Way to go Jane! Great interview and articles in the Record this week.
Very inspiring media coverage of Janes family of 6 and how they are working to reduce their footprint.
Here is the article from the Record:
Family of six is leading the way to minimal waste
Theresa McManus, The Record
Published: Wednesday, April 14, 2010
Jane Armstrong has embraced her role as her household’s garbage police.
As the region struggles to find ways of dealing with its waste, individuals could learn a thing or two from the Royal City resident. Armstrong, who shares a home with her husband and four children, generates a minimal amount of garbage and is always seeking ways to further reduce her garbage.
“It is just the right thing to do,” she said. “We can’t continue living the way we are living. The word ‘waste’ implies a real inefficiency in a system.”
Green thinking: Jane Armstrong with a week’s worth of garbage accumulated by her family of six. The family is taking part in a Zero Waste Challenge pilot project in the Glenbrook North neighbourhood.
Armstrong’s household is one of the Glenbrook North residences participating in Metro Vancouver’s Zero Waste Challenge. In preparation for the challenge, Armstrong had to put out her garbage in order to start collecting baseline data for the challenge.
“My bin wasn’t full. It had been seven weeks,” she said. “I could have gone two months. Six times a year, they could be picking up my garbage.”
People often think Armstrong must spend a lot of time managing her garbage, but she said that’s not the case – because there’s little of it to manage. The garbage bin in her kitchen, which is big enough for the week’s garbage, holds a bag that’s as small or smaller than a plastic bag given out at grocery stores.
Armstrong recently showed The Record the household garbage generated by her, her husband and her children aged nine, 13, 18 and 20.
While most of its contents couldn’t be recycled or composted, Armstrong found an orange peel that had been tucked inside a plastic baggie.
“Orange peel, that can be put in the compost,” she said. “There is the plastic baggie that can be recycled.”
Armstrong has created a recycling centre under her kitchen sink, where bins hold compost, paper, soft plastics, blue box, paper and garbage.
“I have labelled everything. You have to make it easy for everyone,” she said. “My biggest piece of advice would be get organized under your sink. Make it easy.”
Armstrong’s “next target” is to encourage her husband to take a reusable coffee cup to the local coffee shop, rather than getting paper cups during each of his java breaks. Because the paper cups have a waxy feel, she isn’t sure about putting them into paper recycling.
“I am pretty aggressive with what I put in recycling,” she noted. “The reason I want to get my recycling down is not everything gets recycled into the same quality thing. Eventually, it can’t be recycled anymore.”
Although recycling is important, reducing is a critical part of the family’s waste reduction efforts.
“That is another step I want to take. I want to reduce my recycling too,” she said. “I don’t want to have all this stuff.”
Sometimes that means having to say no to her children, who may desire items that come in a lot of packaging.
“It is slowly paying attention to what is in your garbage and learning to say no, not to buy things that we don’t need,” Armstrong said.
The family is careful about its purchases and limits the amount of goods with packaging. That may mean making pizza at home, rather than ordering in.
In addition to recycling and considering her family’s consumer choices, Armstrong is an avid composter. Anything from her kitchen that can be composted goes into a separate bin under the kitchen sink.
Armstrong is so keen about composting that she approached nearby Glenbrook Middle School about getting them set up and collecting items for composting. Once a week, she collects items that have been contributed in bins in the staff room and several participating classrooms.
“A lot of people don’t compost. They are learning what it is,” said Armstrong, who showed the students a bucket of finished compost. “It is a valuable resource.”
When she moved into her Glenbrook North home, Armstrong said the front yard had been topped with fill that had nothing living in it. She’s changing that by adding compost to her front yard, where the grass has been replaced by a vegetable garden.
“I am trying to create rich, good soil,” she said. “Now there is all sorts of life. It is living, healthy soil.”
Armstrong said residents will have to get kitchen organics out of their garbage if they’re going to make a big difference in their garbage generation.
“I say, get yourself organized under the kitchen sink,” she said. “Have everything in one place in the kitchen, where most garbage decisions are made.”
Armstrong joined New Westminster Environmental Partners a few months ago, after learning other like-minded folks were meeting to tackle environmental issues in New Westminster.
“It’s been going for many years,” she said of her attempts to reduce waste. “We have been in New Westminster for 18 years. I remember in the mid-1990s when you were able to put out three cans a week.”
Back then, Armstrong wrote to city council saying it was ridiculous for a family to need to put out that much garbage. Even with a little one in diapers, Armstrong said her family wasn’t putting out that much garage.
Before meeting with The Record, Armstrong asked her kids if they thought the family lived a stranger life compared than their friends.
“No it’s just what we do,” she said of their response. “But they do try and sneak in the orange peel.”