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5 Ways to Get Closer to Your Garbage

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When you throw something in the trash, it's easy to think that it stops being your problem -- your friendly neighborhood sanitation workers take it away, and that's that. Well, until the Garbage Apocalypse of 2062, when GarbageNet becomes self-aware and decides to eliminate all humans. Wait, that's a whole other blog post....

GarbageNet jokes aside, we thought you'd appreciate some tips to get closer to your garbage so you can embrace it, learn about it, and reduce it!

1. Carry Your Garbage With You

Some staff members at frog design have taken up a trash challenge: participants must keep all the trash they produce within five feet of them at all times. Exceptions: participants may recycle, compost, donate, incinerate, and flush. The experiment mercifully lasts only two weeks, and staffers taking the challenge write about it on the Trash Talk blog, explaining their personal struggles with non-recyclable, non-compostable trash. It's interesting to read how limited life becomes when these folks have to think about every little piece of trash -- because it's literally weighing them down! Eating out, shopping, and other daily activities become serious challenges with real consequences. Read this introduction to learn more.

2. Install a Composting Toilet

Composting ToiletYou can avoid flushing human waste into the sewer (or your septic system) by installing a composting toilet. These toilets take the, uh, "waste products" and break them down over time into compost and soil. Modern units can be odor-free, and many store the waste in a remote tank that rarely needs attention or maintenance -- think of it like an ultramodern outhouse. But beware, Wikipedia lists an entire section on "Possible health risks and aesthetic issues!"

Possible "aesthetic issues" aside, composting toilets are one way you can dramatically reduce sewage waste and cut down on water use, while producing useful compost and soil. You can learn more by watching this interminable infomercial or reading the Wikipedia entry. See also: humanure.

3. Freecycle Your Stuff

FreecycleInstead of throwing out perfectly decent stuff, why not give it away via the internet? Freecycle communities exist around the world for just this purpose -- using Yahoo! Groups, members post offers of free stuff. If you want the stuff, contact the member privately and make arrangements to and pick it up. Stuff ranges from household items to clothes, toys, computers, even literal garbage that might be recyclable by the right person. The Freecycle approach differs from the Craigslist "free stuff by the curb" section because there's a real community involved, and because of the direct member interaction you're never going to drive across town (wasting gas) only to discover that someone else beat you to the free stuff. Here's a sample posting from my hometown group:

Offer: Santa

I have a santa doll that stands about 12" high. Wearing golds, creams and tapestry cream, red, and green jacket. Still have the $20 price tag on it. I don't know how I ended up with it, but I'm not much into Santa.

Six hours after the post went up, Santa found a new home.

4. Take a Superfun Visit to a Superfund Site

Superfund SiteThe Superfund pays for cleanup of some of the most polluted sites in the United States -- these are places where no other party could be found to pay for the work. Superfund sites are pretty much everywhere, and some are surprisingly scenic (though beware: many are extremely toxic). There's a particularly lovely Superfund site in North Portland, Oregon, by the Willamette River. Blogger Mary Wheeler walks her dog there and shares her experiences in My Dog Walk on the Wild Side. See also: Lyza Danger Gardner's photography of the same site.

5. Visit the Garbage Museum

This one's for the kids. Specifically, the kids who live near Stratford, Connecticut -- home of The Garbage Museum. Here's what the Connecticut Resources Recovery Authority has to say about the educational (and kinda fun-sounding) exhibits at The Garbage Museum:

TrashosaurusThe Garbage Museum ... offers visitors an opportunity to meet Trash-o-saurus, a dinosaur made from a ton of trash, which is how much trash an average person throws away in a year! Guests may walk through a giant compost pile, meet resident compost worms and discover how much energy savings is derived from recycling. Watch what happens to recyclables in a "sky-box" view of the tipping and sorting process. From the mezzanine walkway, visitors can follow glass and plastic containers, cans and newspapers through the sorting process and on to the end of the line where items are crushed and baled for shipping to processors, who turn them into products.

Read all about one class's visit to the Garbage Museum, including lots of photos. See also: the CRRA Trash Museum in Hartford, Connecticut.

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Can You Really Lose Weight by Pooping? It Depends on What You Eat
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If you’re obsessed with either your scale or your bowel movements, you’ve probably wondered: How much of my weight is just poop? A teenage cousin of mine once spent an entire restaurant dinner arguing that he could lose up to 3 pounds if you just gave him a few minutes to sit on the toilet. As you might imagine, he was wrong. But not by that much, according to Thrillist, a site that’s been truly dominating the poop science beat lately.

You can indeed see the effects of a truly satisfying bowel movement reflected on your bathroom scale. (Wash your hands first, please.) But how much your feces weigh depends heavily on your diet. The more fiber you eat, the heavier your poop. Unfortunately, even the most impressive fecal achievement won't tip the scales much.

In 1992, researchers studying the effect of fiber intake on colon cancer risk wrote that the daily movements of poopers across the world could vary anywhere from 2.5 ounces to 1 pound. In their sample of 220 Brits, the median daily poop weighed around 3.7 ounces. A dietary intake of around 18 grams of dietary fiber a day typically resulted in a 5.3-ounce turd, which the researchers say is enough to lower the risk of bowel cancer.

A Western diet probably isn’t going to help you achieve your poop potential, mass-wise. According to one estimate, industrialized populations only eat about 15 grams of fiber per day thanks to processed foods. (Aside from ruining your bragging rights for biggest poop, this also wreaks havoc on your microbiome.) That's why those British poops observed in the study didn't even come close to 1 pound.

Poop isn’t the only thing passing through your digestive tract that has some volume to it. Surprisingly, your fabulous flatulence can be quantified, too, and it doesn’t even take a crazy-sensitive machine to do so. In a 1991 study, volunteers plied with baked beans were hooked up to plastic fart-capturing bags using rectal catheters. The researchers found that the average person farts around 24 ounces of gas a day. The average fart involved around 3 ounces of gas.

This doesn’t mean that either pooping or farting is a solid weight-loss strategy. If you’re hoping to slim down, losing a pound of poop won’t improve the way your jeans fit. Certainly your 24 ounces of gas won't. But to satisfy pure scientific curiosity, sure, break out that scale before and after you do your business. At least you'll be able to see if your fiber intake is up to snuff.

[h/t Thrillist]

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Why You Get Diarrhea When You're Hungover
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If your hangover mornings involve a lot of time sitting on the toilet, you're not alone. In addition to making you puke your guts out, drinking too much can also give you massive diarrhea the next day. Why? Thrillist talked to a gastroenterologist about the hangover poops, and found that it's a pretty common phenomenon, one caused by a combination of unusually fast-moving digestion.

When you drink, Urvish Shah told the site, alcohol increases what's called gut motility, the contractions that move food along your gastrointestinal tract. Combine this with the fact that booze inhibits vasopressin—the hormone that regulates water retention and prevents your kidneys from immediately dumping whatever liquid you drink into your bladder—and suddenly your guts have become a full-blown water slide.

All those cocktails take a fast-paced thrill ride down to your colon, where your gut bacteria throw a feast. The result is a bunch of gas and diarrhea you don't usually get when food and water are passing through your system a little more slowly. And because it's all rushing through you so fast, the colon isn't absorbing as much liquid as usual, giving you even more watery poops. If you haven't eaten, the extra acidity in your stomach from the booze can also irritate your stomach lining, causing—you guessed it—more diarrhea.

The more concentrated form of alcohol you drink, the worse it's going to be. If you really want to stay out of the bathroom the morning after that party, go ahead and take it easy on the shots. Because beer is so high in carbohydrates, though, Thrillist warns that that will cause gas and poop problems too as the bacteria in your gut start going to town on the undigested carbs that make it to your colon.

All in all, the only way to avoid a post-alcohol poop is to just stop drinking quite as much. Sorry, folks. If you want to rule Saturday night, you'll have to deal with the Sunday morning runs.

[h/t Thrillist]

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