I have 4 different garbage bins.  FOUR.  One for “trash” (stuff that actually goes to the dump because it won’t decompose and can’t be recycled, one for compostables, one for recyclable metals/plastics and one for secret love notes.  I mean recyclable papers.  I thought this was pretty normal but on a trip to Memphis last year I discovered it was not entirely normal.

Not everyone in North America recycles.  Not even everyone in Canada recycles!  It came as quite a shock.

Recycle bins in Memphis just didn’t exist.  Around these parts a gal has to nurse an aneurysm after deciding which of the 10 different recycle bin options to use on the street.  It’s even more debilitating in Vancouver where an encounter with recycle bins on the street can lead to decision paralysis.  At any minute of any day in Vancouver you’re sure to see someone standing frozen, staring at the street long row of recycle bins trying to decide if the salad container they’re holding is indeed styrofoam or possibly paper foam or maybe even just *gasp* garbage.

In Memphis, people were more concerned about whether or not Gus’s Fried Chicken had run out of Chess Pie than they were about where the paper plate it comes on was going to end up.  Understandably so. Everybody loves finishing off Gus’s Fried Chicken with Chess Pie.

I’m not sure where it all goes  but the EPA says Americans generated 254 MILLION TONS of trash in 2013. That’s a lotta chicken bones and paper plates.  Gross.  Since recycling is a community based program, some of you will have one and some of you won’t.  And if you happen to have or be familiar with Blue Bins, know that they were invented and developed here in Canada, just about half an hour from my house in Kitchener, Ontario in 1983.  So seriously … you maybe wanna tap on your community leader’s shoulders and let them know people have been doing this for 34 years.  They’ve been recycling since before Miami Vice was on the air for the love of God.

I won’t even get INTO green bins.  O.K. I will a little bit.  Green bins for those who don’t have them, are large bins you can fill up with things that will decompose and can therefore be turned into compost.  Food scraps, paper, leaves and that sort of thing.

One of the easiest ways you can contribute to reducing waste and … also save money … is to pay more attention to how you store and preserve food so you AREN’T throwing it out.  We’ve all been that person who looks in the fridge to grab what was once a fresh peach only to realize it now has an afro worthy of its own pick.

So as a sharing and caring Canadian  I’m gonna help everybody out. You could dig through my 1,549 archived posts to find all the ways you can save money and reduce food waste by freezing more things, preserving more things, and generally just being a smarter person, but I did the dirty work for you.

Pick ten things off of the list and try to get two of them done this weekend.  I for one know that I need to top up the brine in my feta cheese so it doesn’t go bad.



  1. How to Fit Twice as Much Into Your Freezer
  2. 5 Things to Freeze
  3. How to Freeze Your Own Eggs
  4. The Organized Freezer
  5. Freeze! I Have a Gun! I Mean Jar.
  6. Freezing Greens for the Winter
  7. Freezing My Pasties




  1. Fermenting Pickles the Old Fashioned Way
  2. How to Preserve Feta Cheese





  1. Long-Term Produce Storage. How Well Does It Work?
  2. How I Turned My Basement Stairs Into Storage
  3. How I Added Tons of Storage to My Kitchen for $18




  1. 5 Uses for Coffee Grounds
  2. How to Make GREAT compost in 1 month.


Have at it and have a great weekend!


  1. Vikki says:

    This is a great post. We live out in the boonies and I haven’t had much garbage for years. If we ever do have food to throw away, the crows/raccoons/? are happy to oblige. Many other things get composted. Even our little community (we’re not even a town) has recycling bins. People who are so lazy or selfish not to recycle make me so mad. (bless their fat fried-chicken-Chess-pie-lard-ass butts.)

  2. Catherine says:

    Dear karen: Please help with preserving (especially potatoes, onions and garlic) when:

    the average home temp is 80 degrees F (and that IS in the coldest, darkest part of the house) and while we have loads of freezer and fridge space the available storage between that is a great big goose egg.

    I’d love to have potatoes; russet, waxy, white, yellow or red, last longer than 1 week before they sprout and I’d love to have onions do the same. Seriously. Onions, all by their lonesome, start growing greens before the week is over.

    I’d like to be able to count on allegedly “root”veggies behaving like that. And while I search online and find all kinds of happy go lucky blogs and posts about storing veggies up north, no one seems to have the cojones to talk about saving stuff here down south.


    Other than chopping and freezing onions, you got any other options? Bring it.

    • Karen says:

      Hey Catherine! Well it depends on where you are. :) Trust me I know ALL about how hard it is to keep root vegetables when you have hot conditions because I dig my root vegetables up it’s August here which is often 80-90 degrees. For me, I keep them in my basement which is fairly cool until I can transfer them to my mudroom in the fall. For YOU, the one thing I’ve heard can work (and it makes sense but you need to have a lot of room) is to dig a no longer working bar sized (or slightly larger) fridge into your backyard. Or front yard. You dig it right down into the dirt until the door is level with the ground or even deeper if you can manage it. The earth is cooler the deeper you go. So if you keep your root vegetables outside in that DIY “root cellar” it keeps them at the ambient temperature of the ground which at 3′ or 4′ can be as cool as 50 degrees or so. Perfect for storing root vegetables. Hope that helps ’cause it’s the only plausible answer I have. :) ~ karen!

  3. Melissa Keyser says:

    I’d hate for your Memphis trip to give you the idea we are all like that. I would just like to point out that many people in America recycle. Just not in ‘middle’ America. Those are also probably the people who voted for trump. Many of us in California are very dedicated about reducing waste in the first place. Like establishing bag bans, or bringing our own containers to the store to fill up peanut butter in bulk.

  4. Sonja Donnelly says:

    Have you written anything on getting rid of persistent little sugar ants, that is safe for our environment?

    • Catherine says:

      Squish and a trail of borax mixed with some maple sugar. It’s a love hate-relationship. We’re too emotionally healthy to understand.

  5. Jane says:

    I live in England and I’m shocked that some states don’t recycle!! We’ve had different bins at home, on the street and workplaces for decades.
    In the Derbyshire Dales we have 4 bins for every home.

    Over here it is extremely rare and appalling to meet a person who doesn’t recycle. I can’t believe other western countries can be so far behind!

  6. Kim from Milwaukee says:

    I’ve been composting now for 11 years, have two round black compost bins that I purchased from the ‘Keep Milwaukee Beautiful’ organization, they come apart in two halves so it’s very easy to process the compost for the garden in the spring and fall.

    We have big green bins for landfill and big blue bins for combined recyclables. I make everything from scratch so I have very little landfill trash, but we fill up the recycle bin with kitty cans pretty quickly!

    There is a gal here in Milwaukee, Melissa Tashjian, who started a business collecting food waste from restaurants and grocery stores and now they have a pilot program for residential pick-up of food waste. Yay!!! And all the community gardens here in the city have compost bins, too. We’re on the right track!

  7. Marti J says:

    No dehydrator? What are you doing with your leftover fresh green beanies that you bought at Costco but only ate half the package of? Do you know how much healthier the dehydrated spicy green bean snacks are when you make them yourself as opposed to paying $8/pd for them? When I figure out how to make the carrot ships taste that good, life will be complete.

  8. Joanne says:

    Thank you for this! I will certainly click through on some of those links…. We do recycle most everything although I don’t have a compost going – I’ve tried and need to try again. Our town has recycle bins that you must take your stuff too but now we have someone doing curbside pickup so we’re trying that out. Cost is $35 a month but at least she takes glass – the town does not. I love my Nespresso coffee and now I can send my used pods away for recycling, free, through TerraCycle Canada.

    Have you watched any of the Trashopolis shows? Fascinating! Each episode is about a huge city and how they handle their trash… we were re-watching the Berlin episode last night… they do not have a dump. No dump at all since 2005 or something. Everything is recycled. Highly recommend this show.

    thanks again for all you do – I am both entertained and educated.

  9. Amanda says:

    Sorry – I know this is way of topic but I’ve often wondered…. Karen – I’d like to know how you clean your house. Do you have a routine or schedule – or dare I say – a CLEANING service? Just curious. Love your blog!

    • Karen says:

      Hi Amanda. Oh that made me laugh. No I definitely don’t have a cleaning routine. I think I’m the only one in my family who doesn’t. I try to keep things halfway tidy which is never easy because I’m always in the middle of doing/building/ or experimenting with something. I don’t have a cleaning service but if I had the time to research them I absolutely would get a cleaning lady/man. The house is usually tidied before I go to bed (living room back to normal, cushions put back etc., kitchen is usually cleaned up (dishes done, put away etc.) but by mid afternoon it’s all a disaster again, lol. ~ karen!

  10. andrea says:

    I have six different bins
    green waste (garden and kitchen)
    blue box
    paper stuff

  11. Renee Rydzewski says:

    Double check with your recycling center regarding shredded paper. I did this also for years, but my daughter that worked for an environmental firm in Seattle told me that when they went to the main recycle center there to learn all about the process, that shredded paper jams the machines, also if you leave the plastic caps on your bottles, that can also jam the machine as it shreds the plastic. Maybe this does not apply to all, but just passing info along. We finally have a center you can take things to, but most times it is full of garbage instead of recycling. I want a blue bin so badly. I do have my own, but I want curbside!

  12. Peggy Grobmyer says:

    I am a retired teacher and fortunately our town (Conway, Arkansas) has a easy recycling program in place. We have co-mingled blue bins. Our town collects yard waste to make free mulch. The sanitation department also operates a reuse center. All of the schools have recycling programs in place.
    What bothered me was that when I taught recycling with my students, they were on board, but there parents were not. No matter how easy it was made for the community, people still chose to not participate.

    • Pat says:

      Peggy is right! Kudos to her for teaching kids about recycling. We’re ‘rabid’ recyclers. My son’s girlfriend tossed fruit scraps in our garbage. I made an audible yelp when I discovered it and dug it all out and put it into the compost pail. Gave my son what for. “I didn’t see her do it! Sorry.” Daughter’s friend threw Starbucks cups and styrofoam food container into garbage. Arrrrrgggggg when I discovered that and fished them out, washed them and put them into the blue bin. “Don’t your friends know better?” “They don’t recycle at their house Mom. Everything goes in the garbage.” Dear Lord. C’mon parents!!!!!

      • Melissa Keyser says:

        to be fair, starbucks cups aren’t actually recyclable- they are paper and plastic smashed together and can’t really be processed. And styrofoam isn’t excepted most places.

  13. Alena says:

    I did not know that the blue bin was conceived in Kitchener; that’s very cool!

    I am very fiercely dedicated to composting, reusing and recycling. Every scrap of paper goes to to cardboard box (those from eggs from Zehrs are perfect because they have the cutouts on two sides for easy lifting/carrying. With all the flyers of which I get a tonne each week and every envelope (from which I remove the plastic see through window) – everything goes in there. Tins and plastic go to the blue bin and compostable stuff goes into my compost.
    I find it very sad that many people take our planet for granted and are no willing to make the slightest personal sacrifice for the benefit of the environment (like all the lazy bums who idle the car for 10 minutes at Tim’s drive-through every morning even though there are no customers inside and they would be served faster if they went in).

  14. Carolyn Boyd says:

    We were in France in September and were impressed with the paper bags for produce and fruit in the market and that you had to buy grocery bags; no plastic. Also that yoghurt, etc., came in reusable glass tubs. I grew up in Brampton, where we had the same system as Karen. Here in Nova Scotia we are also very good at recycling. I also continued my habit of back yard composting for my gardens. We hardly put any “garbage” to the curb. We do have a problem in this beautiful country with people throwing their fast food crap out the window, though.

  15. Chris White says:

    One small thing I do to reduce, reuse and recycle is purchase my butter from the company that wraps their butter in paper wrap. I pop the butter on the dish then fold the wrapper back up and place it in the fridge to use later to grease my pans. Once it has been used for this purpose, it’s then used with the kindling to get the fire started in the morning. Not earth shattering but I feel good every time I do it.

  16. Eileen says:

    I have a big green trash bin that usually has one tiny little plastic grocery type bag cowering in the bottom each week. My bigger 2nd bag used to be kitty litter/waste….
    : (
    All plant material food scraps and eggshells go to my compost pile. Recycling goes in a blue bin. We have “yard waste” collection too. You use a dedicated bin (self-supplied) with a sticker on it, or paper yard waste bags that have to be purchased. This gets composted at a county facility and can be bought by the truckload or in bags as “Leafgro.” I put in the things I can’t compost: branches, roots, some plant materials.
    I try to avoid as much packaging material as I can – it always astonishes me when I see how much of that fills others bins.
    And I really don’t understand why people can’t make that little extra bit of effort. What are they using the “saved” few minutes for? TV, checking phones? Is that more important than the one planet we have?

  17. Karen as well says:

    Thank you Karen, for raising our attention to this important issue! There is no “away” and we must do better. I’m so excited that in Calgary this summmer we will be adding a green bin to our black and blue bin line-up. It will take bones, used tissue, and even pet waste. Reducing plastic packaging is the next frontier!

  18. Nancy Eggert says:

    Chicago has had a recycling program since 2013 but unfortunately only about 10% of us actively recycle. Before the city-wide recycling program, I used to take my recyclables to a local recycling center. The program was rolled out gradually across the city, and you can only imagine my excitement when I came home from work one evening and found a shiny new blue recycling bin waiting for me (yes, I have a sad and pitiful life). One of the issues here is that many people don’t understand that, although their pizza box is cardboard, it’s also greasy and shouldn’t be mixed with clean dry paper. Wish more people would get on board here like in Canada!

  19. LOIS M BARON says:

    Here in Arlington, VA, we have whole-stream (whatever they call letting us put recycling in a blue bin, except for the stuff that goes in the green bin). I confess to analysis paralysis when faced with the wall of bins at the Whole Foods and in my daughter’s college dorm.

  20. Jennifer Van Noland says:

    I’m pretty into composting. I’ve got a giant circle made of hardware cloth that I line with straw and put everything in there. Including old grease, kitchen scraps and I even put small dead rodents that my cats kill in it. I cover it with either grass clipping or more straw so critters aren’t attracted to it. I also have compost toilets. And not those really expensive ones either. I made them. I bought the “Humanure” book by Joe Jenkins. It’s changed my life. Even if you don’t want them in your house (they DON’T smell btw) you can put one in your garage or somewhere else where plumbing is impossible because these toilets don’t use any water. You can use this humanure after two years of composting. It’s great for veggie gardens and trees. My compost thermometer reached 122 degrees the other day!

    • Karen says:

      Ha! I could use one of those toilets up at my community garden where there are no toilets and I’m often there for 6 hours straight. I’m assuming you already know this, but just in case …. don’t let your compost get too hot or you’ll destroy the happy little dirt microbes. (keep it below 150 f) I’m sure you knew that but I’m compulsive about compost. ;) ~ karen!

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