The average American produces 4.39 pounds of trash per day. Statistics shows that this is enough to fill 63,000 trucks every day. During the holidays, it gets even worse – with an extra 5 million tons of waste produced. I think it’s important to visualize the process because it’ll help us comprehend the severity of the situation. Unfortunately, when the garbage truck picks up your trash, it doesn’t disappear. It goes directly into landfill. In 1979, about 18, 500 landfills were available across America. In 1990, this number drastically decreased by 60 percent. “According to the landfill statistics given by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), in 1988 there were 7,924 landfills available in the US. In 2006, there were only 1,754 left.” Imagine that! We’re filling up our planet with garbage. Take a minute and think about it. Is that what we want? Is that what you want to leave behind? Can’t we consider going zero-waste?
These numbers have made many people rethink their life choices. I for one don’t want to be remembered for the ‘trash’ I leave behind. But I want to walk the talk and allow my actions to define my values. This has led me to explore a lifestyle that produces no waste.
What Is Zero Waste Anyway?
So what does ‘zero-waste’ even mean? How sustainable is it to live without any trash? I’m here to answer these questions and hopefully to help you better understand this lifestyle.
Expert and leader Bea Johnson implements the 5 R’s that make the transition simple. Her and her family produce one quart-size jar of waste per year. Pretty impressive huh? So here are these 5 magical R’s: REFUSE what you don’t need. REDUCE what you really need and can’t refuse. REUSE those things that you consume. RECYCLE what you can’t refuse, reduce or reuse. And finally, ROT, which is compost. Lauren Singer who is a young woman living in New York City has also transferred her life to one without any waste. This is how she defines it on her blog: “To me, Zero Waste means that I do not produce any garbage. No sending anything to landfill, no throwing anything in a trash can, nothing. However, I do recycle and I do compost.”
My definition of Zero Waste is inspired by both Lauren and Bea, where I also try to produce NO trash – send nothing to landfill. I have started to purchase things with that intention in mind. And while this lifestyle permits recycling, it’s important to follow the 5 R’s mentioned by Bea in order. Essentially, the point is to distance ourselves from this material driven and consumerist lifestyle, because inevitably if you buy less, you waste less. So while many aspects of this lifestyle are about buying things that last and waving goodbye to all things disposable, a larger part of it for me has been about redefining my relationship with items, things and objects. A challenge? Absolutely. But nonetheless eye-opening and liberating.
Tips and Ideas: The Simple Alternatives that Go a Long Way
The first and most important step is to avoid all things disposable. By simply turning all your personal items to reusable ones, you avoid SO much waste. We’re talking plastic bags, water bottles, cups, straws, utensils etc. Believe me, zero-waste alternatives are out there.
Shop in bulk. This way you avoid packaging, and you end up spending less. Take your reusable bags and jars along with you to avoid those thin plastic bags available in stores.
Sure, plastic is recyclable, but many times it ends up in landfill. Don’t rely on plastic – in fact avoid it all together if you can. You can definitely live without the chemicals and toxins. There are often glass or paper alternatives.
Shop second hand when it comes to clothes and furniture. There’s enough out there for all of us to share. If you must buy new, then do your research and support brands and companies that make their products using sustainable methods.
Know your labels and numbers when it comes to recycling. Avoid plastics that can’t be recycled.
Buy less. Buy less. And buy less. I promise you’ll realize you don’t need more than half the stuff you own. Change your relationship with things, and instead focus on experiences.
These are just some simple and easy tips to get you started. Things you can incorporate into your lifestyle. If you have any questions, ask away. Don’t forget to sign up to our News Letter for updates and promos.
It’s back to school next week, and we’ll be talking about ways to incorporate zero-waste in classrooms. Stay tuned!