Family going garbage-free

Melody Schmitke plans to go 28 days without throwing a single item in the trash.

Melody Schmitke plans to go 28 days without throwing a single item in the trash.

The Red Deer mother is participating in Garbage Free February for the third time.

It will, however, be her first attempt with a baby in the house.

“I’ve always been trying to reduce my waste so it wasn’t a big decision for me,” Schmitke said. “For other people, it might be a huge lifestyle change because we’re just used to buying things and throwing them out.”

Reading My Plastic-free Life — a blog that highlights one women’s personal battle against the overconsumption that leads to landfill contributions — Schmitke was inspired to take part in the month-long challenge promoted by ReThink Red Deer.

“It just really stuck in my head that we are burying ourselves in plastic and we’re poisoning ourselves with it,” she said.

Efforts Schmitke took to reduce her household waste during the month-long challenge in previous years are now habitual.

She has two compost bins in her backyard. She uses her own reusable cloth shopping and produce bags instead of relying on plastic grocery bags. She also uses cloth diapers.

“It can be a complete lifestyle overhaul,” Schmitke said.

Still, she knows this year will present challenges.

Perhaps the biggest will be keeping her husband, eight-year-old daughter and nine-month-old son happy throughout the pursuit to eliminate garbage from their home.

The packaging that food comes in tends to be her family’s largest source of garbage.

Schmitke has, therefore, recently spent a lot of time baking homemade treats such as cookies and bread so she won’t feel pressured to purchase the packaged goods that her family enjoys.

Another challenge will be the amount of time that needs to be invested into things such as washing out containers that can be recycled, making meals from scratch and tending to the compost piles.

But Schmitke said the effort is worth it.

“People think that their personal actions cannot make a huge difference. We have to start with our own actions.

“Everybody’s small actions, together, does make a large impact.”

Inspiring others to think globally but act locally is exactly what ReThink Red Deer member Rene Michalak hoped for when he first embarked five years ago on his personal pursuit to produce zero waste in the month February.

His first tip for those thinking of participating in Garbage Free February is to plan ahead — use January to finish off any products that are packaged and take stock of what you’ll need for February.

Other suggestions include:

• purchase only recyclable and reusable goods

• learn about and use the local recycling program

• bring reusable bags to the grocery store

• eat 100 per cent organic food and buy in bulk

• compost organic waste

• use www.freecycle.org to give away items you no longer want or need

Items like toilet paper are permitted during the challenge.

ReThink Red Deer will kick off Garbage Free February by screening the film No Impact Man on Tuesday. The documentary about a Manhattan family that decides to live a no-impact lifestyle will be shown from 6:30 to 9 p.m. at Red Deer College in Room 1303.

How ReThink Red Deer plans to make the upcoming Pathways 2 Sustainability Conference nearly garbage free will also be discussed at this event.

ptrotter@bprda.wpengine.com