Trees I find in the garbage


Yesterday was another slow one. It’s been chilly which may have delayed spring cleaning for some. I’ve always figured that people generally get out and enjoy the first couple heat waves; it’s when the warmth loses it’s novelty that they get to work.

I didn’t go out for a morning run all week. Most days were too cold or windy or rainy and I just didn’t feel like it. It’s looking like next week will be warm (double digits!) if rainy so I expect to get out for a couple of morning “shifts.”

I found this sad looking pine tree on St Hubert near Marie-Anne. The branches were mostly dead but the top was still growing. I decided to bring it back and give it a chance to come back.

pine tree

I gave it a hair cut! I trimmed off all the dead branches leaving only the top. I’m optimistic about this tree making it – I’ll keep you posted as to how it progresses.


I also came across this cute side-table (and former tree). It looks like an older piece. I thought it might come it handy and I took it home after a (passed) inspection for bugs. I’m not sure what kind of wood it is but it was a bit heavier than I expected it to be.


It fit perfectly in this little space. I put some plants on it and it looks great – a nice addition to the apartment!

All this green talk is reminding me that I need start planting some herbs for the summer. I already planted tomato seeds (5 different varieties!) but I’d like to have some cilantro (among other things). It’ll help me eat well and cheaply – a necessity if I’m going to live comfortably during my “summer of garbage.” I also find growing things fulfilling and haven’t done enough of it in recent years.

Anyways, on that note I’m going to go find some seeds!

The summer of garbage

Good news: spring is here!

Warming temperatures means more trash. People emerge from their winter hibernation and decide to clean out their basements and attics. More people move and leave things behind. It also helps that the warm air makes my biking around much more pleasant and casual.

The onset of spring is the perfect time to announce my plan to devote my coming spring and summer to searching for trash and writing this blog.

Doing this involves treating trash picking like a full-time job. I don’t intend on working any other jobs (outside of a short temp job around the end of April) so that I can devote my days to “the hunt.”

I have a small amount of money saved up but I’ll definitely have to be very frugal. I’ll try to eat mostly from “dumpster diving” but I’ll definitely spend some money ensuring that I have the essentials. I don’t want living off trash to be a practice of asceticism. I like my free-range eggs and sunflower oil, and it isn’t too often you find good microbrewed beer in the garbage.

I have enough money to pay the bills and make sure I don’t starve for a few months, but I’ll definitely have to find some good trash to sell so that I won’t be dead broke by the end. Ideally I’d like to break even and prove that I can survive and have a decent life based completely on recovering trash.

However, that’s all secondary to my real purpose. I want to change the way people look at the “things” in their life and get them thinking about how to reduce waste. I hope to raise awareness about the value that even broken possessions may still have and show that there are people out there who can make good use of “garbage.” This increased awareness serves to reduce the amount of waste our society creates, which has many different benefits.

Reducing waste is great for the environment. It means we have to mine less, manufacture less, grow less, and put less in landfills, all of which help to make the world more pleasant for us, future generations, the planet and all forms of life. It also makes countries less dependent on foreign resources and manufacturing, which promotes a more domestic, self-reliant and self-sustainable economy.

I think taking action to reduce waste also has the potential to build a greater sense of community in our individualistic society. Putting something up for free on Craigslist, for example, connects you to a group of people you may have never interacted with otherwise. Waste reduction, especially in the forms that I hope to encourage, is linked closely to the ideas of sharing and collaboration. These acts of benevolence help to strengthen social bonds and bring people closer together.

The “Repair Café” is another great example of how a focus on reducing waste can promote a sense of community and interconnectedness. The social value of repairing things and the knowledge of how to do so has declined since planned obsolescence and disposability became common. However, repair is one of the most important skills in the reduction of waste, and I’ve love to see it become a bigger priority going into the future. The Repair Café helps to build this knowledge and brings about greater connectivity.

These are just two examples. There are tons of ideas that haven’t been thought of or acted upon or exploited to their potentiality. Any action, even the smallest one, is hugely important. I hope that this blog inspires thought and action in all sorts of ways.

However, after everything is said and done I wouldn’t be doing this if I didn’t love doing it. It can be a lot of work with no payoff, and it’s definitely not a way to get rich. Sometimes there’s stuff that smells bad and I get kitty litter on my hands. Sometimes I have to carry really awkward and heavy stuff on a long journey home.

That’s all fine with me. I have a pretty strong stomach and enjoy the easter egg hunt, even when it’s more like finding a needle in a haystack. I love finding cool things and the exhilaration that comes with finding something especially awesome. I also enjoy spending a lot of time outdoors. Finally, setting all humility aside I’m pretty good at what I do. I have an eye for value, even if it’s just for something to give away on Craigslist, and my technique has been fine-tuned over years of experience.

I plan on going out more often once it gets a little warmer out. This week looks a bit chilly, but the temperatures should be nice and mild by next weekend. I’ll be able to do two “runs” a day in the morning and early evening on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays in the Plateau, Mile End, Villeray, and Hochelaga-Maisonneuve. I’ll also make a point of checking out trash days in other neighborhoods further from home. There should be no shortage of trash!

I think that this will be a fun experience that I’ll look fondly upon when I’m an old man. I hope you enjoy it as well and that we all learn a bit along the way!


Gas masks and wind chimes


The Montreal winter is now in full force. The high today was about -15 (not including the windchill) and it’s going to get real cold tonight and stay that way for the rest of the week.

I didn’t look for any trash yesterday because I didn’t feel like braving the cold. I also had a project to do – fix a laptop I found in the trash to use in day-to-day life. I found the laptop on the curb a couple of months ago (though it never put it to the blog). It’s a clean-looking Acer Extensa 5430, which is a reasonably modern machine. It was in a case and had a sticky note saying “No HD” (hard drive) on it. I brought it home, plugged it in and it seemed to work fine, outside of the lack of a hard drive of course. Yesterday I bought a new hard drive (about 68 bucks with tax), installed it, and then got an operating system going.

After trying Windows Vista (the original license is still on the bottom of the laptop) and getting frustrated with the fact that it didn’t seem to want to connect to the internet I decided to try out Ubuntu, the free open-source operating system. So far so good. I must say that I quite like Ubuntu.

Regardless, all this to say that I’m now typing on a laptop, which is kind of nice. It’s a bit quirky – it acts weird when you close the screen sometimes and I’ve had a hard time getting the wireless to work – but overall I’m happy with how it turned out. Definitely worth spending a day figuring it all out.

Today I decided to face the cold and look for some trash. Once I got out I didn’t find it too bad. I guess I’m getting used to it. I ended up walking for close to two hours! Having a beard helps a lot though.

I found the little pile of trash above came pretty early in my walk.

nato canada gas masks?

Inside one of the bags I found these gas masks. I’m not sure if they were ever used – the filter looks pretty white and the masks are otherwise very clean. I decided to look on Ebay to see if there’s a market for used gas masks. I found a few similar looking ones that sold for 20-30$.

More interestingly though I found out these masks were probably used by the Canadian military in recent missions (even if these specific masks may have never been issued to personnel). The closest looking one is this one, mostly because it has the same “Made in Canada” white label. I think the ad is mislabeled – it looks way to modern to be from WW2. This one also looks pretty similar, but doesn’t give a specific time frame as to when it would have been used.

I’d like to know more. Let me know if you have any information about these masks!


Also in the bags were two sports medals: one for the 1992 Quebec Games and one for a 2002 Women’s Hockey Tournament.


There were some clear recycling bags placed on the front porch next to the trash. I guessed that they were waiting for recycling day, which is tomorrow. I figured that I might as well take a quick look to see if there was anything interesting. I didn’t see much – typical house recycling mostly – and was about to move on when this caught my eye.

It’s a necklace. The necklace part is a thick rubber band, which is sort of odd. The pendant (and the parts that bound it to the rubber) is sterling silver and looks to me like a map of South America, though I admit that the design could be somewhat of a rorschach test. Something else to consider etsy-ing at least!


wooden wind chime

I found this (bamboo?) wind-chime in the farthest right box of the picture above. At first I thought it was all messed up (but fixable) but now I’m wondering if I just don’t understand how it’s all supposed to go together. It makes a pleasant, airy clonking noise.


A bunch of construction materials out on the curb in front of Parc Lafontaine.


Nighttime now. I went by this second-hand store on Gilford that often puts out lots of good stuff on trash days. You could run a pretty successful yard sale with the stuff they throw out. This time a massive stuffed horse lays on top of a bin and awaits its fate.


It was too dark to see much. I did find this puzzle with a funny picture which has some definite kitcsch value. Apparently Patof was the main character in a popular Canadian kids show back in the 1970s.


Here’s some food I dumpster-dived from the trash bins behind the Metro on Laurier. I found some good buns, a bag of apples, and some carrots and cauliflower. Not too shabby, even if the photo is really unappetizing.

That’s all for now!