Birthdays and Garbage

by Katy on January 4, 2009 · 20 comments


Garbage Can

Today is my 41st birthday, but more exciting and importantly — tomorrow is our monthly garbage pickup. I had written here about how we went from the weekly garbage pickup to a monthly 20 gallon service. This change not only saves us $5 per month, but it also makes the annoying task of garbage day a monthly irritation instead of weekly.

It’s a win-win situation.

We had a huge snowstorm over Christmas that lasted for close to two weeks. This meant that there was one week without garbage service. This was difficult for many of my neighbors. They apparently didn’t get the message, and put their garbage out despite the obvious un-drivability of our street.

A walk down my beautiful snowy street meant a vista of garbage cans, overflowing with household waste. 

Not exactly a Currier and Ives look.

My family of four has monthly 20 gallon pickup, and the neighbors have weekly 32 gallon service, yet they couldn’t get through that single week without their garbage collection.

Portland has a very simple curbside recycling program with huge rollable carts that can easily go a couple weeks before needing to be emptied. So it’s really quite simple to not produce too much garbage.

Luckily, the snow is behind us, (despite a few frightening flakes that fell this evening.) so there will be garbage pickup tomorrow. My can is waiting patiently at the curb, 3/4 full, all the ready for its monthly collection.

And oh yeah . . . it’s my birthday. (And my husband made a super delicious smelling shrimp dinner and a chocolate cake.)

Have you decreased your garbage output? (It’s an easy way to save money while simplifying your life.) Tell us about your garbage in the comments section below.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

{ 20 comments… read them below or add one }

Susan Lee January 4, 2009 at 8:09 pm

I have found a great way to reduce garbage, aside from recycling everything from cereal boxes, junk mail, etc. Composting!! I just started my compost pile behind my property and have reduced my garbage to the curb considerably!! All food scraps (aside from meat and dairy), peelings, rinds, coffee grounds, all yard waste (we don’t treat our lawn) and leaves go in the pile! Problem solved.


carocoknits January 4, 2009 at 8:23 pm

We live in a very rural town of approximately 650 people, so there is no garbage pickup. I have to take the garbage to the transfer station myself. I have always figured that if I need to actually deal with the garbage myself, I might as well deal with it properly (composting, recycling, donating, etc.) It has been brutally cold here, I hadn’t gone to the dump for over six weeks, and the dump guy couldn’t believe that I had so little garbage, especially after Christmas. I am so proud! For us, the bottom line is that if we don’t go shopping, we don’t have a lot of garbage.


FruWiki Meg January 4, 2009 at 8:35 pm

Ugh! I hate looking around the neighborhood on garbage day — especially after Christmas. Even on a normal week there are plenty huge garbage cans that won’t close. And that’s usually beside recycling bins that are also overflowing! It should probably be no surprise that a lot of garbage doesn’t make it from can to truck and gets strewn across neighborhood lawns, including ours. I’d be embarrassed to put so much garbage on public display!

As for us, we’re one of only several households that we’ve spotted in the neighborhood area that use the smallest garbage can available from the city. Even with my husband and I, our roommate, her child here ever other week, and her boyfriend visiting every other, we can still miss the occasional garbage day. When our roommate moves out, we’ll do a lot better, no doubt.


Heather January 5, 2009 at 12:45 am

We are a family of three and live in a townhouse, with a tiny courtyard..

Before we downsized, we had a huge garden so we used to have a big compost bin. We composted everything we could, and our garden blossomed from the compost, but now with a tiny courtyard ( about 8 square metres tops, we don’t have the room for one.

So, we are keen to hear suggestions as to how to compost in a tiny courtyard, as I want to compost, I am currently using my courtyard to air dry my clothes on the clothes line to avoid using the clothes dryer (which takes up most the courtyard).


Mrs Green January 5, 2009 at 1:42 am

Hi Katy, Happy Birthday!

We had a momentous occasion last week! We put our bin out LOL! The first time in almost six months. We decided to put it out at the beginning on 2009 and see if we can get through to the end of this year without putting it out at all.

Have a wonderful day,
Mrs G x


Jan January 5, 2009 at 2:55 am

Happy Birthday! I hope you enjoyed your day!

I am looking into making my own worm bin so we can reduce our household waste that makes it to the landfill. We do actively participate in the county’s recycling program & those bins are always overflowing. I have also dedicated my blog (and my scrapbooking) to Green Scrapping this year, so I’m even reducing what goes into the recycling bin!

Heather – it sounds like we live in similar townhomes, so there are worm bins you can make yourself or buy, and then use the fertilizer around the perimeter of your townhome. We fixed ours up alot & have added alot of landscaping for privacy, so I definitely need the fertilizer!


Wendy January 5, 2009 at 6:34 am

Happy Birthday Katy!

Before our family of five (& two cats) decided to consciously cut back on our consumption, we would put out no less than four trash cans weekly. Proudly we have been able to reduce our trash output to one full can each week. Luckily I finally made the connection, as carocoknits pointed out, “For us, the bottom line is that if we don’t go shopping, we don’t have a lot of garbage.” Mrs. Green sets an excellent standard which one day I hope to achieve. No doubt, this is a process.


esther January 5, 2009 at 7:45 am

Hey, happy birthday (one day late, sorry) you have the same birtdate as my oldest son (9 years now) and yes, I am definatly planning on making less waste en throwing less food!! thank you so much for all your helpful ideas, since we do have to cut back on a lot of things, the beginning of this year, which means changing lots of habits, and I find lots of ideas here!!!


Martha January 5, 2009 at 9:06 am

Happy birthday!

We are a family of 4 and we share garbage service with our neighbor (who lives alone)…between the 2 households, we sometimes have a full can each week, but usually a partial can. She pays the garbage and she is on our internet network so we pay internet. Life is good. I can’t really figure out why and how people generate so much trash each week.


Marj January 5, 2009 at 9:41 am

Hapy Birthday Katy, blessings upon you.
Our small town of under 300 just started recycling with cardboard. If that goes well, its on to other things. It is difficult to find uses for glass jars until the trip to the BIG town. We hope to start a compost pile this spring although we don’t have much waste at this time.


Amy January 5, 2009 at 9:47 am

Happy Birthday!

I just love your blog. We’ve just moved to Southern California from W. Oregon (a crazy idea which I’m not sure is going to work out…) There are curb-side recycling bins here but only the basics are allowed: paper, cans, glass. No plastics other than milk jugs/#2s. Eeek!! I can’t bear throwing #5s and #1s in the trash. All the more reason to purchase in bulk!


Christy January 5, 2009 at 11:07 am

Jan and Heather, please do try worm composting. I have been doing it for almost a year now. I simply used rubbermaid totes for my worm bins. (Don’t for get to drill some air holes!) I have a 14 gallon bin in my pantry and a 3 gallon bin under my sink. If it is a healthy bin, it will not smell. Visitors are surprised to find out our bins are in the house. The 3 gallon bin is my 2nd grader’s bin. She enjoys caring for them. Worms make the perfect pet. They are quiet, free to feed since you feed them your food scapes and paper, and their poop doesn’t stink! The castings (poop) are great fertilizer.


marianne January 5, 2009 at 11:43 am

we have to pay for garbage pick up in our town but recycling is free so many people in our town choose to recycle all they can. for us it breaks down to:
-all kitchen scraps (minus meat and dairy)
-shavings from animal cage
-dirt and fur from vaccuum
-get the leftover dairy
-get the left over meat
-all paper (even inbetween paper packaging
-anything else recyclable
hmmmmm, thats tough. i guess dental floss, qtips, dryer sheets, kitty litter, and on occasion anything so gunked up it can’t be recycled.
we have reduced our trash considerably by making our meals instead of buying prepackaged items or takeout/delivery.


Magdalena January 5, 2009 at 12:19 pm

We used to have very, very little trash, and never had to put trash out because we bought mostly paper wrappers which got burned and composted the food waste (and the leftovers usually went to the dogs if not compostable.) We bought almost nothing except food and used our own grocery bags. But now with a combined household, and the habits of others, we are putting out two cans a week. I am trying to be patient about it, but the youngies are still shoppers, snackers and worst of all, don’t recycle at all! I asked if they knew who Al Gore is, and all one remembered about him is that he used a scissor lift in his movie! So we’re trying to teach by example.


Jeanine January 5, 2009 at 3:18 pm

I’d love to read some ideas on this subject.

I have a family of 4, and it’s not a pretty sight if we miss a week.

I look at the garbage from just last week……just from memory…..

3 Gallons Milk Containers

8 of those styrofoam plate things that meat come on

6 2 liters….Mostly ginger ale…upset tummies/holiday punch

3rolls from bathroom tissue

2 paper towel rollers

Soap paper from 3 bars

Shampoo and Conditioner bottles…..2 of each

Foil from cooking…

All the boxes/cans from whatever dinners had side items…..

Produce…cabbage leaves, orange peels.

1 empty box of laundry powder
1 can of bleach

Note: there is no recycling in my town….only a bin for cans (drinks)

I rent my home so there’s nowhere to compost….

Any ideas?


TryinginToronto January 5, 2009 at 9:01 pm

I live in Toronto, which has great recycling and green bin programs. The green bin takes all food scraps (including meats) and other (surprising) items, like used tissues, wax ice cream boxes, kitty litter and disposable diapers (!).

The recycling bin is collected every 2 weeks and we usually can only fill it after 4 weeks (hub, me and 2 little guys). Our garbage is a small can collected every two weeks, and we usually do (loosely) fill that (I’m working on it). The green bin is collected weekly. Once we shifted to cloth diapers, we couldn’t fill it. Also, we started a garden compost last summer and now have almost nothing to put in the green bin (mostly it’s cat litter).

About compost, we have a very small downtown urban yard and bought a big black plastic compost bin. It’s between our garage and a tree and not that visible. We throw almost all of our food waste on it (we eat almost all veggie). There’s probably a way to DIY a similar compost but we don’t know what it is and being in a densely populated part of the city, we needed something contained, not stinky, and that could withstand a slew of seriously inventive raccoons.


Amy January 6, 2009 at 10:40 am


You might offer your household compost-waste to friends who have a backyard space and are gardening-minded. Or you could set up a lidded worm bin under your kitchen sink (less smell then, say, a kitty litter box). But worms can only chew through so much. Perhaps there is a community garden in your town that could use the waste?


Jeanine January 7, 2009 at 8:10 am

I wish……

My town is about 2k people and community garden?


We >just< got a garbage contract so we don’t have to haul things to the dump. Because we didn’t have a truck to haul it, we just burned the trash….

I know…I know….(hangs head in shame)

I will research this worm thing though….it sounds like something that easy and my girls can help with it also.


tammy January 7, 2009 at 3:50 pm

Happy Birthday Katy!
About that garbage reduction thing-
I reuse pasta and cereal boxes as mailers.
I cut down one side with scissors
And flip the box inside out, so the outside is the brown inside of the box
I tape or glue together to make a perfect mailer for cds and dvds….

Enjoy that wonderful dinner!


Pat January 7, 2009 at 4:04 pm

I too am amazed at the amount of garbage that my neighbors put out every week. We are a family of 4 who have a 20 gallon can (smallest on the block!) which we have yet to fill. It costs $5 per week if you put out your can or not. I asked the garbage service about monthly or bi-weekly service (they don’t do either) but they would take our single bag for only $2.50 if I would haul it to their center. So my trash bill has gone from $20 month down to $2.50 month! I’m pretty pleased. We do compost and recycle an incredible amount too. Plus our chicken flock helps get rid of the uncompostable stuff.


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