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King County EcoConsumer – Zero Waste Earth Day

King County resident profiles – Waste fighter
A visit with… Christina Dudley

[+] EnlargeChristina Dudley: waste fighter

Author and blogger Christina Dudley, an avid waste reducer and recycler, lives in Bellevue. As the Urban Farm Junkie, she is the official blogger of the Bellevue Farmers Market. Thanks Christina for visiting with us, and for everything you do!

Q: What types of waste reduction measures have you taken at home?

A: I find it impossible to get away from packaging and plastic. Despite the measures I've taken, there's still lots of plastic everywhere. We do generally try to avoid unrecyclable plastics like clamshell containers, but even that is tough. Here are my three main waste reduction tips:

  1. BUY LESS. It's almost that simple. Do I really need this thing? Do I really need this thing in all its packaging, shipped from who-knows-where? Can it be bought used, made, or borrowed from someone else? Last Christmas my family had an “edible” or “electronic” theme: it either had to be a food gift that would disappear into your gullet, or something with minimal physical existence - ephemeral like an e-book or gift card. Another year we declared all gifts had to be used, nothing new-in-the-box allowed. My husband and I try to buy our kids experiences instead of objects. I used to think recycling was enough, but after reading a few books about trash, I'm trying to consume less in the first place.

  2. AVOID THE INDIVIDUAL PLASTIC CONTAINERS. They are everywhere. Water bottles (we have awesome water where we live, straight out of the tap), yogurt containers, plastic produce bags, and so on. I bought some reusable mesh produce bags which I love. The net is fine enough to hold everything but powdered foods/spices. I troll the bulk aisle and have learned to make laundry detergent, green cleaners, sour cream, sandwich and artisan bread, and salad dressing, so I can re-use containers I already have. Once I finish the shampoo in my cabinet, I'm switching to a shampoo bar I can buy in bulk. When available, I choose the glass container option.

  3. COOK A LOT. Americans waste lots and lots of food, much of it in non-recyclable or plastic take-out containers. Our family eats out maybe once every month, and other than darned breakfast cereal we don't eat a ton of processed food. Things like Lunchables make me want to scream - crappy food in tons of packaging. When the Bellevue Farmers Market is in season, we can go local and packaging-minimal.

Q: What has worked the best for you?

A: Reducing waste in areas where I have control, and trying to relax about the rest. My husband is from Richland, and you can take the boy out of Eastern Washington, but you can't take the Eastern Washington out of the boy. He'll use canvas shopping bags now and has reduced summer lawn-watering, but I think that's as good as it'll get. In the meantime, I will continue to ferret recyclable and compostable things out of the trash after he's gone through, and sort them myself.  (I also do this at church when I'm in charge of a meal event. Makes a huge difference!)

Q: Do you recycle your food scraps at home?

A: Yep. I do NOT compost. I loathe gardening and yard work, but I'm willing to truck food scraps to the yard waste bin.

Q: Any tips for fellow King County residents?

A: We're fortunate to have great recycling where we live. Why not try downsizing to the smallest possible trash bin and spending five minutes to familiarize yourself with what goes in which bin? Have a special place where you stash recyclables that can only be taken care of on the special recycling days. For bigger things in good condition, consider donations to organizations like Jubilee Heart and Home Center. I've had them come get an entertainment center and a rocking horse, and the Value Village truck comes by every couple months for smaller items like kids' toys and clothing.

(Interview has been condensed and edited)

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Updated: Apr. 11, 2013

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