One young Catholic family on a Journey towards Intentional and Communal Sustainability. One Artist, one full time Mama and two babies, we'll tell you about all our successes, and failures, as we try to make it in our overly Consumeristic society on just the bare necessities.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Taking/leaving a Dump.

*sips a glass of homemade wine made from the fruits of our crabapple tree*

If you have talked to Britt and I over the past couple of months you'll likely have heard us muse about our plans to procure some land on the Eastern Plains and start out on a good ol' fashioned homestead adventure.One of the problems with this dream is that it would demand serious life changes of us, many of which I'm sure we can't even begin to imagine. But the ones which we do imagine are somewhat daunting.

As such, part of the impetus for us to endeavor into this month experiment is to prepare us for our hopeful move out into the wilds of the Colorado Plains. However, the motivator other than preparation is actually a beginning.  Why wait to start living a life of wise use of the resources before us?

In fact, this idea led to somewhat of a change of mindset in general. Before I move out of our current urban environment, I should probably become accustomed to the unique resources which it offers; resources that are not only plentiful and available here, but in fact unavailable for those who are living out the rural homstead dream.

This of course leads me to today's long awaited discussion of: dumpsters.

First of all, we live in a city which does not provide municipal trash collection, rather our community is rife with trash collection companies, many of which offer very reasonable rates and some of which even provide pick up for recycling. That's all fine and good, but since our family caught a bit of the "sustainability" bug before we even began this blog we frankly don't produce a heck of a lot of trash. At our best, between recycling, composting,  and re appropriation we were down to something like half of a garbage bag a week that was being taken away from our sidewalk. Talk about a frustrating weekly chore to have to gather all the trash particulates from around the house only to lug this measly bag out to the curb, knowing some guy I'm paying 15 bucks a month is coming to take it away. Nuts to that.

Enter: the dumpster. My folks own some property that has not only municipal trash collection but an actual dumpster which the city collects from weekly. While the dumpster is about 15 minutes away, the site is near to both of my sisters' houses, so its an easy excuse to throw a bag or two into the back of the car and huck it into the dumpster. Some more ardent sustainable types might argue that using a dumpster to dispose of trash isn't "off grid" enough, frankly not only do I disagree but I don't really care.

For me seeking an economical and ecological solution to finding resources to provide for my family is fundamentally an action of having eyes for available resources and taking advantage of them, in whatever manifestation they may come. In this case, I'm saving $15 a month, reducing the trips that our old trash collection company has to take, and all for adding no additional stress to the system. Afterall, my trash would end up likely in the same landfill or two and the city is going to dump that dumpster whether my bag of household trash is in it or not.

That takes care of dumpsters as resources in somewhat of an obvious manner and leads me to the other side of things. I'm sure that you know as well as I do that people tend to throw out things that others would consider still useful. Heck, the idea of giving someone else's trash a second life as a part of your livelihood is hardly news; bag ladies collecting aluminum cans, metal scrappers, and even entire communities of individuals have known this for years. What some of you may not entirely realize though is that there's some pretty awsome trash out there.

On my first night of dumpster diving I wasn't looking for, or really expecting to find much. When a friend of mine asked me what kinds of things I was looking for my first answer was, "knowledge" afterall, this is what this experiment is all about: being aware of resources and how to take advantage of them. Its funny that I live in a community where I don't even know what the back side of half of the buildings I walk by day to day look like, let alone what kind of little treasures can be found for free.

Thursday I was hoping to find some scrap wood, something that I could use to make some more raised garden beds in the back yard out of. Well I did find some kind of old shelving...thing in the dumpster next to a thrift store. I loaded that in the car and felt pretty proud of myself, but decided to go peruse a few more dumpster seeing what I could find. While I became aware of a few things (such as easily sourced bread from bags in Subway's trash and about 30lbs of pizza dough behind Papa Murphy's) I didn't find anything else which I was actually provoked to take home.

That is until I found myself behind a Rent-A-Center with my flashlight pointed directly on a couch. I know what you're thinking "oh boy, a couch in the trash great find Magellan". And don't get me wrong, it was a used couch. But this was no frat-boy, burlap-plaid, urine-reeking couch. This was a couch that was used in the same way a couch at a Mariott is used. Its probably had a dozen butts over the course of 6 months on it. Heck, this thing is in better shape than the first couch I obtained from Arc to impress my then new bride back when Britt and I were first married.

                                                 *shrug* if nothing else, Charlotte likes it.

I'll close this post by sharing a little secret. I know what dumpster diving is, I've even done it before but it took two local mothers to inspire me to make me really believe it to be a serious urban resource.

These ladies went from poverty which was less than what they needed to care for their families to full closets, furnished homes and stocked freezers of food, not to mention getting hundreds of dollars from reselling items, all thanks to just being aware of the free resources in their very own neighborhood. Bravo ladies, and thanks for the inspiration.


  1. Hi there, I'm interested to see how your month goes! Well do I know how to go a week or a month without spending when we're unemployed, lol.

    A tip- the first and last weekend of the month are the BEST times to dumpster dive, because that's when people are moving. Apartment complexes have so much furniture, etc. out there! And look in college areas at the semester breaks- at the end of the school year, you can even find mini-fridges and other dorm goodies!

    PS- I'm a friend of Dyno-moms and came over here by way of her blog.

  2. Hi MileHiMama! I read your blog too, actually! I'm a sometimes attendant of your sister-in-laws book clubs... although I never finish the books. I love your SNAP budget segment you're working on!

    What great advice! I'm sure Joey will be excited to try out a few new places, like around DU. We used to live near the campus, and I know those richy rich kids through everything out with the bathwater.

  3. I'm reminded of something Eli says in The Book of Eli:

    "People had more than they needed. We had no idea what was precious and what wasn't. We threw away things people kill each other for now." the post title ;o)

  4. Wita,

    Quite right. I'm often reminded of something Oscar Wilde once said as well: "we would throw more things away if it weren't for our fear of someone else picking them up."