We've just returned from two weeks in Victoria with my family. My brother and his wife, who have a two year old and are expecting a baby next month, are attempting to produce NO household rubbish. My immediate thought was that this must be part of one of those internet/social/group 'challenge' things but no, they just decided it was something important for them to do. They recycle, compost and reuse. Anything that can't be used in one of these ways they try not to purchase. They said they are getting it down to about half a kitchen bin per week of rubbish.
What impressed me about their effort was that the thinking involved came not so much at the point of throwing away but at the point of purchase. They take tupperware containers shopping and buy whatever they can loose by weight rather than in a packet. They seek out brands that are in recyclable packaging - pasta, for example, is available (at a higher price) in cardboard boxes. They bake their own bread. They don't buy some items that can't be sourced rubbish-free. They visit several shops to get what they want rather than settling for the rubbish-wrapped options at a single store. Its amazing how much rubbish you can avoid if you put your mind to it. Perhaps its a little easier if you live, as they do, in East Brunswick, with all the unusual shops and food sources around that neighbourhood, but options other than Coles and Woolworths are within reach of most suburban dwellers now. I didn't ask them how they get on with kids toys (although they buy many of these second hand, so I guess that means no wrapping) or things people give to them. I am discovering that the packaging that comes with kids' toys is outrageous! And much if it arrives in our home as part of the generosity of others.
Currently our rubbish is at about one bin bag per week. We haven't taken on the no rubbish challenge as yet, but it has made us more aware of the rubbish we are producing and we are doing our best to keep it to a minimum. Being at my brother's house where I felt like the bin had a big 'do not use' sign on top also made me aware of how often I do things like put tissues in the bin instead of the compost, empty little bits of scraps (the end of Eva's dinner, the sink strainer, etc) into the regular bin instead of the compost, or put recyclables like toilet rolls into a regular bin because I am at the wrong end of the house to be near the recycling when I am throwing them away! I'm cutting down on these little things at least for now. Addressing what I buy will hopefully come a little at a time. We do use cloth bags, reuse all plastic bags we acquire, and avoid bags completely for much of our fruit and veg... but I'm not yet at the stage of paying more for my pasta etc so I don't get it in a plastic packet, or avoiding altogether foods that only come packaged.
... and while I'm talking about being inspired by other people having a go at sustainable living, I was put onto this blog recently http://littleecofootprints.typepad.com/ which I am finding challenging, inspirational and fun.