Baby step: the Trash Audit.

Slow living and sustainability go hand-in-hand simply because of the fact that when we bring awareness to how we live and the actions we take, we start to care about their effects and strive to do better with joy.

So your first teeny tiny waste-reduction baby step is awareness. Pay attention to what you throw away with a simple trash audit.
Are you telling me you want me to dumpster-dive through my garbage?
No, not exactly. I’ll explain and you can download my free Trash Audit PDF below to help you along.

The United States tosses more than 258 million tons of municipal solid waste annually. That’s the packaging and various containers, plastics, newspapers, clothes, food waste and whatever else gets tossed into the trashcan and lugged out to the curb or dumpster. That is a number I can’t even fathom, but I know it’s not good.

Let’s see what that giant, scary (and frankly, appalling) number means for the individual. Broken down, I’ve always heard that the average American produces 4.4 pounds of trash per day, and only a small percent of that is recycled. Here’s how to dissect your daily 4.4 pounds.

How to do a Trash Audit

  1. Download the Trash Audit PDF by clicking here, or grab a piece of paper and make your own.
  2. Open your trashcan and just jot down the things you can see at a glance. No need to dig in, just see what you can see.
  3. Stick your audit to your fridge or on the counter near your bin, and for the next few days write down the things you throw away as you go.

That’s it. I’m not asking anything more.

My family conducted our Trash Audit for 1 week, and simply made note of the things we were tossing into the bin. We are a family of 4 (2 adults, one toddler, and one large dog) who consider ourselves fairly “green,” but we were honestly shocked at how much trash — especially plastic — was tossed and then forgotten, magically disappearing out of sight and out of mind as it descended into the dark depths of our trash can (which is also plastic…oops). What was even more shocking though was the amount of obvious solutions that came from bringing awareness to our messes.

If your bin looks anything like ours, we may have some similar discoveries and reach the same obvious solutions.

What we noticed

  • lots of plastic packaging from produce; stop buying produce in plastic.
  • plenty of granola bar packaging; make our own.
  • a plethora of paper towels; use kitchen towels instead.
  • a variety of food scraps; freeze them to make vegetable broth, or compost them.
  • too many plastic bags; freaking remember to bring the reusable grocery bags.

Let me know what you discover during or after auditing your own trash! And honestly, I’m proud of you for wanting to take this step — any step! — towards intention, awareness, responsibility, and living well.

Get the Trash Audit PDF (click here)!

2 Replies to “Baby step: the Trash Audit.”

  1. Ironically I began to compst this week. So I’ve sort of taken an unintentional trash audit. Now when I go to toss something in the trash I think for a second to be sure it has no other use. My goal is to compost like a champ, use less paper towels, and buy less food in plastic if possible. My next thought as about all the cardboard I see in my trash…


    1. Thanks for reading, and way to go! Love how your awareness has sparked inspiration! I’d love to hear more about how you started your composting. As for paper towels, we’ve switched to kitchen towels only! Try cutting up old towels or t-shirts for extra repurposing (and it’s free!).


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