one or two years (vegetables are pretty expensive here). It’s not the best solution if you have an actual garden, but if your in a pinch for space it woks!

    • Hannah November 22, 2011, 7:23 pm

      You can also Bokashi compost. It’s all contained, doesn’t smell at all, and you can compost anything in it, including meat. The biggest issue (for an apartment dweller) is where to bury it to finish breaking down, but if you have a garden somewhere, problem solved. The best thing about bokashi is if you make the bokashi itself (you can culture it from the air – cool, huh?), you can use paper or cardboard to soak the stew in and make the stuff you mix with your scraps. I live overseas and couldn’t buy it anywhere, so I got creative and I’m glad I was forced to do so.

  • Tally November 21, 2011, 8:08 pm

    The paper towel thing was a revelation to me. I have tons of nice scrap fabric I could be using! And I’ll never have waste money on paper towels again OR send any more of those things to the garbage heap.

  • Crazyfbs November 21, 2011, 11:06 pm

    I feel bound to add this tale of strange caution about composting.

    My cousin and her husband follow a general MMM-stlye lifestyle, and compost most food and yard scraps. One hot summer’s day after playing outside for a while everyone went inside for lunch. A while later when cleaning up from lunch, her children’s shouts brought her rushing into the backyard. The fence and some overhanging trees were on fire. Between two hoses and a few firemen the fire was contained before it did much damage. Six months later recounting the story the only conclusion a Ph.D. in biochem, a Masters in physiology, a History major, three lawyers, a PT, and a speech therapist could come too was that it was an anaerobic reaction that ignited some how, via heat or refracted light. So, don’t keep your compost pile in direct sunlight?

    • MMM November 22, 2011, 4:34 pm

      A Ph.D. in biochem, a Masters in physiology, a History major, three lawyers, a PT, and a speech therapist walk into a bar…. :-)

      That is bizarre, but apparently it can happen due to the heat released by bacterial fermentation in a pile of compost (or any tightly-packed pile of organic matter). I’d never heard of it before, but it is documented in various places out there: http://www1.agric.gov.ab.ca/$department/deptdocs.nsf/all/agdex10721

      It sounds like it will tend to happen only in an unusually dry compost pile. When I dig into mine, I find a tiny bit of warmth, but nothing like the 150-200C needed to start dry grasses and leaves on fire.

    • Kathy P. November 22, 2011, 4:46 pm

      Compost piles should be kept damp. Not soggy, but they shouldn’t be allowed to dry out. Many people build them in a shady spot and/or cover the with a tarp so they don’t dry out. Also, compost piles need oxygen in the center. One reason for not making them huge and turning them once in awhile. Sometimes people put stakes in to wiggle around to let oxygen into the center of the pile. You don’t want anerobic decomposition.

      • Hannah November 22, 2011, 7:25 pm

        Unless you are going the Bokashi route, which breaks it down that way.

  • Acorn November 21, 2011, 11:42 pm

    If you can find some wooden palettes, they can be easily assembled into a compost bin – lots of instructions online for this.
    We came across a few books of fabric samples and promptly turned those into our cloth napkins. If you go to any furniture store they usually have some sample books ready to be thrown away. And the grommets add a bit of charm. :)

  • Kathy P. November 22, 2011, 3:41 am

    On the topic of recycling, one of my growing peeves is magazines. I don’t take a lot of them because of the cost – but I don’t understand why they’re all still printed on paper. The mags that do have an e-edition usually only offer it for “free” with a mailed paper copy. I would much rather pay a lot less and ONLY get the e-edition. That way, no magazine comes into my house at all, nothing that then has to be thrown away or recycled. Only one of the magazines that I take – Permaculture – comes in an e-only subscription for about $10 a year. It’s the one out of Britain, so no big mailing costs or time delays in getting each issue.

    • Heidi November 22, 2011, 7:54 am

      Have you considered donating these to your library? We bring our National Geographics there each month after we’ve read them.

  • Gerard November 22, 2011, 5:00 am

    My brother and family compost their snotty tissues, which grossed me out at first but actually makes sense.
    And, it reminds me of a solution I read in a British gardening magazine, for the problem of having too much carbon and not enough nitrogen when you compost paper. As they put it, “recycled beer”… yes, that’s what they mean. Very high in nitrogen (urea).

    • TomTX September 30, 2012, 6:38 am

      Putting that useful “recycled beer” into your compost increases moisture and nitrogen, and reduces one of the biggest costs to your local sewer treatment plant – getting the nitrogen out. Your contribution may be small, but it all adds up.

  • burntout November 22, 2011, 6:07 am

    Interesting perspectives in the post and comments! I guess what passes for blog discussions in some parts of the world, is just common-sense in other parts of the world. Our entire building (6 flats per floor, 7 floors) probably generates the same amount of trash, as a single family household in the US. The world is definitely not flat!

  • Megan S. November 22, 2011, 7:00 am

    My husband and I use cloth napkins. We love them! We haven’t purchased a roll of paper towels since.

  • Lloyd November 22, 2011, 10:16 am

    As a family we used cloth diapers, recycle what can be recycled, and have a couple of compost bins. I never really thought about using cloth napkins instead of using paper. I’ll have to bring that idea up with my wife.

    Thanks for the tip.

  • The Reverend November 22, 2011, 11:29 am

    I’ve never understood why we can’t adopt the European system here. Now, I realize that we don’t live in apartments here to the same degree as the densely populated European cities, but if we had one dumpster/trash building etc for every block, then we would get the benefit of walking 2 minutes to the end of the block to dump our trash AND the trucks would only make one stop each block instead of one stop for each house.

    It would improve (slightly) our health, save on fuel use for the trucks AND we’d think a bit more about buying a bunch of crap that we’d have to lug down the street.
    Also, a small trash building could easily (like at my mom’s place in Europe) have a corner for cardboard, a bin for glass, one for plastic etc. We could sort it as we throw it out. Then regular trash in a regular bin.

    Of course, leave it to some litigious sort to sue because it’s not “handicap-friendly” to get to that building or whatnot. *sigh*

  • Chris November 22, 2011, 8:37 pm

    We are 2 adults – took out the trash earlier today – one bag of kitty liter remains, haven’t been composting due to cold here although less than 1/2 of the “wet” trash bag could have been composted, other trash under 2 lbs total in one bag. Buy so little, packaging can be recycled even TP rolls. Only wish my city would not make us separate as much as they do for recycling and take what outlying cities accept.

  • Matt November 23, 2011, 1:55 pm

    A paper shredder is a great way to get the carbon you need to make the perfect compost blend. Compost needs 2/3 carbon (e.g. leaves, wood chips, paper) to 1/3 nitrogen (e.g. fresh grass clippings, food scraps).

    Junk mail, cardboard, catalogs, and other paper products all get shredded and my daughters love doing it. Our food scraps match the compost ratio perfectly now that we actively shred our paper waste. I would recommend getting the biggest shredder you can afford and try to get the cross shredding feature so the pieces of paper are the smallest size possible, this will assist in the compost process. The 18+ sheet shredders can handle most cardboard. Any cardboard that’s too thick is used in my garden for mulch since I don’t roto-till my garden (look up no-till gardening if you’re interested).

    • TomTX September 30, 2012, 6:40 am

      I collect kitchen scraps in a paper grocery bag, lined with shreds from the shredder. The shreds do a decent job of absorbing any liquids (mostly wet coffee grounds or tea bags) and the whole thing gets tossed in the compost heap.

  • Matt November 23, 2011, 2:06 pm

    There’s one more thing most people can compost but never would (I might someday but plumbing is too nice). With some saw dust and a bucket you can compost human waste. Once it’s broken down it’s as safe as can be.

    If you have Netflix search for Morgan Spurlock’s “30 Days” tv show and watch Season 1 Episode 5 – Going off the Grid. I’ve heard of composting toilets but this is the first I’ve seen people using a bucket and saw dust.

    • Kathy P. November 23, 2011, 3:38 pm

      I have had occasion to use a composting toilet – cedar shavings and a bucket – and there was zero odor. “They” say that the wars in the 21st century will be fought over water instead of oil; when you think about it, it makes little sense to flush the toilet with clean drinking water. Composting toilets use no water. In In addition to the source Matt gave, you can learn more at http://humanurehandbook.com/ and http://youtu.be/tdN_3x8VNCY

      • Spork November 24, 2011, 8:09 am

        The composting toilet systems I’ve seen (in Sweden) worked extremely well. They flushed normally with water (though Swedes have a “small” and “large” flush button — the small flush uses almost nothing). The system separates liquids and solids. Liquids go to a normal leech field. Solids go to a worm bin. The cleanout area is remarkably odorless.

  • vern November 24, 2011, 10:02 pm

    The wife and I compost, recycle, and use cloth napkins.

    Instead of paying for garbage pickup we load up the truck and drive to the dump. It’s 8 dollars a trip and we only go 3 or 4 times a year.

    • MMM November 24, 2011, 11:23 pm

      I think this idea is pretty clever, and several other commenters have brought it up in various ways. If you have a low trash load, and high trash fees, you should definitely pair up with a neighbor to share the cost, or bring your own trash occasionally to a dump or other facility.

      In my town, trash, recycling, water, and electric all come on the same bill. And I don’t believe you can opt out of any of them unless you quit everything.. and they are all extremely cheap, meaning you probably couldn’t save much by finding other services anyway.

      But for those who have the option, do it – you might as well get a CASH REWARD for being a low trash generator, right?

      • kris February 29, 2012, 8:00 pm

        Still, it wouldn’t hurt to check. The worst they can do is confirm your suspicion.

      • TomTX September 30, 2012, 7:30 am

        Hmmmmm… While we don’t generate a lot of trash or recycling – pairing up with a neighbor would only save us $9/month. And as with MMM – I don’t know if the city will let us opt out of just part of the service package.

        • IAmNotABartender January 3, 2015, 2:47 pm

          If I recall the multiplier correctly, I believe $9/mo is $1,593 every 10 years. Might be worth it; a millionaire is made $10 at a time.

        • Matt (Semper Fi) July 18, 2016, 7:05 am

          Take care of those “tens”!

  • Zany Caswell May 14, 2012, 10:09 am

    I love the idea about slowing down the garbage truck to save the city money. In all likelihood the driver is being paid a flat rate for his route, regardless of how long it take him, as an explanation for why he feels the need to accelerate so much between houses.,

  • brenda from ar October 28, 2012, 10:43 pm

    I’m not so green, but saving money is often accidentally green. Here’s a cool thing I did. An old sheet finally ripped to shreds down the middle, but the edges still looked almost new. I cut the edges into 12 inch squares and finished the raw edge with various stiches. Practically free hankies. Then, I cut the decent middle parts up in odd sizes for the rag bag. Then I pulled out some scraps leftover from making pajama pants, and cut them into 6 inch squares for extra soft hankies. Got to thinking the smaller size was fine for one use. Note: a rotary cutter speeds up the process.

  • BC April 24, 2013, 6:16 pm

    I know I’m late to the party but since it hasn’t been mentioned before, and it is such a fantastic resource, check out zerowastehome.blogspot.com. It is a blog about reducing our waste as much as possible. The family of the author produces only a quart of trash per YEAR. She has a lot of great ideas on how to achieve this.

    We just moved and my goal is to avoid signing up for trash or recycling services. We will take our recycling and compost to friends and we usually just produce one kitchen sized trash bag every three weeks (two adults and one cat). I will either take the trash to friend’s as well or drop it by the dump, but you have to pay for that. I want this to be motivation to reduce our trash even more, to think about every single item I place in the can.

  • Ultros1234 May 23, 2013, 3:23 pm

    The missus and I wanted to reduce our paper towel usage without 100% getting rid of them, since they’re occasionally necessary for stuff like bacon grease. But I found it hard to break the habit of reaching for them every time there was a mess to clean up.

    Then I unscrewed the paper towel dispenser from under the kitchen cabinet and installed it inside our pantry. Now the paper towels are accessible when I need them, but it’s just enough of a pain to go get one that I reach for the cloth rag instead.

  • Catherine June 24, 2013, 7:55 pm

    I’ve been a reader for a long time but this may be my first comment. Hallelujah for this article. Dude, I could not agree more. When I see the neighbours across the street (married., no kids) consistantly put out 6+ Costco sized garbage bags it blows my mind. Where I live (Halifax ns) we have very strict garbage/ organic/ recycling program. They will outright refuse your pickup if it’s jot seperated properly. My understanding is that its used as a model in other places around the world.

  • Becky O August 11, 2013, 9:32 am

    I did not take the time to read all of the comments, but I just wanted to share my method for composting.
    I use a repurposed washing machine drum. The holes on it are prefect for aerating the compost material, and allowing water to drain. I keep a metal shovel handle in the hole in the middle (which once held the washing mechanism) to stir it every now and then.

    And, once everything breaks down pretty good, I take bucketfuls to my chicken yard for my girls to scratch around on, expediting the compost process! :) Plus the chickens love it!

  • Erik September 18, 2013, 6:43 am

    Compost: I’ve used a worm compost bin (in a Rubbermaid container) for years, even when I was living in apartments. There was always a place outside, whether it was in the alley between buildings, or on a rooftop, that could host it!
    Recycling: Where I live in Portland, Oregon, there are several recycling depots that accept styrofoam and other difficult-to-recycle items; you just have to search them out. But the best is Whole Foods: they recycle plastic bags, #5 plastic, all food containers, etc.
    Cotton napkins: We had a party for 50 people when we got married, and bought cotton napkins in multiple colors for the dinner. We still use them to this day instead of paper towels.
    Dog poop: According to the hippie lady at our dog food store, dog poop can be flushed down the toilet; cat poop is not safe to do so. So if you have a dog, you can save money on poop bags and just plop the poop in your toilet instead!

  • Bunnykick2000 February 5, 2014, 12:41 pm

    We live in the county, so our trash/recycling is an optional service. Obviously, we opt out.

    We use plastic grocery bags for our trash. When it is full, about a week or so, we take it with us and drop it off in any one of those trash bins outside of the big box store or gas station or hardware stores.

  • Bob Werner June 2, 2014, 9:59 am

    Would like to see a similar article on water.

    A few years ago I noted that our house was using about 30% of the average per person usage. We weren’t trying. Now we have a variable speed computerized well pump and a pump and dump heat pump system that pumps out 4 gallons per minute. So it really isn’t worth any effort for us to save water. By the way we live in the Ozarks where water literally bubbles out of the ground. So unlike the west we don’t have much incentive to reduce water usage. Our water and sewer bill is zero.

    If I still lived in the city though, I have noted that water usage bills also include the sewer. The more water used, the higher the sewer bill. Some towns around here are $60 or more for water and sewer.

    I have put a lot of thought into this and by reducing usage and installing a rain catching system and a sand filter mini treatment system one can easily reuse about 90% of the water used in a home.

    In new construction or even retrofits black water (poopy) can use a different household system than grey water. If it is yellow, let it mellow. If its brown, flush it down. (about 5 gallons per day for a family of 3) Grey water is perfectly safe to filter, sanitize and recycle. Black water can be mildly treated and used for the lawn and garden. An even more efficient toilet is the humanure toilet.

    So by using zero city water one could essentially have zero water and sewer bills. Neighbors would be happy to throw you 5 gallons of water per week for drinking if your uncomfortable drinking recycled grey water.

    Since you do so little laundry this would work for you.

    You could then heat 100% of your shower water with your solar system, thus using zero water and zero energy. Shower water is the only water worth heating.

    How to shower — Wet yourself – 30 seconds, lather up with water off, rinse 1.5 minutes 2 minutes. Total shower time = 3 minutes or less than 5 gallons. 3 people per day = 15 gallons or 450 gallons per month. Add 5 loads of laundry per month at 40 gallons per load and your up to 650 gallons per month.

    That is a very easy number to recycle and treat.

    (by the way, since your trash is so little, and I think you could get it even lower or near zero, why don’t you just pay someone a dollar per bag to dispose of it?) Virtually everything is recyclable, so I think zero is a good number to shoot for.

    I think this would be a very fitting compliment to your lifestyle.

    • Mr. Money Mustache June 3, 2014, 10:49 pm

      Nice ideas, Bob! Just wanted to throw in that a good clothes washer only uses 15 gallons per load these days.. even less for a small load since it automatically senses the need. Not important in the Ozarks, but here in the Western deserts a very necessary upgrade.

  • kathryn August 21, 2014, 7:25 am

    Here in my town in Nova Scotia, they increased the garbage dump rates to compensate for the lost revenue, when people started to recycle more. Great incentive !

  • Michele November 6, 2014, 5:14 pm

    My neighbor had what I think is a genius idea: People on any given street should put their trash bins out all on the same side of the street, so the garbage truck only has to go down that street once. How easy is that?! No doubt it would save cities across the nation millions of dollars yearly in time and labor. Not to mention, cutting in half the amount of times we have to hear those screeching truck brakes.

    • CheerfulAdventurer November 7, 2014, 4:28 am

      And alternate the appointed side every year, to remain just. Otherwise it would really funnily affect the local real estate & rental market. :-)

  • Lil January 17, 2015, 7:21 pm

    There’s another blog that’s dedicated to zero trash living! http://www.trashisfortossers.com
    I’m tempted to try the baking soda instead of using toothpaste. There’s other great tips that I’m going to try out too.

  • Ekr January 21, 2015, 1:22 pm

    Styrofoam recycling:
    UPS will accept and re-use styrofoam in my area. Check if your location accepts it.
    I cleaned out a closet, and had enough useless styrofoam that would fill a 96 gallon container. I took it to UPS and they were happy to get it. They also took some of that foam stuff too.

    I was hiking a rugged part of the west coast in Olympics one summer, it was so beautiful. And along this one gorgeous stretch of beach, was just tons and tons of styrofoam washed up on the beach. It was so ugly and sad. That stuff is nasty to the Earth.

    • J.H. February 1, 2021, 10:40 pm

      Seeing garbage on beaches breaks my heart. I’ve actually gathered tons of it on vacation, planning to smuggle it home and recycle it there, but the cleaning woman found it and threw it out. :(

  • David August 3, 2015, 2:30 pm

    Did anything come of the letter to the city?

  • Ryan August 24, 2015, 1:09 pm

    For bacon grease, I put mine into the fire pit and use as an awesome fire starter. Smells great and helps get even damp wood to start right up!

  • Kev November 24, 2015, 9:20 pm

    Hilarious!…people getting feisty over hankies. I guess my mustache shows when our family of 7 uses our cute little “tooshy towels”, double cotton flannel squares that my bride sewed for us. We just toss our collection in the washer with the cloth diapers. The toilet paper manufacturers have got people brainwashed that there’s no other way. Ha!

  • Louis K March 14, 2016, 6:43 pm

    Some of those 15 ton garbage trucks are now switching over to hydraulic drives which recoup braking energy by pressurizing a tank of fluid, and then reuse that pressurized tank to accelerate again. It makes them ~ 60% more efficient because they expend the majority of their energy braking and accelerating and braking again. Unfortunately they don’t make these for bicycles yet.

  • Kat M September 23, 2016, 9:48 am

    My husband & I have started at the beginning of the list and are reading our way toward Mustachianism. Getting there! I wanted to tell you about this fantastic policy I came across when I house-swapped in Belgium a few years ago. Over there, you have to buy your garbage bags from the city or sanitation dept. They’re thin and slightly see-through, for a very good reason. Black bags could hold anything but they cost the most per bag. Other colors were used for glass, aluminum, plastic, or steel. Cheaper, but they were very careful to check and make sure you didn’t hide rogue “black bag” items in the cheaper bags. As annoying and micro-managing as it seemed while I was there, I now recognize what a benefit such a system would be in the US. Could you imagine how much LESS people would throw away if they had to PAY for each bag of trash they produced?? Well… the potential is there. I imagine that American ingenuity would lead some to just dump their garbage into the nearest ravine. But if manufacturing and marketing caught on and quit packaging things to withstand Armageddon, maybe such a shift in garbage disposal could work!

  • Gringo in Rio January 2, 2017, 7:16 am

    I’d love to see a new social media trend where people “#trashshame their neighbors, posting pics of their overflowing trash cans on the curb in front of their houses.

    • Lady Fordragon January 3, 2017, 2:14 pm

      I would totally be down for that since I invariably see such sights around my own neighborhood almost on a weekly basis come trash day.

  • Lady Fordragon January 3, 2017, 2:12 pm

    At the end of August 2016, my husband and I stopped our garbage pickup service since we were only putting out our 96 gallon can about once every 3-4 months (similar to MMM) when it was full or close to being full. Now we have a deal with one of our neighbors where we pay them about 1/3 of the cost and we can put our small amount of trash into their trash can when needed. It’s a win-win for all! :)

  • Last Ditch Laura March 27, 2019, 10:17 am

    We are pretty advanced when it comes to this. A couple of ideas that might help some people: every room where you normally would keep a trash can should instead have a small compost container, for catching things like hair, nail clippings, floor sweepings, banana peels, etc. We do not even have a trash can in our kitchen, just recycling and compost. As for construction debris, when we pulled out floor tile, we put it (broken pieces and all) on Craigslist, and we had two customers: one person was able to use the pieces that came off whole or nearly whole for tiling a mud room; the other, an artist, needed ceramic tile (even broken) for a project; with this, we were able to cut down on our construction debris to a large extent. People on Craigslist will take all kinds of things you’d never guess, so I like to give all kinds of things a whirl.


Leave a Reply

To keep things non-promotional, please use a real name or nickname
(not Blogger @ My Blog Name)

The most useful comments are those written with the goal of learning from or helping out other readers – after reading the whole article and all the earlier comments. Complaints and insults generally won’t make the cut here, but by all means write them on your own blog!


welcome new readers

Take a look around. If you think you are hardcore enough to handle Maximum Mustache, feel free to start at the first article and read your way up to the present using the links at the bottom of each article.

For more casual sampling, have a look at this complete list of all posts since the beginning of time or download the mobile app. Go ahead and click on any titles that intrigue you, and I hope to see you around here more often.

Love, Mr. Money Mustache

latest tweets