Wednesday, March 5, 2014

How Garbage Changed My Life

Grocery shopping.
It's one of my favorite things to do.
Although considered a chore to most, I truly enjoy my weekly shopping trips to the store where I restock my inventory of fresh fruits, vegetables and staple pantry items. I weave through the aisles picking out my favorite treats and occasionally stumble upon new gems.

About three years ago, I became more aware of how much packaging goes into everyday items at the store. This awareness was due to the fact that I entered a new career in the packaging industry and was exposed to the background of manufacturing and production. Ironically, I also drove past a garbage facility every morning on my way to the office pleasantly named Monarch Hill. Everyone in town knows this hill and most don't think much about it. Some even consider it a nice addition to the flat landscape of South Florida. One morning on my drive, the pungent odor from the landfill made me think about what this enormous "mountain" was actually made of, GARBAGE. I immediately reflected on my own consumption and daily habits. I didn't recycle, I bought whatever items I needed or wanted without thinking about the packaging and my garbage can was always full. I knew I had to make a change and I wanted to see how much improvement I was making along the way.

Looks can be deceiving.  Mount Trashmore (aka Monarch Hill) continuously releases objectionable odor, high levels of mercury emissions, and threatens to contaminate drinking water.

This led to a simple experiment in which I collected all of my garbage for two weeks (not including compostable waste) to get a visual of what I was actually throwing away without a thought of the environment. My bin filled up quickly and guilt was setting in - cans, bottles, plastic clam shells, paperboard boxes and most of all plastic shopping bags. It was a mess, but I was determined to make a change. What I realized is that I was shopping for convenience which leads to more unnecessary packaging materials AND just about all of it was recyclable! On the final day of my experiment, I vowed to end my old ways by shopping differently and start recycling. I questioned my habits and why I never recycled to begin with. I recall learning about it during my studies, but never put it into practice within my personal life.

The very first thing I did was eliminate the use of plastic grocery bags. I also began to think about what I was buying and why I was buying it. For example, did I really need to buy carrots in a bag or pre-chopped onions? Or, what about those shrink wrapped potatoes?! These items were not only unnecessary for me but they also cost more. It was all finally making sense; I could save money and the environment! My new start on recycling now posed a temporary issue - my community didn't offer a recycling service. I embarked on a mission to find where I could take my items and dispose of them properly. Timing could not have been better; my mother's community began a new program where every house received a large recycling bin that would be picked up once a week. The experiment of collecting my garbage was becoming a daily task. Many of my friends thought it was crazy that I was filling my car trunk and driving across two towns just to drop off my recycled items. Although it may have seemed like a lot of effort for a small cause, it was a big deal to me.

Today, I continue to educate myself and improve my habits daily. I no longer use items such as disposable water bottles, plastic utensils, plastic bags - and I even make my own laundry detergent! My mindset and overall lifestyle has changed for the better and I enjoy continuously sharing and learning new tips for a greener life. What green habits do you practice?

Stephanie Morales is a self-proclaimed 'packaging nerd'. 
Needless to say, she fits right in as the newest team member at EcoEnclose.


  1. Hi Stephanie! I had a quick question about your blog and was wondering if you could you please email me when you get the chance? Thanks - Brian

  2. I've tried to eliminate plastic bags and plastic bottles. I try to limit my drink purchases to 12 oz cans as they recycle 100%. I try to buy food that is 100% consumable no plastic. I compost all waste and rinse and clean all recyclables. I ended my trash pickup and go to the local dump for trash pickup. I compost at home and at the dump. I have about 1 medium can of trash a month.