Problem: My roomie’s shampoo bottle, which he’s ready to throw away with shampoo still in the bottom because it’s pretty much impossible to get all the shampoo out.
Conventional solution: Just toss it in the trash! (We don’t do that around here.)
“Green” solution: Rinse it out and put it in the recycling bin. (But if I did that, I would end up having to use a lot of water to rinse out the bottle, because you know how much water it takes to rinse all the shampoo or detergent out of a bottle!)
Permaculture solution: Obtain a yield! I added water to the shampoo bottle and swished it around, creating a soapy liquid which can be used to clean household surfaces such as bathroom tile or toilet bowl. Usually I just use baking soda and/or vinegar to clean my toilet, but it doesn’t hurt every once in a while to have something a little stronger to squirt onto the tile or into the bowl, such as detergent (which is what shampoo is, it’s detergent for your hair). The shampoo bottle with the water added is good for 2-3 toilet cleanings. And at that point, the bottle really will be empty and require no more rinsing (or if it does, I’ll use THAT soapy water as a cleaning solution until the bottle is clean enough to put in the recycling bin).
Another option, of course, is to just use the diluted shampoo as shampoo! It actually works great. Same with diluted dish liquid. I can make a small bottle of dish liquid last for months.
Obtaining a yield – turning a problem into a bonus – is a great way to reduce your footprint while gaining personal benefit. “Obtain a yield” is also one of my favorite principles of permaculture design. If you look around your home and office, you can probably find many ways to obtain a yield from what appears at first to be a “problem.” Pizza-boxes and vegetable peelings become food for earthworms in the compost bin, creating rich soil. “Weeds” in the yard turn out to be edible, nutritious vegetables that grow for free and don’t need watering! What other examples can you think of?