December 01, 2011

Frustrating yearly tally, cheered up by Solar

Yep! By the look of the blog, you’ve guessed it! We are getting solar!

Solar has been on our wish list for years but with Scott quitting his job in 2008 to take on a sustainability start-up, our financial priorities have laid elsewhere (mostly survival and mortgage) and our dream put on the back burner. But the incredible cumulative savings that this lifestyle offers, has finally afforded us a solar installation! And I am so excited about it.

It comes at a perfect time in our ZeroWaste journey.

I looked at our yearly landfill tally last month and realized that we hit a plateau. Compared with the previous year, our solid waste reduction is no longer dramatically getting smaller – and thankfully, not getting bigger either ;). There are things we simply cannot refuse, reduce, or find used. There are things that create waste simply from maintaining a house and tending our bodies.

Our tally this past year (Oct 2010-Oct 2011), comprised of:

  • State Farm car insurance cards (laminated paper).
  • Five tiny paint rollers and masking tape from a fall paint project (stripes in living room)
  • An 5-year old plastic toothbrush that I have used/worn-out for cleaning grout.
  • Packaging of home repair/ electrical items
  • Plastic cork wrapper of some wine bottles
  • Photo (from a birthday party invitation)
  • Backing of postal stamps
  • Plastic sealers from Scott's contact lens solution
  • Couple of itchy clothes tags
  • Plastic tie from a pair of shoes
  • Plastic hanging straps from a dress
  • Plastic casing from Romex wire used in an electrical repair
  • Scotch tape bits
  • Plastic"size" strip from a new pair of jeans
  • Plastic warning tag from an electrical cord
  • Plastic wrap from a friend's leftover dish (could not refuse her generous lasagna gift, am weak!)
  • Plastic price tag ties from clothes
  • Some fruit stickers (from occasionally missing the farmer's market, where I can avoid them)
  • Few bubble gums from guests
  • Tiny other things that do not really have names ;) The bulk of it being soft plastics from home maintenance.
As with our previous tally (which Sunset took away in October last year), the jar obviously does not include the "active discards" of the few things that I have sent back to manufacturers with a suggestion letter, or the occasional candy wrappers (including 10 from last year's Halloween) that people have given our kids and I have sent to Terra Cycle (TerraCycle, Inc, Attn: Candy Wrapper Brigade, 121 New York Ave, Trenton, NJ 08638).

Apart from State Farm insurance cards (who have switched to cardboard cards since our last complaint!), much of our waste is recurrent and will undoubtedly recur. As we all know Zero Waste today is not technically feasible, and I can say that my family is definitely stuck on this plateau. Plateauing is a natural part of the process, I guess. But energy efficient transportation and solar offer ways of improving other types of waste and provide me with much continued waste reduction satisfaction! 😉

We had heard that solar had dramatically dropped in price, and so with our finances in recovery, we took estimates from two different providers last month. Both considered our current and future energy consumption, our finances and space available for the panels. One of them repeatedly mentioned the “free” included Ipad2 as a sales pitch, the other offered a better financial deal given our parameters. Guess which one we chose? Refuse, Refuse, Refuse. Shopping is voting. And I love it when my refusal is rewarded by financial savings from choosing the opposing option.

We are just in the beginning phases (I found out that solar is not an overnight installation), but I already dream of eliminating TP!