Day 33: How it all started. (aka “Thanks Mom”)

Mrs. Green over at My Zero Waste is hosting the Carnival of Trash next week. It is, in part, about inspirational people who are reducing waste and how they are doing it. And it got me thinking about how the Clean Bin Project started. Or rather, how the idea that we could produce less waste first got planted in my head.

Maybe it started with cloth bags.

When I was a kid, my brother and I had these fabric lunch bags that rolled down and velcroed shut. They were exactly the same size and shape as brown paper lunch bags (except that mine was blue). My mom packed our sandwiches in plastic containers, and we carried our fabric bags to school and never knew any other way.

Then someone in my family decided one Christmas that we should stop it with all the needless glitter wrapping paper and plastic bows and have re-usable cloth gift bags instead. So my mother and my aunt and my grandma went out and bought yards of Christmas fabric and sewed up some bags. This was years ago, and the same bags just keep going back and forth between the cousins and the aunts and the uncles. I figure we’ve cut our Christmas wrapping waste by 50%. Bringing them out is actually kind of nostalgic, like hanging the tree ornaments: “Oh, remember this bag – the one with the applique tree? It’s my favorite!”

A couple years ago, my mom made reusable shopping bags as gifts. They are made out of light-weight nylon and have a little pocket that they fold up into. They pack up so small that I can keep mine in my purse or jacket pocket and whip it out when the urge to shop strikes.

Or maybe it started with compost.

My mom has always composted. There is a true family story about how, when we moved, she insisted on bagging her compost and fitting it into the back of the station wagon. She had been cultivating that “black gold” for years and wasn’t about to give it up (you just can’t buy dirt as rich as homemade compost).

And I guess I absorbed that enthusiasm because the whole reason I was excited to have a yard when I finally moved into my own house wasn’t for the BBQ space, it was for the backyard composter.

What I realize now is that it started with a person.

I use cloth bags and compost partly because I was raised that way. Because my mom uses cloth bags and composts and because her mom does the same. These are small things, and they are only two examples, but they contribute in a big way to reducing garbage in the landfill. And seeing one person doing something as part of their daily life makes you realize you can do it too.

That’s a great thing about all those ‘garbloggers’ out there. There is always someone who you can look to for to inspiration. Someone who is living without plastic, who is using cloth diapers, who is down to one trash bin a week, or who is producing zero waste. It makes me realize that there is always more I can be doing.

So although our Clean Bin Project goes way beyond composting and fabric bags, I think the idea for the project started somewhere. I think the proverbial seed was actually planted a long time ago, back when I carried my lunch to school in a blue lunch bag that velcroed closed.

Thanks for the inspiration Mom.

If you are inspired to reduce your waste check out the participate section for easy ways to trim your bin or click on the links to the eco-blogging icons on the right to see what other people are doing.

7 Comments

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7 responses to “Day 33: How it all started. (aka “Thanks Mom”)

  1. Reusable Christmas bags! What an AWESOME idea. Maybe I’ll suggest it to my family and see what they think…🙂

  2. Jen CleanBin

    Let me know how it goes with your christmas bags!

  3. I loved this post. Great to see the links created by one person’s actions.

  4. What a beautiful post. I love the idea about the reusable gift bags and how traditions pass down the family. ;-D

  5. I’m only just getting around to some of the carnival posts. I LOVED this one; I found it a very special and heart warming post. Thank you for sharing it with us🙂

  6. Jen CleanBin

    Thanks for the feedback everyone. I hope you all give the cloth gift bags a go and take some time to thank the people who inspire you to produce less waste.

  7. Alex

    I love the idea of the reusable Christmas bags! I know my dad always would make sure that his gifts were in old newspaper (that was then either used to start the woodstove on cold mornings, or recycled), or in towels and pillowcases.

    I remember walking to the grocery store each weekend with my parents, and then trekking back half a mile uphill with cloth grocery bags filled with all of our groceries for the week. They were definitely tougher than plastic bags, which was plus. There was no chance of these bags breaking, prompting us to scurry blocks and blocks back downhill after rolling groceries!

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