I decided to take part in No Trash Week, wrapping up today. The general idea is to try and produce no trash for the week including Earth Day. As I've come to discover from past experiments in quitting established behaviors, the initial goal is not necessarily to achieve the goal so much as it is to assess the minutia of that behavior.
In general, most of my trash was junk mail, packaging from work-related consumables, packaging from food, single-use devices (like dental floss), and the incidental items from bars and restaurants (paper plates, soda straws). I already do pretty well with obvious stuff, placing all my vegetable waste into compost for instance (even though I generally don't use it — but that's another story). I also tend to shop for groceries that either have reusable containers, or seek to buy bulk items that skip the individual packaging step. And I'm not a big purchaser, although the toilet I bought the other week produced a lot of packaging, most of which was either reusable or recyclable.
Due to the way my meals played out, I didn't feel compelled to buy a sandwich from one of the shops nearby: a stupidly wasteful practice involving several sheets of waxed paper and bags so I can carry it across the street, throw the packaging away, and eat the sandwich. My idea is to ask that they pack my lunch in a reusable package I provide and see if they'll go for it. If not that, then at least cut the wax paper to a minimum and skip the bags.
Aside from that, I found myself targeting the little things, even though it's really the rare purchase of something like a toilet that produces the most waste. Regardless, I think I'm going to try and do better at bringing reusable containers where I go. Coffee mugs are easy, but I'd like to experiment with permanent dinnerware to displace disposable paper.
I'm also considering building a wood gasifier that I can use to take organic waste (mostly paper and wood) and make a gas like propane. Many challenges exist there: first getting it to produce a usable gas (something something, and then safety: third), and then figuring out how to store it to use later. I think that's the wisest thinking of all: rather than see waste, I should see resources. I already look to garbage like broken electronics and steel frames as a source for otherwise expensive materials. I can probably expand my view and get more out of what I have.