Stealing Trash – A New High

Waste is rampant in America. It’s a problem, I believe, of abundance coupled with busy-ness, resulting in big, big piles of trash. One day, we may be mining those landfills; natural resources are being used up faster than they can replenish.

Some people are trash renegades. They not only do their part, but they go the extra mile. On WordPress, I’ve met a few of these.

Jennifer at MilitaryZeroWaste shared about taking her own container to pick up fresh sushi from the grocery.  What a novel idea.  Jennifer’s my kinda gal.  Unlike her though, I’m not shy or embarrassed to ask for something, so I tried it straight away.  The initial look from the sushi chef made me laugh, but now she knows me – and why I’m doing it – and routinely complies.   All I had to do was ask.  She takes my gently-used plastic containers and my order, fills it while I shop, and hands my containers (properly labeled for checkout) back with a kind “Thank you.”  “Xie Xie.” I tell her in return, for not having to throw something away – especially #6’s which is difficult to recycle.  And, of course, for the really, really fresh sushi to take home.

Jean-François at 222MillionTons is all about reduction of food waste. His recent post piqued my own growing interest in soy milk makers. Sure, I’ve seen how to make nut milks (and their by-products) but it sure looked like a lot of work.  Having an appliance take the time (of standing over a boiling pot) out of it seemed worth the cost, so I bought one (SoyaJoy G3 $109, Tofu Kit $25, Amazon).  In only a couple of weeks – and six batches of organic soy milk ($24), two of organic almond milk ($8), two vegan cheesecakes ($20), one key-lime pie ($8), and one 16-oz. cake of tofu ($10) under my belt – it’s quite easy to appreciate the cost savings.  Jean-François has not only helped my budget and food choices, he’s also helped reduce our consumption of aseptic containers.  That was a total bonus.

Me? I’m a dirt and trash Nazi girl, first and foremost.  And I don’t particularly care what other people think about it – it’s just who I am.

Sometimes, dirt and trash go together.  An acre and a half of property makes a lot of organic matter for my growing garden, but it’s still not enough to supply what I need.  In a neighborhood of big properties, very busy people with yard crews to do all their work, countless bags of leaves and grass clippings are regularly left for the landfill.  Such a shame.  And a waste.

Twice a week, I fight the urge to load every tempestuous clear bag into the back of my van, my dignity (yes, I do have some) keeping me in check.  This is a very nice neighborhood.  What would my neighbors think?  Of me?  In a crappy van?  Stealing their trash?

Walking the kids to the bus stop this morning, I hit a new low.   Well, hello there clean, clear bags of trash right across the street.  You’re looking awfully lonely over there.

Trash is theirs…

Now I know these are bags of leaves and shrub clippings ready for the stealing sneaking.  Not only can I see what’s in there through the clear plastic, I witnessed her yard crew from my swing yesterday raking it all up to put to the curb.  (And I’ll bet she paid them an extra to do that.)  Why they use clear bags is a mystery – anything on the curb goes directly to the local Class I Type I landfill with all the other trash.

She doesn’t know what I know, how valuable this stuff is.  Those leaves and twigs are little pieces of sunlight, nitrogen and carbon, broken up in bite-sized chunks for the soil microbes to feast upon.

gasp  I hear the trash truck.  I hope the neighbors have already left for work.

I must be quick stealth…

Trash is MINE.

Shh, my sweet blogging family.

I know my dirty little secret is safe with you.

* * *

What have you done for the environment that you’re not so proud of?

How do you best manage the trash that flows in and out of your household?
What do you do with yard and organic debris?

44 thoughts on “Stealing Trash – A New High

  1. I have a fantasy of living in a housing addition where the whole neighborhood is required to compost, has a place to compost, recyle, and neighborhood solar panels that power the whole neighborhood. For now I’m satisfied to know that there are gorilla gardners putting to use those curbside treasures. I also will repurpose stuff I find on the curb, and lately I’ve been taking the neighbor’s trash from their remodeling projects and delivering them to our local eco-store, which is like a thrift shop for used or leftover construction materials.


    1. You and I share the same fantasy! I also dream of a large space that can be made into a community garden where families and kids meet regularly to get hands dirty together. It would be my mud pie utopia.

      I say we can turn that fantasy into reality. Welcome to DirtNKids! 🙂


    1. It’s a pleasure having you drop in! This was only the beginning. There is a pingback above on a later post that will show you what it is I do with all that green and brown. Today, I start up the chipper to manage a rather large pile of twigs and cuttings that have collected over the months. Fall cleanup is now fully underway!


  2. Reblogged this on People Excited About Co~Existence and commented:
    Shannon is another blogger whose brilliance, wit and photography have stolen my reader’s heart! Here’s an especially clever post about what we can do to help keep waste out of landfills. She asks us, “What do you do with your garden waste?” Well Shannon, I compost most but save branches for crafts or as kindling in our backyard firepit. And I too have done what you did here! Thanks for all your wonderful blogging adventures. DirtNKids is true joy to visit! Cheers! Gina


    1. Wow, Gina! Thanks for the kind words here! I’m honored to steal trash to fancy the likes of you and your readership. Just wait until I’m taking it from a dumpster. That’s coming up, I promise you!

      You are my kinda people, girlfriend. 🙂


    2. Hey Gina, I don’t know if you’ll get this, but you might want to enter for my free DVD giveaway (if you missed the post). “Dirt! The Movie” is right up your alley! I know you’re in Canada, so that technically leaves you out, but I would be willing to make a concession for a favorite blogger. Cheers!


  3. Loving this post and your commenters Shannon. Not only do I really want a bean/nut milk maker AND a tofu maker (I have been thinking about it since Jean-Francois’ post), but it makes me realise how grateful I am that we have quite progressive curb-side recycling in my little pocket of the UK. Our household waste is only collected twice a month. Yes, twice a month – in a local government-provided wheelie bin whose size is dictated by the size of your household. And our garden waste is collected twice a month and composted for use in municipal gardens and our equivalent of CSAs (allotments). Excess is sold to other areas and the monies put into the city coffers. Our food waste is collected and composted once a week, and we have free home-composting bins too. You have to have a special permit to take extra waste to landfill. It has been tough for a lot of people but attitudes have changed radically and there are very few hold-outs. And almost no ‘fly-tipping’. I do think what Jean-Francois says about clear bags is very interesting (he is always great at seeing the positive), but we should encourage more schemes like my local government’s. It has been wonderful to see peoples’ attitudes to waste change. PS Love the sushi container protocol! Wish my supermarket had a fresh sushi counter to try this ;D


    1. We (at least in Texas, probably in America) are very much behind European countries when it comes to trash management. Bin size? Based on the size of a household? Here, that would be epic!! Like carry-on luggage on an airliner. I would so win out on that deal.

      The sushi container thing was brilliant! Wish I’d thought of it. And yes, clear bags lends a nice honesty, but that only works when everyone else cares to begin with (here, apparently, they don’t).

      Thanks for stopping by, Kellie. And for your insightful comments! I’m a bit behind on my blog-reads and writes…GreensForGood deserves some attention too.

      PS – I think I might be a bit in love my soymilk / tofu makers. 🙂


  4. Very inspiring post, Shannon! In the fall, we have a truck (yes, with its emissions and all) come around and suck up the leaves from everyone’s curb who participates and then compost them. I’m not sure how it evens out with adding more trucks to the road but it’s going somewhere useful.


    1. No fair with your leaf-sucking trucks! I mean, if they’re driving by anyway, why NOT use them? If you’re not going to use it in your own yard, makes sense to use it somewhere else – like for supplementing FOOD plants.

      I’m less and less happy about our city’s trash services. I need to start sulking more in the vicinity of our mayor, or someone who can actually make some change happen. Somehow, I think I’m the only one here who really “cares” about the trash situation.


      1. I’m sure you’re not alone. It just feels like it. It kills me the people who go to the trouble of bagging their leaves every fall. They’ll have three dozen bags in front of their house. How easy is it to just rake your leaves to the curb? Love it!


  5. Good for you for claiming that gardening gold! I’ve been known to take trash off someone’s curb, but I admit to feeling weird about it. We don’t rake leaves where I live, but we’re in the middle of nowhere, so I don’t have to worry about offending the neighbors. All I do is rake them off the deck and patio and wheelbarrow them into the trees.

    I have a dehumidifier running in the basement all the time and, when it’s full, I take the bucket out and use it to water my outdoor potted plants.

    You’re an inspiration!


    1. If we each do our part, changes can be huge! Offending the neighbors – something I’ve apparently gotten very good at these days. Thanks for popping by, Peg. Always good to have you here. 🙂


  6. I love it! You are such a rebel, Shannon. You are right up there with my sister-in-law who famously lobbed a wasteful phone book left on her doorstep back into the phone book delivery truck, knocking down and spilling the poor driver’s Big Gulp in the process.

    It isn’t easy walking the righteous path 🙂

    This post was perfect for you! I think you need to write another one on your veganism. I’m impressed/fascinated by this lifestyle.


    1. Your SIL and I need to exchange stories! That is just awesome. I would totally do something like that, only with me, it would get me in trouble (usually does).

      The post on veganism…working on that one. There is just too much to put in one post and I’m having a hard time carving it up. That plus I’m truly limited on time these days. What a wonderful experience it’s been! A whole new world has opened up. I’ve met some awesome vegan bloggers and tried some great recipes (thanks for the lentil soup one!).

      On being a rebel, you made me think of Pee-Wee – again. “You don’t want to get mixed up with a gal like me. I’m a loner, a rebel…” *laughing like Pee-Wee* Now I’m laughing at myself. Here’s the video. Have a great morning!


      1. On the phone book delivery guy: she said she actually was going to take the keys out of his ignition and throw them in the grass. How mean! Poor guy, just trying to earn a buck. But then she had a moment of compassion and chucked the phone book into his open window instead. I don’t know that she intended to knock over his Big Gulp. But she seemed pleased with that result.

        My sister-in-law and you have much in common. She used to be vegan until she got pregnant 10 years ago. She’s been a vegetarian for over 20 years.

        I LOVE that Pee-Wee scene!


      2. The really hard thing, Peg, was learning NOT to embed the video.  (All I did there was just copy and paste the link.)  Once I learned the trick, I no longer have to sabotage someone’s post comments with an in-your-face video.  I’d say that this is slightly more subtle.  It’s another Pee-Wee video.  I love him.  *tee hee*


  7. He he – good for you sneaking the garden waste. In answer to your question, it is easier here as you can sign up for a special garden waste bin so any excess that you can’t use is taken off and composted elsewhere. Not into landfill. There’s another bin for recycling and a third for general waste. That last one does go into landfill though. Also, we have food bins for food waste, including non-compostable waste such as meat scraps. Separate collections for all four.


    1. So lucky for you. Seeing your comment and others, I’m a bit mad at our paid-for service. I mean, if I have to haul my own trash (recyclables) AND pay $250/year for trash pick-up, something is seriously wrong! HOA meeting is this week; perhaps I’ll stand up and say something. I’m betting I’ll be the lone trash wacko…


  8. Great post – though I can’t promise that your secret is safe with me. Certain thefts need to be celebrated and emulated, or our attitudes toward waste and waste management will never change. You’ve also got me wondering if something as simple as clear garbage bags could help drive the right behaviours .

    In Japan, all garbage must be in bags sold by the municipality (available in local supermarkets), and those bags are clear – a solution that has an elegant wisdom to it. The bags are expensive because their cost funds the waste disposal system – a simple way to ensure that everyone pays for their share of the service. And the clear bags are there so that the garbage collectors can see if you are following the rules (because if you aren’t, they don’t pick it up). It also means that your neighbours see what you throw away (early on, one neighbour pinned an English version of the rules to one non-compliant bag, which was welcome education).

    Now that I think of it, clear bags are a great idea on many other levels. Not only do they facilitate salvaging garbage that is not garbage (like the leaves and grass you rescued from landfill), but they also facilitate the kind of prying nosiness that could force people to be more thoughtful about what they throw away. Hey, I’m all for privacy in some contexts, but openness does have the distinct advantage of encouraging people to behave according to norms.


    1. Secret? Not anymore! I saw the ping-back. And thanks. 🙂

      Reading comments like yours (and others here) make it painfully obvious how lacking our trash pick-up service is here. I’ve become used to making my drop every other week or so – whenever I’m scheduled for something else that drives me past the bins – and letting it sit in the garage as long as need be. At least “clean” trash doesn’t stink. But it is bulky as heck.

      I think I’m just going to start loading up clear bags as I see them. Dang all convention – I have a habit that needs to be scratched. I don’t think I’d go as far as Jennifer, though. She’s some kind of renegade!!


  9. Great post, Shannon. Ann and I try to do our little part here, too. Our city doesn’t have any ‘organized’ recycling program. About you doing your ‘stealth’ work, mum’s the word. I’ll never tell. 🙂


    1. Recycling is tricky. There’s a good reason why “Reduce” and “Reuse” come before it in the three R’s. Aside from aluminum, glass, and newsprint, all of the recycling processes are quite energy-intensive, sometimes to the point of being more costly (in energy dollars) than making a new product from scratch. Alas, I think it must get catastrophic before our nation truly catches on.

      Thanks for stopping by, Bob. Somehow, I knew you could be trusted to not turn me in. 🙂


  10. Trying to reduce our trash, and our grocery bill, leads me to do as much from scratch as possable. If Im only buying the very basic ingredients then I’m not throwing away a bunch of containers and plastic wrappers. And to help reduce even more, I was promised a goat next spring so there is our milk and cheese! 🙂
    I wish I could have seen you sneaking those bags! 🙂


    1. The further down you go on the “food and processing chain,” the less energy and waste is built into a food. With as many kids as you have, making your own soy/nut milk would save you in $$ and trips to town (and way healthier than cow’s milk). I say, worth the investment.

      Don’t make me jealous, Montana. You already have my chickens; I would so LOVE to have a goat! My neighbors might actually dislike me even more for that, though, than stealing trash. Chickens and goats, at our next home, with more land, and more trees…


  11. I adore you more and more with every post I read! I could learn a few renegade tips from you! Oh and the soymilk maker, seriously considering the investment, I hate the aseptic containers, but making soy milk from scratch seems far too daunting a task!


    1. Pishaw! Not daunting at all. Check out the comment below yours where I posted a video for making soy/nut milk stove top, which (if you’re already in the kitchen cooking something else anyway) doesn’t seem like much of a chore. I don’t like to linger in my kitchen more than I have to.

      *cat hissing* That’s what I think about aseptic containers. They fill my TRASH CAN. Be sure to read my post on them – you’ll like them even less.


  12. I LOVE this! LOL! For some reason our city doesn’t require that yard waste be put into plastic bags. They just come by in this big truck and scoop it all up—without leaving any scars in the yard. I’m always so impressed by this. Kudos to them.

    So, I keep empty, reused yard waste bags in my trunk from the last city we lived in and whenever I’m on my way back from somewhere and spot perfect leaves or freshly mowed grass, I pull over on the side of the road and scoop in the leaves or grass with my hands. I do try and do it at night, though I’m sure the neighborhood already knows me! Our compost bin has been well fed this year because of it. Keep your eyes open and you’d be surprised by the amount of people doing it. All gardeners of course! Welcome to the club!!

    I appreciate the write-up. That was so kind. Little by little I’m learning to be brave. I’m so brave in some areas of my life but then in others, I’m such a chicken! This blog has really helped with that. When I read about others doing the same thing, it gives me all kinds of courage. A big thank you Shannon for helping me tremendously to be brave!
    I was just talking to the hubby last night about the soy milk maker. We’ve been buying it and they don’t recycle the containers here so I really limit how much I buy. But if I could make it myself…..and that is one thing I would have never considered. Making my own soy milk. God, I love these blogs!


    1. For me, the WORST is paying for a thing and not using it (here, it’s $250/yr). Trash fees are mandatory, whether I put anything to the curb or not (I don’t). We do recycle, however, but our paid-for service does not even provide for it. I simply drop it all off whenever I drive by the drop-off center.

      I’m so glad to hear you are already doing this!! Now I love you even more. 🙂

      About soy milk, I for one don’t like being bothered to “watch a pot boil” so the soymilk maker is fabulous. As long as I remember to soak the beans the night before, it does all the work while I go on about my business: heats the solution, pulverizes it, cooks it to just right, and beeps at me when the whole mess is done. FAB!! I simply pour off into a nice strainer that is shaped to a cylinder container, press the okara a bit, and store them both in my own containers in the fridge. Easy peasy.

      From now on, I will steal trash with more gusto. If I do get in trouble, I’ll tell them Jennifer told me to do it. 🙂


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