intro to zero-waste

homegrown strawberries

This month, coinciding with Plastic Free July (follow the link to learn more!), I am going to be talking to you about waste (#wastelesswednesdays). Now before you get grossed out, let me first inform you that what we do, or rather what we don't do, with our waste is significantly impacting the well-being of the planet which ultimately affects your health. Let's first look at how we manage our waste in our current system...

what about my waste?

The average American generates 4.4 pounds of trash per day, making up to 1600 pounds of trash per year - thats a lot of waste. If everyone consumed resources at the rate of the average American, we would need 5 earths to support the world population.

Where is our waste going? Currently we only recycle about 1/3 of our waste, half of which is made up of biodegradable materials such as food scraps which can be composted and put back into the soil. Biodegradable materials, however, will decompose anaerobically in landfills producing methane, a much more potent greenhouse gas than CO2. 

A lot of products in today's society are made to be "disposable" or "single-use" for our convenience. In other words, our resource extraction-production-consumption model is linear, meaning that what's left at the end of the chain is not put back into the system and is left to decompose in a landfill or elsewhere. With pressing issues like climate change and resource scarcity, this model is less than ideal and unsustainable in the face of our future. Enter zero-waste.

what is zero waste?

Zero-waste is a philosophy that promotes a change in resource life cycles so that all products are reused, similar to how resources are continuously recycled in ecosystems on both small and large scales. Zero-waste aims mimic nature to create a closed-loop system, where products post-consumption can be repurposed and reused.

Changing the systems around us is important, but zero-waste can also take place on the individual basis. Zero-waste living on an individual level, is the aim to reduce landfill bound trash created to a bare minimum by purchasing/using products that can either be recycled or composted. 

Following the principles of a zero-waste lifestyle directly overlaps with a healthy lifestyle. For example, those attempting to live zero-waste try to eliminate plastics from their homes. Some plastics contain BPA and other chemicals that are thought to be toxic to our bodies (follow the link to learn more). 

Like many movements, like organic and sustainability, zero-waste has also become a trend. This is great because it means there is a growing awareness of environmental issues and trash production, however you don't have to go out and buy the coolest stainless steel lunch box and linen produce bags to be "zero-waste". Remember that it's a mindset not a style, be practical and focus on using and repurposing what you already have!

what are practical ways to reduce my waste?

1. Trade plastic grocery bags for reusable ones

2. Ditch the plastic disposable water bottles and use stainless steel ones instead

3. Invest in a set of reusable eating utensils to take with you on the go

4. Ask for your drink without a plastic straw next time you're at a restaurant

5. Buy compostable and sustainable toothbrushes instead of plastic ones (check out The Green Root)

where can I learn more?

Trash is for Tossers

Going Zero Waste

Zero Waste Memoirs

Zero Waste Home

other resources: